EARL RAY TOMBLIN (D) of Chapmanville, Logan County (7th Dist.). Elected to the House of Delegates in 1974, 1976 and 1978. Elected to the Senate in 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008. Chairman, Committee on Confirmations, 1981-84. Senate Majority Whip and Chairman, Energy, Industry and Mining Committee, 67th Legislature. Finance Chairman, 68th, 69th, 70th and 71st Legislatures. Elected January 11, 1995, as the 48th President of the Senate; reelected in 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011. He is the longest serving Senate President in West Virginia's history. On the national Board of Directors of the Senate Presidents' Forum, Chairman, ex officio, Committee on Rules, Cochairman, Joint Committee on Government and Finance, Commission on Special Investigations, Joint Committee on Rules. Born March 15, 1952, in Logan County; son of Earl and Freda (Jarrell) Tomblin. Education: West Virginia University (BS); Marshall University (MBA); University of Charleston. Married September 8, 1979, to Joanne Jaeger; son: Brent Jaeger. Self-employed Businessman. Former School Teacher. Presbyterian. Member, Kappa Alpha; Honorary Doctorate, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College; Logan County Development Authority. Listed in Who's Who in American Politics; Outstanding Young Men in America. Chairman, Southern Legislative Conference, 1999; Member, Executive Committee and Cochairman of Finance Committee, Council of State Governments (CSG). Member, Executive Committee, National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Chairman, WV 2000 Committee. Became state first Lieutenant Governor under the provisions of Chapter 169, Acts, Regular Session, 2000. Elected Vice-chairman of the National Council of State Governments (CSG),the umbrella organization for the Southern Governors Association, 2004, and became chairman in December 2005. Tomblin is the first West Virginian ever selected on this leadership track and was the recipient of the National Bulger Award for Legislative Leadership, 2009.
When a newspaper uses only the first name of an individual in the headline of a story, it's because that name is instantly recognized and, usually, respected. The reader understands who the person is, what the person represents, and, more often than not, knows him personally.
Some might contend it is poor journalism, but it actually is the highest form of a compliment-to be instantly recognized by one's given name.
In The Logan Banner, for instance, a headline might say, "Earl Ray Wins Senate Leader's Post Fifth Time." Everyone would know the article concerns Chapmanville native and resident and West Virginia State Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin.
Around the marbled halls of the Capitol in Charleston, Earl Ray is referred to as Mr. President. Even his closest friends and associates in the legislative cadre of members, lobbyists and staffers would never consider addressing him otherwise.
While the office commands respect, there's more to it than the perfunctory necessity of title. Earl Ray Tomblin is genuinely respected by his peers, his constituents, and those he has worked with across the state as a fair person, one who has the best interests of the State of West Virginia in his heart.
Constituents, a great many of whom have watched him grow up in the small down-river community of Logan County's Guyandotte Valley, just call him "EarlRay," meshing the double moniker into a single, friendly word. It is the result of his genuine down-to-earth personality that has marked an astonishing legislative career.
"When I am out in the public, even to do the routine things like marketing, or going to the store to pick up a few items, I quite often hear someone yell down the isle, 'Hey, Earlray.' It's usually an old friend, former classmate, or a constituent I have worked with extensively," Senator Tomblin said. "It is part of the personal nature of politics in southwestern West Virginia. You just can't get very far politically if you really don't like the people you are serving. They know if someone truly cares about them and their problems and usually they are looking for an open ear and just want to be heard."
In order to ensure his Senate office is always open to those he serves, either district-wide or state-wide, or within the Capitol's bureaucracy itself, Senator Tomblin has barred the use of answering machines in his office-machines that seem to proliferate across state government.
"When you call my Charleston office you will get a human being, not a recording. I think the voters, citizens and taxpayers deserve that and want that special personal attention," Senator Tomblin emphasized.
Former State Senator Lloyd Jackson, a Lincoln County Democrat, served a decade and a half in the upper chamber of the Legislature with Tomblin. Jackson, who always was the junior senator from the Seventh District in terms of longevity of service, once served as Governor Gaston Caperton's Chief of Staff and is now a member of the West Virginia Board of Education. He says Senator Tomblin's formula for success as a legislator and legislative leader is not a secret. In fact, he attributes Tomblin's success to his "personal style, leading by sheer personality ... and his committee experience in both the House of Delegates and State Senate."
