Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin calls Rick Thompson an “excellent addition to my administration.”
The governor officially announced Thursday morning that he has tapped the House Speaker to take over the job as secretary of the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance.
“For those of us who know Rick personally, he’s very passionate about the things he does,” Tomblin said. “The veterans and their well-being is one of those things he has a real passion for.”
Just hours after the news broke, Tomblin and Thompson stood shoulder to shoulder at the state Capitol to make the announcement together.
The governor says when current Veterans Secretary Keith Gwinn announced he was applying for medical disability retirement, the speaker showed his interest in the cabinet position.
“[Thompson] came down and we talked about it. We talked about it several times over the last week or so,” said the governor. “That’s when I made the decision he would be the right choice.”
There’s no start date for Thompson to take the job. Gwinn is waiting to hear back from the state retirement board about his request. Once it’s been approved Gwinn plans to resign. That’s when Thompson will take over. Tomblin believes that will take place sometime mid-June.
Once Thompson steps down as speaker and a delegate from Wayne County, the governor will appoint a new member to the House. Then Tomblin has 10-days to call the House into session so members can select a new speaker. Several names have already been tossed around from House Majority Leader Brent Boggs to House Finance Committee Chair Harry Keith White, House Judiciary Committee Chair Tim Miley and Kanawha County Delegate Doug Skaff. Tomblin says he’s not going to put his two cents on that decision.
“[The House] will make the right decision. It’s their leader. I’ll work with whomever they choose.”
The governor and Thompson have been friends for more than 30 years. Tomblin’s first year in the Senate was Thompson’s first year in the House.