One of the most significant powers afforded the Governor is that of appointments, and two pending selections to fill vacancies will be watched closely: Mingo County Circuit Judge and the WVU Board of Governors.
Normally, the appointment of a circuit judge to fill a vacancy would be only of parochial interest, but not so in the case of Mingo County. The seat is open because of the resignation of Michael Thornsbury as a result of the federal corruption probe.
Thornsbury was the lead felon in the nefarious fiefdom that included the county prosecutor, the chief magistrate, a county commissioner and several other miscreants. Federal investigators have done their part in the ongoing investigation and now the process of selecting a replacement is underway.
The state Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission fulfilled its responsibility admirably Monday by holding thorough and probing interviews with six finalists. (As a side note, opening those interviews to the public would add even more credibility to the process.)
The two names forwarded to the Governor for consideration are long-time Mingo County Chief Public Defender Teresa McCune and Jonathan Wayne Jewell, a Williamson attorney who works in the public defender’s office.
The Mingo County Public Defender’s office was not part of the Thornsbury faction, nor was it connected with the tainted “Team Mingo” election slate. One source described both McCune and Jewell as “squeaky clean.” Another said they “have credibility in the community for honesty and integrity.”
Either would be a good choice for a fresh start in Mingo County, which makes Tomblin’s job easier.
Tomblin must also decide who should replace Charles “Chuck” Vest on the WVU Board of Governors. Vest, 72, died last week at his home in Arlington, Va., from pancreatic cancer.
The Morgantown native had the kind of intellectual and academic gravitas that added integrity to the Board of Governors. Vest had degrees from WVU and the University of Michigan in mechanical engineering and served as President of M.I.T. from 1990 to 2004. His myriad accomplishments included serving on an advisory committee for the redesign of the International Space Station.
It won’t be easy to replace Chuck Vest, but qualified people who want to make a contribution to WVU are out there. The recent decision by E. Gordon Gee to return as interim WVU President is a good indication of that. Given the size and importance of the WVU medical complex, perhaps someone with significant experience in health care would be appropriate.
Above all, Tomblin has to avoid the temptation of choosing a political crony who may be owed a favor or a high-roller donor whose avocation is meddling in WVU sports. West Virginia University deserves better than that.