"He takes time, even during the busiest part of his schedule, during sessions of the Legislature, to meet with constituents, hear their complaints and do what he can, with a phone call or a visit to help them with their problems. He and his staff are very focused on the needs of those who reside in the Seventh District.
"It was my great pleasure to serve with him in the Senate and now in other capacities of state government. Even though I am no longer on the floor or in a Senate office, he is responsive to the needs of the people of my home county of Lincoln and especially to the educational community at large."
Without question, Tomblin's early life experiences helped mold his leadership style, befitting the culture of the region he represents. His personality, coupled with the longevity and variety of his public service, has combined to develop one of the state's foremost political leaders who possesses a great ability to face and overcome the state's continuing financial and economic struggles. He is fiscally conservative by nature, yet willing to do all he can to advance local as well as state causes with the controlled strings of the state's purse.
Practically no one in Chapmanville ever doubted Earl Ray Tomblin one day would enter politics. His proclivity to it is as natural as the color green is to grass.
His dad, Earl, was very active in politics, having held a number of county offices and political posts, including the office of Logan County Sheriff. In fact, there probably was not a time when politics was not a part of the Tomblins' family life-both before Earl Ray graduated from Chapmanville High School in 1970 and into his collegiate years at West Virginia University and Marshall University.
Even as a third grader at Chapmanville Grade School, Earl Ray knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. In an essay he wrote at that time, he said he wanted to be a lawyer, like his dad, who was serving then as Chapmanville District Justice of the Peace, or present-day Magistrate. Even at that early age, West Virginia's future Senate President was meeting people who one day would support him in his entry into politics as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1975.
In those early days, Tomblin's parents owned and managed a popular restaurant in Chapmanville called Kitty's Play House, while Earl operated his Justice of the Peace office out of the lower section of the building. Earl Ray would witness as his dad administered justice to offenders of misdemeanors or even those accused of more serious crimes. He was getting a political and legal education by watching and listening to many of the attorneys practicing in the area, as well as other county officials and law enforcement officers who routinely called on the Justice of the Peace.
He also was learning a great deal about the struggles facing small businesses and their owners and how tough it was to make a living on a small profit margin. "My parents struggled in business, but they kept working hard no matter the adversity," Senator Tomblin said. "They knew they were in a competitive world and success would be determined by the effort they put into everything they did.
"That hard work paid off for them and, I believe, helped instill in me a great respect for what businessmen and businesswomen have to face each and every day. They invest their time, effort, and money in a venture to provide goods or services to the public, with the expectation that profits will be returned in order for them to continue to provide a living and a future for their family and especially their children.
"Every time I vote on a measure which has an effect on business, I weigh the ramifications it has on all those who are attempting to achieve the same success my parents obtained through the long, hard years of serving the public. Frankly, I don't like to support tax increases. I will if it is necessary and appears to be the only remedy. But every time we increase a tax or put a new one into place, it affects the costs the public has to pay and the competitive playing field of the business. Ultimately, it may even threaten the jobs of those supported by those affected businesses.
"I know, firsthand, what a business has to do financially in order to meet payrolls and reward investment and to stay on top of things in order for that business to grow. I don't believe government ought to be the challenge to that success, but help in its cause. In the long run, a strong economy will provide well-paying jobs and strengthen our families and provide a future for their children-that's what keeps us working overtime in the Legislature, seeking new ways to make living in West Virginia second to none when it comes to quality of life."
Humble beginnings marked the Senate President's early years as his parents worked hard to operate the family business, raise two sons and maintain Earl's own career in politics and public service. Politics during that era of the 1950's and 1960's in Logan County were rough and tumble. Elections were fierce clashes of Democratic factions that sometimes even split families and broke up longstanding friendships. In that atmosphere, Senator Tomblin learned the sacrifices and rewards of a political career, and the commitment it would take to make his own mark on the history of his county, district and state.
Those experiences also built within him a determination to practice the politics of compromise and consensus building, and to strive to work in harmony with divergent points of view-a quality that does not go unnoticed by those who make their way into his Capitol office each day to discuss ideas or controversies, or to find ways to meet the challenges of governing a small state with limited financial resources.
