Kathy Dunderdale has been sworn in as the first female premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, formalizing the transition from outgoing Danny Williams.

Dunderdale's new job makes her one of only six women to have ever held the premier's office in Canada. She is expected to stay in the job until a new leader is elected by the province's Progressive Conservative Party next spring.

In a speech at her swearing-in ceremony at Government House in St. John's Friday, Dunderdale paid tribute to her predecessor.

"On behalf of our province, I thank Danny Williams from the bottom of my heart for his enormous contribution and his unwavering dedication to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador," she said.

"Our foundation today is rock solid and that foundation is just the beginning. It is the bedrock, the cornerstone, the promise of something greater still to come."

Ahead of Dunderdale's swearing-in, Williams said he is proud to be handing the reins to the woman who has been serving as both deputy premier and natural resources minister.

"I just think she'll be a great premier. She's been on my right hand right through this," Williams said, acknowledging that they don't necessarily see eye-to-eye on every issue.

"You know, at times when there's difficult issues in cabinet, we've worked in tandem together. That doesn't mean that she and I agree on everything, which is a great thing. She speaks her own mind and she will give it her own direction," Williams said.

Dunderdale, who cut her political teeth as a city councillor, eventually served as deputy mayor of the town of Burin. Despite her deep political resume, however, she has some pretty big shoes to fill in the premier's office.

When Williams announced his surprise retirement last week, ending a decade-long career in politics that included seven years as premier, he said the deal to develop the Lower Churchill hydroelectric megaproject capped his list of political goals.

Reflecting on his legacy in the days since, the famously outspoken 61-year-old credited the people of his province.

"If I have a legacy here at all, forget any accomplishments or projects, it's this renaissance, this renewed sense of pride and confidence as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that we now are masters of our own destiny," Williams told NTV.

Williams' belief in the power of his province has fuelled the unusually high approval ratings that consistently rank him among the country's favourite premiers. And his convictions -- laid bare when he ordered the removal of all Canadian flags from provincial government buildings in a spat with Ottawa over offshore oil revenues, for example -- have also made him a household name nationwide.

Despite intense speculation he could turn to federal politics, the outgoing premier has insisted he intends to resume the private life he left ten years ago.

"I'm ruling it out now," the former criminal lawyer and cable TV mogul told CTV's Question Period. "But I can never say that I may never reconsider something like that."

Dunderdale's appointment means the leaders of all three provincial political parties are now women -- a fact not lost on provincial NDP Leader Lorraine Michael.

"We have to recognize that there is a glass ceiling for women in the country on a lot of levels, and it has been there on the political scene as well. So it is significant having three women leaders," she said.

"But it's up to us to show that having women leaders does mean a difference."

The only other female premier in the country is Eva Aariak of Nunavut.

With files from The Canadian Press