OLYMPIA — It was not a fast farewell.
There were too many well-wishers for that.
Jay Inslee was sworn in as Washington's 23rd governor Wednesday, and as the Bainbridge Island resident gave his inaugural address to a joint session of the Legislature — the focus was jobs and the economy — outgoing governor Chris Gregoire said goodbye to her workplace for the past eight years.
Leaving the Legislative Building from its north entrance, Gregoire stepped out into the frigid capital air to discover the 42 steps crowded with more than a hundred of her former employees, waiting for a goodbye handshake or hug.
A cheer and applause erupted when Gregoire stepped out, and with her husband Michael, the departing governor moved from one side of the steps to the other; sharing smiles, a few words, more hugs.
A great gasp rippled through the crowd as Gregoire slipped on the frosty steps nearly two-thirds down the staircase, but a half-dozen hands quickly reached out to catch her from falling. The outgoing governor continued onward, unshaken, with more thank-yous.
Gregoire wore a stout smile to the end, until she reached her waiting ride.
As she said goodbye to her security detail, she began to choke up and her voice began to crack as she thanked the waiting men.
Her farewell wasn't finished yet. A young woman came bounding down the granite steps and pleaded with Gregoire, with tears in her eyes, if she could only return to the north entrance to say goodbye to an elderly man with a cane who could not make it down the stairs.
Gregoire jumped out of her black Chevrolet Suburban and hustled up the steps for one last hug.
Then, just as quickly, she was back in her SUV for her final drive away from the capitol, her life as governor now handed over to history. As the SUV pulled out onto Cherry Lane, she stuck her hand out of the right rear passenger side window and waved.
"Goodbye," Gregoire called to the guard in the security booth.