New leadership named
by Ron Gregory
Charleston – House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, has announced key members of his leadership team for the upcoming 85th Legislature. Several local legislators will have major roles in the new alignment.
“We’ve had a great team that’s worked collaboratively during the past few years to advance bold ideas to improve our state,” Hanshaw said. “I’m confident this team I’m naming today will continue to build upon that success and deliver even greater results for the people of West Virginia.”
House Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor; Majority Whip Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson; and Assistant Majority Leader Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, will continue in their roles for the upcoming session.
Delegate Dianna Graves, R-Kanawha, has been appointed Majority Caucus Chairwoman during the coming session. In that role, she will help organize and lead caucus meetings and policy discussions among Republican members.
“During her time in office, Dianna has shown a prodigious ability to facilitate discussions, broker compromise, diffuse differences and forge common ground between people who come at an issue from different perspectives,” Hanshaw said. “With our large and diverse supermajority caucus this year, I believe she will be a tremendous asset for us all.”
Assistant Majority Whips for the upcoming session will include Cabell County’s Daniel Linville and Evan Worrell as we as newcomer Larry Pack and Dean Jeffries of Kanawha. Others will be Trenton Barnhart, R-Pleasants; Caleb Hanna, R-Nicholas; John Hardy, R-Berkeley; Riley Keaton, R-Roane; David Kelly, R-Tyler; Chris Phillips, R-Barbour; and Johnnie Wamsley, R-Mason.
Hanshaw also announced he is elevating current House Committee on Government Organization Chairman Gary Howell, R-Mineral, to the post of Speaker Pro Tempore, which had previously been held by former Delegate Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan.
As Pro Tempore, Howell will preside over floor sessions should the Speaker not be available and provide input as a member of the House leadership team. According to the House Clerk’s office, Howell is the first individual from Mineral County to hold this position.
“I’m honored and humbled Speaker Hanshaw has chosen me for this position, and thank him for the ability to serve as a member of his leadership team,” Speaker Pro Tempore Howell said. “I’m eager to get to work to help continue writing West Virginia’s comeback story.”
In addition to the senior leadership team, Speaker Hanshaw has also appointed chairmen and vice-chairmen for the House’s major committees, which meet most frequently during session: Education, Energy, Finance, Government Organization, Health and Human Resources and Judiciary.
Leadership of the Education, Energy and Finance committees will remain the same during the coming session.
Delegate Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, will be chairman of the Education Committee, with Delegate Joshua Higginbotham, R-Putnam, serving as vice-chairman.
Delegate Bill Anderson, R-Wood, will continue as chairman of the Energy Committee, with Delegate John Kelly, R-Wood, serving as vice-chairman.
Delegate Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, will remain as chairman of the Finance Committee, with Delegate Vernon Criss, R-Wood, serving as vice-chairman.
Delegate Moore Capito, R-Kanawha, who previously served as vice-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, will now be chairman of that committee, replacing former Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, who retired from office this year. Delegate Tom Fast, R-Fayette, will serve as the committee’s vice-chairman.
“As a former vice-chairman, Moore played a vital role in our work to ensure West Virginia has a fair legal climate that attracts job creators,” Hanshaw said. “He also helped spearhead efforts to reduce legal barriers in our criminal justice system so that rehabilitated individuals experience an easier transition back to being productive members of our society. I know he and Tom will continue to pursue aggressive reforms to ensure our state has the best legal environment possible.”
Delegate Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, has been named the new chairman of the Committee on Government Organization. Delegate Geoff Foster, R-Putnam, will serve as the committee’s vice-chairman.
Delegate Jeffrey Pack, R-Raleigh, who had previously served as vice-chairman of the Health and Human Resources Committee, will now serve as that committee’s chairman. Delegate Matt Rohrbach, R-Cabell, will serve as the committee’s vice-chairman.
In addition to the leadership positions, Hanshaw announced the House of Delegates will be hiring Ann Ali, former managing editor of The State Journal and senior political reporter for West Virginia Media, to be House Communications Director ahead of the 2021 regular session in February.
Ali, who also worked recently as an account executive for Charles Ryan Associates, will be succeeding Jared Hunt, who will be leaving the House in January to pursue a new employment opportunity outside the Legislature.