W.Va. House Speaker Quitting Legislature

WHEELING – West Virginia House Speaker Richard Thompson will resign from the Legislature next month to become cabinet secretary for the Department of Veterans Assistance.

Thompson, D-Wayne, called the recent legislative session “productive” and said he believes now is “perfect timing” for him to make the move.

“I’ve been House speaker for seven years, and a member of the House for 13 years,” he said. “During this time, the House has successfully addressed a lot of issues. An opportunity like this doesn’t come up often.”

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced his selection of Thompson to fill the post Thursday, and the appointment becomes effective when Secretary Keith Gwinn retires in mid-June. Thompson will then resign from the House.

Tomblin said he then has 10 days to convene a special session to select a new speaker.

“When Secretary Gwinn informed me he was retiring in June, I looked around to get the best possible candidate to fill the position,” Tomblin said. “Rick expressed an interest, and we talked about it. He is a veteran himself, and from a military family. He has always been supportive of veterans issues. He is energetic, passionate, and I am proud he was willing to come work for this administration.”

Thompson, 60, served in the Army on active duty from 1972-74, and was in the Reserve through 1978. During his military career, he served as a military police officer.

He was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1980, but left during his first term to take a job as assistant prosecutor in Wayne County. He returned to the House in 2000, and has served as speaker since 2007.

Thompson said during his tenure as speaker great strides were made to regulate Marcellus Shale, reform education and reduce prison overcrowding.

“We accomplished a lot, and kept West Virginia fiscally strong,” he said.