Tom Wolf, a Democrat and business owner from York, takes office Tuesday as Pennsylvania's 47th governor in a daylong celebration that kicks off with the inauguration outside the Capitol and wraps up with a big party in Hershey.
Behind the scenes, Wolf's administration is shaping up to look like the third term of former Gov. Ed Rendell, the last Democrat to hold the office.
So far Wolf has stocked his senior staff and cabinet with at least 11 former high-level Rendell appointees. Many are old colleagues; Wolf himself served as revenue secretary during the second Rendell term.
And there will be no honeymoon for the new governor.
Wolf faces a budget deficit that inched up to an estimated $2.33 billion last week and a legislature dominated by the biggest Republican majorities since the 1950s.
GOP leaders in the Senate have raised concerns about some Wolf nominees. From the left, environmentalists plan to picket the inaugural because Wolf is opposed to a ban on fracking for natural gas.
"Don't make too much of that," Rendell said in an interview last week of the Wolf appointees. "It's just natural - many of Gov. Corbett's important appointees, for instance, worked in the Ridge administration. Even better: Tom worked for me, and these are people he knows. That's different from the average new governor coming in."
But Wolf crossed party lines to keep two accomplished members of the Corbett cabinet on his team: He asked John Wetzel to stay on as corrections secretary and Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch to join his staff as a senior adviser.
Wolf officials said the inaugural address, still not finished late last week, would stress themes of bipartisanship and the need to work together to solve the state's problems. Expect a let's-roll-up-our-sleeves appeal, they said.
"Pennsylvanians voted for divided government, but they didn't vote for gridlock," Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said. He added that there was a "shared sense of crisis" among Wolf and legislative leaders about the looming budget problems.
"His priorities are still the same," Sheridan said: a 5 percent severance tax on natural gas, for instance, and increases in state funding for public education, including the development of a funding formula for schools - measures that could stoke GOP opposition.
Sheridan said Wolf also would issue executive orders implementing ethics policies, including a ban on gift-taking by executive-branch officials.
"He's got to achieve a sense of momentum," Rendell said. "He wants to stress that he's willing to listen to any good idea, no matter where it comes from, that he intends to be very open and transparent, and that he's willing to meet the other side halfway."
At the same time, Wolf will want to outline values that are not subject to negotiation.
"Tom is the ultimate reasonable man," Rendell said. He said Republicans "should not mistake his laid-back nature for weakness. He can be resolute."
The ranks of Wolf's senior staff are dominated by Rendell insiders: His chief of staff, Katie McGinty, was environmental secretary under Rendell and was a rival in the crowded Democratic primary last year.
John Hanger, in line to be Wolf's policy director, also was Department of Environmental Protection secretary in the Rendell years and a contender for the party's gubernatorial nomination.
Mary Isenhour, a political strategist who ran Rendell's 2006 reelection campaign, will be a senior Wolf adviser.
Those jobs do not require Senate confirmation but most state agency heads do, and some choices are already raising questions in the GOP-led chamber. Among them, former Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary John Quigley, who returns as Wolf's nominee to lead the DEP.
Drew Crompton, chief counsel for the Senate Republican caucus, said GOP members would have a lot of "tough questions" for Quigley and other nominees.
"No one should think that it's Easy Street or think that it's doomed to fail," Crompton said. "Credentials are important to us, but so is philosophy."
Terry Madonna, a pollster and political scientist at Franklin and Marshall College, called the selection of former Rendell officials prudent appointments because "they are experienced and understand government inside and out." In a crisis, he said, "you don't want a whole bunch of outsiders running around."
First years are often rocky for new governors, Madonna said. Since 1971, only Gov. Richard Thornburgh had a smooth start - there was no recession in 1979 - and he won plaudits for his handling of the partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, Madonna said.
"It's going to be a rough battle for Wolf in the first year," Madonna said. "It just doesn't look like there is any easy way out."
The good news is that whatever political damage governors do sustain is usually not irreparable, Madonna said. The notable exception, he said, is Wolf's predecessor. Corbett was the first chief executive to lose reelection since governors first could run for two terms nearly 50 years ago.