Unger, Snyder to play leadership roles in W.Va. Senate

Unger will be first majority leader from Eastern Panhandle in more than 40 years

January 05, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • State Sen. John Unger
State Sen. John Unger

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — State Sen. Herb Snyder was named chairman of the Senate Government Organization Committee on Wednesday, joining fellow 16th District Sen. John Unger in landing a top leadership job in the 80th Legislature.

Unger was named Senate Majority Leader on Tuesday by State Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, who is expected to oversee the Senate in the upcoming session.

Kessler touted how his team hails from different parts of the state as well as wide-ranging backgrounds.

"The goal is that at the end of the day, the state moves forward," Kessler told The Associated Press.
Snyder and Unger’s appointments are part of a leadership shake-up that was sparked by the election of Gov. Joe Manchin to the U.S. Senate in November.

Snyder said Tuesday that Unger's elevation to the No. 2 leadership post in the Senate and his new chairmanship would be "a double whammy" for the Eastern Panhandle.

Kessler’s leadership announcements comes after the Northern Panhandle lawmaker emerged last week with enough apparent support within the 34-member Senate to serve as its acting leader while President Earl Ray Tomblin continues to serve as acting governor under the state constitution.

Tomblin was elevated to serve as the state's executive in November in an acting role after Manchin won a special election to complete the unexpired term of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

Unger becomes the first Eastern Panhandle lawmaker to rise to a top leadership post in the Senate since the late Sen. Clarence E. Martin Jr. of Martinsburg, who also served as majority leader before leaving office in 1970.

Snyder, meanwhile, replaces Sen. Edwin Bowman, D-Hancock, who decided not to seek reelection last year. Snyder had been serving as vice-chair of the Government Organization Committee, one of the Senate’s major committees.

Unger replaces Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, who served as majority leader for Tomblin, a native of nearby Logan County.

On Wednesday, Kessler also named new Finance Committee chairs, ousting Sen. Walt Helmick,
D-Pocahontas, whose 15th district includes southwestern Berkeley County and Morgan counties. Sen. Roman Prezioso of Marion County is expected to head Senate Finance along with Sen. Doug Facemire of Braxton County.

Kessler picked Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, to chair the Judiciary Committee, the chairmanship the new Senate leader had held.

Kessler previously indicated Joe Minard, D-Harrison, would remain chair of the Banking and Insurance Committee along with Sen. Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell. Education Chairman Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, will remain at that post along with Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, as vice chairman.

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