Governor-elect Jim Justice has named 27 people to chair policy committees that are expected to advise his transition team and incoming administration on some of the biggest issues affecting the state.
The high-profile list includes a millionaire Huntington businessman, a current U.S. Attorney, a former U.S. Senator, the CEO of the state’s largest bank, the president of one of the state’s largest engineering firms and the former CEO of two of the state’s largest coal-laden electric utilities.
It also features several county school officials, the provosts of the state’s two primary research universities and lobbyists for contracting companies, some of the state’s largest coal operations and Justice’s own Greenbrier resort.
In a move that directly mixes Justice’s private business with the state’s highest elected office, the businessman-turned-governor has also appointed one of the chief executives of The Greenbrier to advise him on tourism-related issues.
The chosen policy committees are focused on economic development, public education, higher education, healthcare, the drug epidemic, infrastructure, tourism, and energy and the environment -- though none of his choices for the last committee actually represent any environmental groups.
Below is the rundown of the people who will be advising Justice before he takes office on Jan. 16.
n Richard Adams is the CEO of United Bankshares, the state’s largest bank and the largest publicly-traded company based in West Virginia.
n Carte Goodwin is a Charleston attorney, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2010 by then Gov. Joe Manchin until a special election could be held to replace long-time Senator Robert Byrd. He is also the cousin of former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, who ran against Justice in the Democratic primary earlier this year.
n Marshall Reynolds is a millionaire businessman from Huntington. He is also the father of Doug Reynolds, a former West Virginia state Delegate, that spent millions of dollars self-funding his failed campaign to become West Virginia Attorney General earlier this year.
n Woody Thrasher is the founder and president of The Thrasher Group, West Virginia’s largest privately-owned engineering and architecture firm. The firm has several offices in West Virginia.
n Jeff Bryant is the superintendent of Greenbrier County Schools. Justice currently coaches basketball at Greenbrier East High School in Lewisburg.
n Miller Hall is the Director of Secondary Education at Raleigh County Board of Education. Justice grew up in Raleigh County and currently has business offices in the county. The governor-elect also was elected to the county board of education in 2000, but resigned to coach basketball in Greenbrier County several months later.
n Joyce McConnell is the provost of West Virginia University.
n Gayle Ormiston is the provost of Marshall University.
n Clay Marsh is the vice president and executive dean of West Virginia University Health Sciences.
n Michael Sellards is the president and CEO of Saint Mary’s Medical Center, the Huntington hospital that has been fighting questions of anti-trust in its acquisition by Cabell-Huntington Hospital in recent years.
n Martha Walker was appointed as the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources by then-governor Joe Manchin. She previously served in the state legislature and is currently serving as a member of the Kanawha-Charleston Board of Health.
n Albert Wright took over as the president of the West Virginia United Health System, the state’s largest healthcare provider, in September.
n Bill Ihlenfeld is the current U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia. He has been responsible for prosecuting drug traffickers in West Virginia’s northern counties.
n Jan Rader is the interim fire chief for the Huntington Fire Department and a member of the Huntington Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy. First responders in Huntington have dealt with an increasing number of opioid-related overdose cases in recent years. In August, the city was witness to more than 26 overdose calls in less than four hours.
n Steve Williams is the mayor of Huntington and a former member of the West Virginia House of Delegates. In recent years, he has become a leader in local efforts to combat drug addiction issues in West Virginia.
n Mike Clowser is a Charleston City Council member and the executive director of the West Virginia Contractors Association, which represents state companies that build and repair roads and bridges. Clowser is also a registered lobbyist for the association.
n Kyle Schafer was West Virginia’s chief technology officer for seven years and resigned from the position in 2012. Prior to that, he spent 24 years working for NiSource, the oil and gas transmission company that was taken over by Columbia Pipeline Group and subsequently TransCanada.
n Steve White is the executive director of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation, a group that fought against union-opposed legislation last legislative session. He has worked for 24 years with the Affiliated Construction Trades on workplace issues and various infrastructure investments in the state.
Energy and Environment
n Tony Alexander is the former CEO of FirstEnergy, the parent company of MonPower and Potomac Edison, two of the state’s largest electric utilties. Earlier this year, that parent utility company announced it was looking to “de-risk” several of its uncompetitive coal-fired power plants by pushing into regulated markets like West Virginia. That business effort is likely to include a proposal for MonPower to take over the Pleasants power plant near St. Marys, a move that would shift the risk of that plant off of investors and onto West Virginia electric customers.
n David Alvarez is the founder of Energy Transportation LLC, a Bridgeport-based oil and gas-related company, that operates in West Virginia and five other states. The company deals with industry spills, truck rollovers, pipeline ruptures, well blowouts and storage tank leaks.
n Ralph Ballard is a member of the West Virginia Coal Association. He was also a major investor in West Virginia Media. Ballard held a fundraising event at his home for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in 2010, along with many of the other members of the state’s coal association.
n Paul Hardesty is a state lobbyist that represents many of the state’s largest coal mining companies and Justice’s own Greenbrier resort. Hardesty is also the Logan County School Board president, and in September, said he would rather resign than allow than allow transgender students to use the restrooms that match their gender identity.
n Mike Ross is a former state senator who served 15 years in the legislature. He is also one of the founders and chairman of Ross & Wharton Gas Company, which has operated as a conventional oil and gas producer in the state for decades.
n Dave Arnold is one of the founders of Adventures on the Gorge, one of the state’s most successful rafting companies, which is continuing to grow its tourism destination in Fayette County. Arnold is also a current member of the West Virginia Tourism Commission.
n Elmer Coppoolse is the chief operating officer of Justice’s Greenbrier resort, which has received tax incentives and state advertising money from the state government in past years. The decision to place Coppoolse on the advisory committee literally merges Justice’s business with his political transition efforts. The governor-elect has suggested that he will be handing over control of his privately-held businesses to his children, something ethics attorneys say does nothing to insulate him from ongoing conflicts.
n Anthony Figaretti is the owner and operator of Figaretti Manufacturing and Distribution, a spaghetti sauce producer in Wheeling.
n Dewey Guida is the owner Dee Jay’s BBQ Ribs & Grille in Weirton.
Reach Andrew Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-4814 or follow @Andy_Ed_Brown on Twitter.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the relationship between Carte Goodwin and Booth Goodwin. They are cousins. It also incorrectly referred to Tony Alexander as the CEO of FirstEnergy. He is the former CEO of that electric utility company.