Bray Cary, a former media executive who was a surprise and controversial choice as Gov. Jim Justice’s senior adviser, is departing state government.
Cary confirmed in a telephone interview that he left his role with the Governor’s Office, saying he wants to pursue a broad set of business ventures. He said the up-close experience with government gave him a different view.
“Probably the biggest thing that’s happened to me in the last several years of serving in state government is understanding how critical state government is to the people of West Virginia, particularly the people who are in desperate shape in terms of prosperity and jobs and hope — and how important the workers are and the great job people in state government do,” he said on the telephone.
“It’s something that I think many people outside of government have a bad image of government and once they’re inside they’ll see what great things they do.”
Roman Stauffer, a former acting state GOP chairman who ran Justice’s most recent campaign, announced on Twitter that he has taken on the role of senior adviser now.
Personal news: I am excited and honored to announce that I join @WVGovernor @JimJusticeWV‘s leadership team as a senior advisor today. Thank you, Governor Justice and @WVFirstLady, for the opportunity to serve.
— Roman Stauffer (@RomanStaufferWV) July 12, 2021
Cary, who had previously led West Virginia Media Holdings, transitioned into the Governor’s Office in late 2017 after the governor announced his switch from Democrat to Republican.
His role formed gradually, without announcement and, at first, without a paycheck. He first was characterized as a “citizen volunteer.” The role was later formalized at a part-time pay rate of $8.75 an hour.
That drew scrutiny because Cary was gaining access to the inner workings of the Governor’s Office while still serving on the board of directors of EQT, the natural gas company with operations that intersected with state policy in a variety of ways. Cary later left the gas company board.
His adviser role also came as a surprise because, as the host of the public affairs program “Decision Makers,” Cary was a frequent critic of Justice’s financial habits, especially unpaid taxes and fees.
But Cary gained the governor’s trust after taking on a central role to promote a road bond initiative. His senior adviser role meant a hands-on approach to daily operations.
“Bray beat on me every day in the world, but I don’t harbor bad feelings like that. I like Bray,” Justice said on Aug. 20, 2017. “I don’t feel like anything is going to happen there at all. If Bray can contribute or if anybody can contribute I’d welcome anybody’s contribution. All I want to do is just get something done.”
Today, Cary said the experience inside state government gave him increased appreciation for agencies, state workers and West Virginia residents. He praised Justice for the opportunity.
“It’s been truly the experience of a lifetime and the honor of a lifetime to be able to serve the state of West Virginia, and I appreciate that Governor Justice gave me the opportunity. I’ve truly never seen a man who cares as much about the people of the state of West Virginia. He works tirelessly to try to come up with visions and opportunities that have never existed before,” Cary said.
As a businessman and conservative talk show host, Cary said, he didn’t have the same appreciation for government’s role in people’s lives.
“I thought there was unlimited waste in government and I didn’t realize how desperate so many people are in West Virginia that makes government their only hope to exist,” Cary said.
“For me, those three and a half years of public service really changed my perspective on the role of government and the importance of government but also recognizing that sometimes we overlook the real need that exists in this state.”
Cary said he took himself off the payroll this spring and then packed up his office to leave a couple of weeks ago.
He is planning to engross himself in investments meant to help new business leaders flourish in West Virginia.
“My goal when I first came back to West Virginia was to try to create jobs and opportunity in the state. One of the things I really missed, as wonderful as government was — one of the things I realized is that I think there’s still an opportunity to create companies and jobs and opportunities for lots of people in West Virginia,” he said.
“We’ve been able to get a commitment from people in all corners of this state to try to build some companies and opportunities for that to happen. Getting back into business and job creation is where I think I can do the most good for West Virginia.”