TRENTON - At noon, Chris Christie took the oath of office to become New Jersey's 55th governor, sworn in before a crowd of present and former state leaders and joined by friends chanting his name.

The 47-year-old former U.S. Attorney told the assembled audience at the Trenton War Memorial that he would make New Jersey a "home for growth."

"I understand the task before me, and I am well aware of the expectations for me and this government," he said to the listening crowd.

"You voted loudly and clearly for change. You have entrusted us with what may be our last, best hope for a stronger New Jersey," he said. "You voted for change, and today change has arrived."

He struck a tough but optimistic tone as he mentioned the state's financial climate.

"While the economic hour is dark, there are lighter days ahead," he said, adding, "We have the tools to win the battle for a better future - more than our forefathers did, more than we realize ourselves." He blasted school districts that fail despite high spending, and also promised he would sign executive orders today to make finance and budgetary processes more transparent.

Seeking to set a tone of bipartisanship, Christie congratulated Corzine for his decade of service, mentioning his commitment to childhood health initiatives.

Then he invited Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver to the podium, then joined with the two Democrats in what he called a "handshake of cooperation."

Outside the War Memorial, supporters, opponents and onlookers wished the new governor strength to face the state's challenges.

Richard Zauner, a Navy veteran from Jackson, Ocean County, called the day a "moment of history."

Marty Pagliughi, the Republican mayor of Avalon, said Christie was "a no-nonsense kind of guy."

"He's going to tell them, New Jersey is open for business," he said, citing his area's tourism as the second largest economy in the state.

Assemblyman Nelson Albano, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, described outgoing Gov. Jon S. Corzine as "a gentleman."

But he said he expressed his support to Christie today.

"The reality is, he and and the legislature have their work cut out for them," he said. "But there are a lot of hard choices to be made, and the people of New Jersey have to make those hard choices as well."