Local politicians to attend inauguration

With the flowing Kanawha River in the background, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will take the oath of office on the south steps of the Capitol Building today in front of a large audience that will include many familiar local faces.

Traveling to Charleston to take part in the inaugural ceremonies are Sen. Clark S. Barnes, R-11th District, Del. Denise L. Campbell, D-43rd District, Del. William G. Hartman, D-43rd District, and Randolph County Commissioner Mike Taylor.

The four have their fingers crossed that today’s weather is good and the rain holds off as the ceremony is scheduled to occur outside at 1 p.m., rain or shine.

Because Tomblin ran in a special election in 2011 to complete Joe Manchin’s term as governor, this will be Tomblin’s final term to serve as the state’s chief executive. For Barnes, Tomblin’s “lame duck” status is a positive attribute as he hopes it will bring a stronger second-term agenda to ignite constructive change across the state.

Campbell said she is very confident in Tomblin’s abilities based on her experience working with him over the past two years.

“I’m proud to have Earl Ray Tomblin as our governor,” Campbell said. “I know he wants to do what’s best for the state. I find him to be very supportive (and) I’m looking forward to working with the governor.”

Hartman agreed with Campbell that Tomblin’s performance as governor, following Manchin’s election to the U.S. Senate, was very impressive in the way he handled the added stress.

“I think Earl Ray is very well-qualified. He’s a very good governor,” Hartman said.

Barnes noted that Tomblin is probably the most experienced political figure in the state currently, serving for almost 17 years as the president of the West Virginia State Senate.

“He certainly knows government. He knows how it works,” Barnes said. “I have a great deal of confidence this governor knows what is not working” and that he will “set about fixing the deficiencies.”

Speaking of deficiencies, Barnes, Hartman and Campbell all pointed to education reform as the major priority on the legislature’s agenda as they begin the 2013 legislative session.

In 2012 Tomblin approved an education audit to examine primary and secondary schools in West Virginia and the results of the audit have been finalized.

Campbell said the audit could spur some new legislation to make improvements to West Virginia’s education system and she looks forward to when the governor debuts his 2013 agenda.

“He’s willing to take a risk assessment with moving our education system forward,” Barnes said. “We know we have problems.”

Taylor said he is very pleased with the attentiveness Tomblin has shown North Central West Virginia, including Randolph County.

“The governor has been very supportive of our efforts in Randolph County.” Taylor said the commission will continue to work with Tomblin and the governor’s office on economic development and infrastructure projects for Randolph County for four more years.

For Taylor, attending the governor’s inauguration seemed to be the least he could do to show his support.

“I think it’s important to go down and show him our support,” Taylor said. “I think it is only fitting to participate.”

Campbell is also pleased to be a part of an old state tradition.

“It’s just a part of West Virginia history that I feel is so vitally important,” she said.

Hartman reported that the governor’s inauguration is “always very well attended. It is an impressive, formal ceremony.”

Also being sworn in during today’s ceremony are five other statewide executive branch officers elected Nov. 6, including longtime local legislator Walt Helmick as agriculture commissioner.