By Mannix Porterfield
CHARLESTON — CHARLESTON — Southern lawmakers bundled up Monday for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s outdoor inauguration, amid high hopes of getting things done for West Virginia in general and their region in particular in the months ahead.
A new senator — Daniel Hall — expects southern counties to have a strong voice in government, with a chief executive hailing from that region.
“I think that has to be a plus,” said Hall, a Democrat representing the 9th District of Raleigh and Wyoming counties.
“He’s from our area and he knows our needs just as good or better than anyone else does. He’s good, and the state made the right decision in voting for him.”
House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, predicted that Tomblin will “do a fine job.”
“He’s experienced and a very hard worker,” the four-term speaker said.
“Obviously, we won’t start session until Feb. 13, but there’s a lot of work we’re doing to get ready for the session.”
Hours before the ceremony, Thompson’s special task force scrutinizing Tomblin’s education audit met at the Capitol for the first time. “I’m looking forward to the research and resources that they’re able to provide to me and other members of the House,” the speaker said.
“I think it will be quite helpful.”
Lawmakers tuned in to perhaps get a hint or two in Tomblin’s inaugural remarks as a curtain-raiser to his State of the State address next month.
On the night of that speech, lawmakers will have completed February interims, giving the leadership time to see what legislation, if any, has been recommended, Thompson pointed out.
“So we’ll have a much better idea of some of the priority items we’re going to have on that day,” Thompson said. The speaker said he and Tomblin enjoy a solid working relationship.
“He’s very good about working with us,” Thompson said.
“He’ll give us some heads up on everything. We’re good friends. We work together good. He reaches out and talks to us a lot.”
Thompson plans to make his committee assignments this week, as well as decide where the delegates will be seated.
While inaugural ceremonies generally follow a pattern, Thompson sees them all as special.
“They’re pretty special for West Virginia,” he said.
Thompson’s majority leader, Delegate Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, said he was happy to see Tomblin take the oath.
“I think it’s a nice cap to his career for being elected to a full, four-year term,” Boggs said.
“I know that he’s anxious to hit the ground running, like the House and Senate as well, and do good things for the state. We are ready.”
Sen. Bill Laird, D-Fayette, termed the inauguration “certainly a matter of significance and importance to our state.”
“We’re looking forward to the continuity of government and four years of good, solid leadership,” Laird said.
Like others awaiting on the ceremony, Laird said he “absolutely” can work with the governor.
“I think he has a vision for the state of West Virginia, as we do in the Senate,” the veteran lawmaker said.
“We certainly look forward to working closely with him on a number of important issues.”
Senate Agriculture Chairman Ron Miller, D-Greenbrier, called the day “exciting,” pointing out it was the first time in his stint as a legislator to take part in an official inauguration.
“I’m excited for the future,” he said.
Miller recalled some words of advice Tomblin dished out on his first day in the Senate, in an issue on which the two differed.
“He said, ‘You’ve given your word. You stayed true to your word. That’s all you have here,’” the senator said.
“I never forgot that. I told him I’d support him all the time for those kinds of words. That’s truth. And that was so important to me.”