- Associated Press - Friday, January 6, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Crowding into the ballroom of the Executive Mansion, statewide elected officials led by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper were installed publicly to their jobs Friday in an abridged ceremony, its locale moved twice and date moved up by an approaching winter storm that also scaled back traditional inaugural festivities.

A larger outdoor ceremony that had been expected to attract thousands on Saturday was first moved to an auditorium because of weather but ultimately was cancelled.

“Consider yourselves the chosen few,” Cooper jokingly told family, friends and well-wishers inside the Mansion soon after he received the oath from Chief Justice Mark Martin during the 20-minute ceremony.

While nine Council of State members elected in November participated, four re-elected to their current posts hadn’t taken their official oaths before Friday. Their four-year terms can begin Jan. 1, and Cooper got sworn in just after midnight as the new year began. The tenth Council member, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, was sworn in Tuesday and missed Friday’s ceremony due to previous commitments, a spokesman said.

The threat of several inches of snow and sleet Friday and Saturday, followed by bitter cold temperatures, also led organizers of the Inaugural Ball and receptions to consolidate their activities. Many events, including Saturday night’s ball, were rescheduled together for Friday evening at a Raleigh children’s museum.

Initially, the inaugural committee announced Saturday morning’s outdoor ceremony in front of the State Archives building would move to Memorial Auditorium and that the afternoon parade was cancelled. By late Thursday, after consultation with state emergency officials, the committee announced the Saturday auditorium event and Sunday open house at the Mansion wouldn’t happen.

“A lot of people were going to travel from across the state,” Cooper said at a Friday morning storm news conference about cancellations. “We believe that it was important to send the signal that we do want people to stay home and stay off the road.”

Cooper declared a state of emergency to help prepare resources for the storm’s aftermath.

The committee scrambled to create the Mansion ceremony, which was held several hours after a previously scheduled morning prayer service at a Raleigh church attended by Cooper, his family and Council members. The Mansion ceremony also included prayers and a middle-school student leading the Pledge of Allegiance before each official came to the front with a judge to recite the swearing-in.

Cooper would have given his inaugural speech at Saturday’s public ceremony. Now he’ll give it Saturday morning by television at the Mansion.

The Junior League of Raleigh, the longtime organizers of the ball, made the decision to consolidate events - not cancel or delay them - after Cooper declared the emergency.

“After considering the logistics, requirements and manpower involved in hosting an event for more than 3,000 people, rescheduling isn’t a viable option,” Junior League spokeswoman Liz Hamner said by email. “This planned celebration of North Carolina is two years in the making.”

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