Southern West Virginia’s political landscape is in the midst of a major overhaul in this election year, and the latest to announce plans to depart is veteran Delegate Virginia Mahan.

First elected to her House seat in the 27th District of Raleigh and Summers counties back in 1996, she announced her decision Saturday not to seek re-election.

Mahan represented Summers all those years, but the district came in for some major changes in the controversial House redistricting plan this year.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed and been very humbled by this incredible opportunity to work for the needs of the people of my district and the state of West Virginia,” Mahan said.

“It has been a labor of love. But there are other prospects I would like to be able to pursue.”

Mahan didn’t elaborate on that, but said she wanted to disclose her decision now, giving others ample time to consider filling her vacancy in the upcoming election.

“The district has many qualified people who might wish to seek candidacy and it is only fair to let them know my intentions before the filing period closes,” she said.

Office-seekers have through next Saturday to file papers with the secretary of state’s office.

Mahan is not alone in deciding to leave the Legislature this year.

Just the past week, first-term Delegate Rick Snuffer, R-Raleigh, decided against a second term. Preceding him were delegates Tom Campbell, D-Greenbrier, and Gerald Crosier, D-Monroe.

Campbell indicated he might seek a statewide office in four to eight years, or perhaps even run for the Greenbrier County Commission. Snuffer gave no inkling of future political plans, if any, but did run once for Congress in the 3rd District, and some have speculated he might try a second time.

“This has been a tough decision,” Mahan said of deciding to give up the political arena.

“I feel so blessed to have represented my community for this time, but I want to try my hand at some other things and utilize the knowledge and skill this work has taught me.”

Mahan said her tenure in the House afforded the opportunity to make a number of lifetime friends and that she would deeply miss much of the job of a legislator.

“But there are so many other paths I would like to be able to consider,” she said.

Mahan’s legacy is both long and distinguished.

She was the first woman to serve on the Joint Committee on Government and Finance and was the ranking woman on the House Judiciary Committee.

In her career, she has chaired Rule-Making Review, the Select Committee on Child Protection and Children’s Advocacy, and the Pay Equity Commission.

Mahan was a legislative representative on the Help America Vote Committee and served on the Governor’s Committee on Juvenile Justice and Community Corrections.

The veteran lawmaker was the founder and co-chair of the bi-partisan West Virginia Child Welfare Legislative Caucus.

Among the milestones Mahan achieved included that of sponsoring the Open Meetings Law, the Pay Equity Act, beefed-up domestic violence laws, legislation bringing West Virginia in sync with the federal Clean Water Act, creating child advocacy centers and the so-called “Amber Alert Law.”

Devoting much energy on matters affecting children, Mahan also was instrumental in creating the child abuse and neglect registry and a special unit within the State Police devoted to crimes against minors.

In 2003, the West Virginia Women’s Caucus honored Mahan with its Guardian Angel Award. Three years later, Celebrate Women named her Woman of the Year.

Mahan, who lives in Green Sulphur Springs with her husband Jon, attended Arkansas State University. From 1989 to 1996, she was a safety and consumer advocate and also served as a legislative consultant.

“I feel good about many of the measures I have championed,” she said.

“And I have ideas and energy that compel me to seek new, additional ways to help the people of my state.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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