[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/03/art.salazar.gi.jpg caption="Bennet replaces Salazar, above, Obama's choice for interior secretary."](CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama Saturday praised Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter's choice of Michael Bennet as that state's next senator, saying Bennet reflects "the qualities of the ruggedly independent state."
Ritter officially announced his choice at a Denver press conference Saturday.
"Filling Ken Salazar's boots in the US Senate is a tall order. But in selecting Michael Bennet, Governor Ritter has made an excellent choice," Obama said in a statement released by his transition office.
"Michael Bennet perfectly reflects the qualities of the ruggedly independent state he has been chosen to serve. An innovator in the public and private sectors, he has shown himself willing to challenge old thinking and stale policies," Obama also said.
Bennet, the Denver Public Schools Superintendent, replaces Sen. Ken Salazar, Obama's choice to be interior secretary.
Ritter had narrowed down his choice to either Bennet or the popular Denver mayor John Hickenlooper, and made his final decision on New Years Day, according to reports.
In the news conference Saturday, Ritter said Bennet is "exactly who we need representing Colorado."
"Michael has this unique set of personal and professional experiences that make him the right choice for Colorado," Ritter said, according to CNN Denver affiliate KUSA.