CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Bob Kiss died Friday.
Multiple sources confirmed to MetroNews that Kiss lost a battle with cancer.
Kiss, 63, was elected to the House of Delegates in 1988, one of a number of freshmen delegates who were elected in the same year as new Gov. Gaston Caperton.
Kiss, a tax attorney from Beckley, quickly rose in the Democratic House leadership. He served as chairman of the powerful House Finance Committee before being elected House speaker in 1997. He served in that role through 2006 when he decided not to seek reelection to the House after 18 years in the legislature.
“It got to the point I was spending God knows how many days a year doing this. It’s supposed to be a part-time job. I enjoy it. I think I’ve had an impact,” Kiss told longtime statehouse reporter Mannix Porterfield of the Beckley Register-Herald at the time. “I hope 10 to 20 years from now people look back and will recognize that. But for all those reasons, I made the announcement I did two years ago. And I’m really thankful for everything in the last several months and all of the people that urged me to change my mind and reconsider.”
Kiss didn’t resurface until July 2013 when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appointed him revenue secretary. The two had developed a friendship when Kiss was speaker and Tomblin was state Senate president. Kiss left state government in January 2017 when new Gov. Jim Justice appointed Dave Hardy as revenue secretary.
“I count myself as monumentally privileged to have had the opportunity to work with him (Tomblin) to the benefit of West Virginia nearly all of my adult life,” Kiss said at the time.
I’m very sorry to learn of the passing of my former legislative colleague, Speaker Bob Kiss. He devoted many years of dedicated service to our state as a lawyer, legislative leader and Revenue Secretary. His wife Melinda and their sons are in our thoughts and prayers. https://t.co/S6JV7L0jBP
— Justice Tim Armstead (@ArmsteadWV) November 6, 2021
Gov. Jim Justice released the following statement Friday night:
“Cathy and I send our deepest condolences to Speaker Kiss’s family and friends during this difficult time and ask all West Virginians to join us in prayer for them.
“Speaker Kiss embodied the West Virginia spirit of devotion to serving others. He was one of the longest serving Speakers of the House in our state’s history, and after that served as Gov. Tomblin’s Secretary of Revenue. During his time in government, he was an integral part of establishing West Virginia’s Rainy Day Fund, and also helped establish the School Building Authority and Water Development Council, both of which are now vitally important to government operations.“Speaker Kiss ensured first and foremost that West Virginia’s finances were on solid ground, and worked tirelessly to make sure West Virginia was in a better position than when he started. His legacy will not soon be forgotten. “I personally knew Speaker Kiss as Bob and considered him a friend. He will be deeply missed by many. Next week, I will be issuing a proclamation to lower our flags to half-staff in honor of this great West Virginian.”
So sad about the passing of Bob Kiss, who was House Speaker when I was first elected to @wvlegislature. Bob showed me great leadership, compassion, & friendship. He taught me early on to value your friendships & respect both sides. Thinking of his family during this time. https://t.co/Qto3qwW4V1
— Shelley Moore Capito (@SenCapito) November 6, 2021
Kiss grew up in Dayton, Ohio and graduated from The Ohio State University College of Law. He was a partner in the Bowles Rice law firm in Charleston.
Kiss is survived by his wife Melinda and twin adult sons.