Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Riley pledges to toss party, political differences

By Jonathan McElvy / Special to The Times- Journal

MONTGOMERY &045;&045; Despite a financial crisis that hovers over the state, Bob Riley, inaugurated Monday as Alabama’s 57th governor, framed his first speech to the people of this state with a commitment to faith.

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Riley’s call to prayer hinges on the battles he must face the next four years &045;&045; not just in the halls of the statehouse, but in the schools and check books.

Along with divine help, Riley said improving Alabama during his adminstration will demand more than a &uot;plan for change.&uot;

Riley seemed to address the concerns of many in Alabama’s Black Belt, who viewed his election as a blow to the ties forged with Montgomery during the last four years of Don Siegelman’s administration.

He even took his plea further, asking for support from his opponents.

Riley’s speech served as a glaze to appointments geared toward helping the Black Belt.

Two of the highest ranking cabinet members appointed by Riley come directly from this area of the state.

Neal Wade, named director of the Alabama Development Office, is a native of Monroe County. The ADO is charged with leading the recruitment of industry to the state, and Wade’s ties to the area should serve the Black Belt well.

Late last week, Riley tapped John Harrison to head the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. Harrison, who once lived in Selma, served as mayor of Luverne for 14 years.

ADECA is the agency that distributes state funding for communities, and Harrison said he wants all areas of the state to receive adequate money.

Riley finished off his cabinet appointments Friday, but Monday belonged to the Clay County native.

Before the inaugural ceremony, held on the steps of the state Capitol, a parade down Dexter Avenue honored the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Earlier in the day, Riley held a prayer breakfast with 700 citizens of the state.

Monday evening, Riley and 4,000 supporters gathered at the Montgomery Civic Center for a ball in his honor.