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Hoyer will transition out of National Guard

CHARLESTON — In a move long rumored in state political circles, Maj. Gen. James Hoyer of the West Virginia National Guard is retiring after 2020, switching to a new role that will keep him involved with COVID-19 response and economic development.

Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday Hoyer, adjutant general of the National Guard, will transition from his leadership position to senior associate vice president at West Virginia University effective Jan. 4.

“We need to celebrate the work and the life of a great man and great West Virginian … someone who has served this state and this administration,” Justice said. “I’m so proud to tell you today that we are announcing the transition of Gen. Hoyer as part of the next four years of my administration.”

Hoyer’s new role at WVU will allow him to continue to assist and advise with COVID-19 relief and response, heading a joint interagency task force for vaccine distribution. Economic development also will be part of Hoyer’s WVU duties, specifically helping facilitate the Virgin Hyperloop Certification Center and developing former mountaintop removal sites, such as Hobet in Boone County.

“Hoyer has spent 40 years in uniform, and almost 10 years as our adjutant general of the National Guard,” Justice said. “He and his wife Amy have spent their entire life together in military service. He expressed his desire to retire from the uniform, but he wanted to continue to serve the state. He said he wanted to work with me to move this state forward, but in a different role.”

Hoyer said that he was approaching 60 next year, a mandatory retirement age for general officers without a waiver. Holding back emotion, he said it was time to let someone else lead the guard.

“While I may be changing uniforms, my intent is to still be with you and take care of the people of West Virginia and figure out how to do more,” Hoyer told Justice. “From a leadership standpoint, I felt it would be most appropriate to come to you and say ‘I think it’s time for me to step out of uniform, let someone focus on taking care of the soldiers and airmen of the guard day-to-day so I can focus with you on pandemic response, vaccine distribution and those economic development opportunities.'”

Hoyer became adjutant general in February 2011, succeeding the Maj. Gen. Allen Tackett. The adjutant general leads both the Army and Air national guards and a combined 6,500 service personnel.

Hoyer became a commissioned officer in 1983 after earning his bachelor’s in management and marketing from the University of Charleston. He joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps Program through West Virginia State University, earning a master’s in management and public administration, and began his military career with the National Guard as a cavalry officer. He also has a master’s in strategic studies through the United States Army War College.

Since Justice took office in 2017, Hoyer has been a constant go-to for fixing problems. Hoyer was appointed by Justice to oversee the RISE West Virginia flood relief program after issues arose at how the Department of Commerce was managing the program. When issues arose with the now-named Division of Emergency Management, Hoyer and the National Guard were charged with fixing the deficiencies.

Since March, Hoyer and the National Guard have played a significant role in the COVID-19 pandemic response. The Guard has stockpiled and delivered personal protective equipment, such as masks and gowns, as well as making their own masks and gowns. The men and women of the National Guard have delivered millions of meals, helped with free testing events and helped test residents and staff at long-term care facilities. They’ve helped with contact tracing and epidemiology. Units have helped clean and sanitize public buildings.

Hoyer will be succeeded by Brig. Gen. William Crane as the next adjutant general. Crane, promoted in March to brigadier general, joined the guard in 1984 as a vehicle driver for the 1092nd Engineer Battalion.

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