Governor to appoint Helmick replacement

The new senator will finish out the term left by the Democrat to represent the 15th District

CHARLES TOWN — The newest senator from the Eastern Panhandle’s 15th Senate District is expected to be named next week but don’t look for someone from Berkeley or Morgan counties to be picked.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will make his selection to fill the seat vacated by former Sen. Walt Helmick, who was elected Commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture in November. Helmick still has two years remaining on his unexpired Senate term.

Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Justice Brent Benjamin gives the oath of office to Walt Helmickwho was sworn in as West Virginia Agriculture Commissioner on Monday on the steps of the Capitol in Charleston. Helmick is accompanied by his wife, Rita and his family.

Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Justice Brent Benjamin gives the oath of office to Walt Helmick who was sworn in as West Virginia Agriculture Commissioner on Monday on the steps of the Capitol in Charleston. Helmick is accompanied by his wife, Rita and his family.

In a recent interview, Helmick said some names being considered to be submitted to Tomblin are Hampshire County residents Judge Donald H. Cookman and Bob Mayhew, Tom Hawse of Hardy County, Jeff Bowers from Pendleton County, Charles Sheets from Pocahontas County and from Upshur County, Mike Ross.

Helmick was sworn in as agriculture commissioner on Monday.

The committee has 15 days from the time Helmick leaves office to submit its three names, said Chelsea Ruby, special assistant to the director of communications, office of the governor.

Ruby said after receiving the list, the governor has five days to make an appointment from the list.

With Helmick sworn in, Democratic representatives from each county in the 15th District prior to the redistricting agreement of 2011 — Hampshire, Upshur, Pocahontas, Randolph, Pendleton, Grant, Hardy, Morgan and Berkeley — are required to choose a male and female to be a member of a committee from the entire 15th Senatorial District. Randolph County and Berkeley County can be represented on the committee but members from those counties cannot submit names from their localities because each of the two counties already have senators in the Legislature. Randolph County is represented by Republican Clark Barnes, while another Republican, Craig Blair represents Berkeley County.

That committee will in turn select three names to send to the governor. The list of names won’t be finalized until Helmick resigns from his senatorial position and is sworn in as agriculture commissioner.

The new 15th District includes all of Hampshire and Morgan counties, as well as parts of Berkeley and Mineral counties.

Pendleton County has already named the two people that will be appointed to the selection committee, said Isaac Sponaugle, the chairman of the Democratic Central Committee in Pendleton.

“We will submit one male and one female to be part of the process,” Sponaugle said recently. He said most county committees would not have formally begun the process until after Helmick is sworn in.

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