WV House Speaker Thompson to take over Department of Veterans As - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

WV House Speaker Thompson to take over Department of Veterans Assistance

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CHARLESTON, WV -

UPDATE:

House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, has announced he will take over as cabinet secretary for the state's Department of Veterans Assistance.

The announcement came at 11 a.m. Thursday. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appointed Thompson to the position after current Veterans Secretary Keith Gwinn announced his plans to retire in mid-June.

Thompson was first elected to one term in the House of Delegates in 1980. He returned in 2000, and was elected Speaker of the House in the 2007 session, a position he's held since.

Thompson said he hopes to use that experience to continue advocating for veterans across the state.

"I realized the sacrifices and what we need to be doing," Thompson said. "We can never do enough. I believe in my position I can be an advocate for our veterans. I have contacts in Washington. I've already spoken to our representatives in Washington."

Gwinn, a Huntington native, was appointed to that position by now-Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in 2009. Gwinn received $72,499 in pay from Veterans Affairs in 2012, according to the listing on the West Virginia Auditor's Office, and $67,499 in 2011.

Thompson and his wife Beth live in Lavalette. Both are children of veterans, and Thompson himself served in the U.S Armed Forces.

Tomblin will have 10 days from Thompson's vacancy to call the Legislature into a special session to select a new House Speaker.

ORIGINAL STORY:

An announcement from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is expected at 10 a.m. today to announce a new position for House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne.

West Virginia Democratic Party sources have said Thompson will be named director of Veterans Affairs, a position currently held by Keith Gwinn. Gwinn, a Huntington native, was named to that position by now-Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in 2009. Gwinn received $72,499 in pay from Veterans Affairs in 2012, according to the listing on the West Virginia Auditor's Office, and $67,499 in 2011.

Thompson's pay from the House of Delegates in 2012 was $62,600 and $52,100 in 2011.

Thompson has been House Speaker since 2007, and he has served in the House of Delegates since 2000. He served one term in 1980. He has been an attorney for nearly 30 years, and he attended Marshall University before volunteering for the draft in 1972. He served in the United States Armed Forces until 1974, when he received an honorable discharge.

He came in second to Tomblin during the primary election for the 2011 special election for governor, and in April 2012 was denied clearance by the West Virginia Ethics Commission to accept a legal counsel position with the West Virginia Education Association while he served as speaker.

He and his wife, Beth Chambers Thompson, live in Lavelette. They have four children and two grandchildren.

Sources have indicated Thompson's new position will take effect in June, and after that time, the House of Delegates will elect a new speaker.

The Wayne County Democratic Party also will be required to present Tomblin with three names of a new delegate, and he will appoint one.