By Vicki Smith
For the third time in as many years, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will take an oath to serve as West Virginia’s chief executive. But he said Monday’s ceremony on the Capitol steps will be different in one key way: This time, he won’t have to worry about campaigning.
He can enjoy the party because he knows the job is his for a full four years.
“The work will still be there, as hard or harder,” he said Friday as the preparations ramped up. “It feels really good to be able to be in the office and to be dedicating myself full-time. That’s what I enjoy.”
Tomblin, a former state Senate president, was first sworn in as acting governor in November 2010, the day after predecessor Joe Manchin resigned to claim a seat in the U.S. Senate.
It was a quiet affair, held in the grand foyer outside the Senate Chamber, and Tomblin said he took the oath “not really knowing what the future was.”
Almost immediately, he began campaigning for the special election that the courts then ordered. He narrowly won that 2011 fight and took the oath a second time, knowing it was only for a one-year term.
But last November’s decisive victory over Republican challenger Bill Maloney sealed a four-year deal.
“It will be a sentimental time,” Tomblin said of Monday’s celebration. “I take the oath of office as the 35th governor of the 35th state, after all those years of working toward this goal.”
Tomblin, now 60, was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1974, at age 22.
Tomblin’s wife of 32 years, Joanne, their son Brent, and numerous family members will surround him as he lays his hand on the Bible that Joanne got at age 13 when she was confirmed in her Presbyterian church. Tomblin also used that Bible when he became a senator in 1980, when he became Senate president in 1995, and twice as acting governor.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Benjamin will deliver the oath.
That evening, about 2,000 people will attend a gala where the governor and other dignitaries will feast. Only 500 tickets were made available to the public. The event features a private concert with Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., the 2011 winner of “America’s Got Talent” who, like Tomblin, is a Logan County native.