In spite of the hard-core nature of elections and tough business competition, the Tomblins not only survived both in politics and as entrepreneurs but they became influential community leaders. Life in the family and extended family, which included scores of aunts, uncles, cousins, and political allegiances, provided many valuable life and political lessons for Earl Ray. It would result in his strong work ethic and his desire to be the best, yet retain the common touch with the people, which is so important in winning elections and staying elected in Logan County.
These skills and abilities would lead to his historic first election as top vote getter in the 1974 primary, but also would elect him to office in some very trying personal times, and keep re-electing him by larger margins in subsequent ballots to this very day. The same skills and traits identified by his colleagues in the State Senate who have chosen him president every two years since 1994 have made him the longest serving State Senate President in the history of West Virginia, which is no easy task in a field of ambitious senators and their own political agendas.
Earl Ray Tomblin's early forays into elective office came as a high school student-an indication of things to come. He was a popular classmate who was willing to serve and his name could always be found in the personality polls in yearbooks. He served on several committees, worked with the Key Club and athletics, and served as a class officer at Chapmanville High. His ability to bring a group together and get the job done was evident in those high school days, and what's more, everyone who worked with him had some fun in the process.
That leads me to my own personal observations and experiences with the state's top legislative leader. Throughout my own career, I have held a number of public trusts, one of them as a teacher at Chapmanville High School. Having a love of government and politics myself, I was pleased to learn that I would be teaching the required-for-graduation senior U.S. government class-five sections of highly opinionated, independently minded older teenagers who couldn't wait to get out on their own. Politics was the furthest thing from their minds and most of them didn't really care how a bill becomes a law.
While he was typical in many respects, the teenaged Earl Ray Tomblin enjoyed the study of government and how it worked, and excelled as a student. Every teacher has that favorite class, made up of a group of students who seem to stand out from all the rest-the class that was fun to teach because the students worked very hard and because they all seemed to get along. They knew how to laugh and how to have fun, and it combined to make you happy to be a part of their educational experience and to be a classroom teacher. That's the way I felt then and the way I feel now about that class of 1970, which provided West Virginia not only with political leadership, but doctors, lawyers, military leaders, and educators as well. Earl Ray could be found at the center of every activity that class undertook. He collected friends the way some collect things because at the center of his own personality is the joy he takes in being around those he loves and who love him.
While Earl Ray is a bit heavier, and the hair is a bit thinner and graying on the sides, the same personality is there after nearly three full decades of political leadership in the Legislature. He basically has not changed even though he is 33 years out of high school, a graduate of West Virginia University, and the holder of an M.B.A. from Marshall University. He takes time for people, whether it is the governor, a fellow senator or an old friend, or even someone who's about to become a friend. He always takes time to find out about the person, and he's ready to help wherever and whenever he's called upon.
Even though I serve today as his administrative assistant (something so completely far from my mind in 1970), what is unique and wonderful in its own way, at least to me, is how we often talk about the years we were in the classroom together. The only difference is the student now teaches the teacher the lessons of successful politics and government.
From the experiences in the classroom and those we've had in the Senate President's office, I have learned not to "fix something that ain't broken," which addresses one of the President's basic political views of government and how it should operate.
A Democrat, his political philosophy is moderately conservative, especially when it comes to making huge and unnecessary changes in government. He always moves cautiously, understanding that the Legislature must be successful if the rest of West Virginia and her citizens are to be. During his career he has demonstrated a willingness, though, to make tough decisions, even if a political cost is required.
His knowledge of state finances-revenues and expenditures-may be equaled by a few but it is not surpassed. In 1989, while serving as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Tomblin worked closely with his counterpart in the House of Delegates, now speaker, Del. Bob Kiss, to address a financial crisis unparalleled in the state's history to that time. Faced with hundreds of millions of dollars of debt, unpaid tax refunds, inability to meet health and retirement requirements of state employees and an educational system in disrepair and financial need, he signed on early for tax increases and austerity moves, which resulted in the state receiving the highest credit rating possible. It was a case of something he didn't want to do, but he saw no other recourse as he worked to build protections within the state finances to protect West Virginia's credit rating, insure the fiscal soundness of medical and pension funds and to guarantee that the state would pay its bills on time, including refunds to citizens for overpayment of state income taxes.
West Virginia literally went from the financial basement to the top. "Things were so bad the gas company had threatened to cut off the gas to the governor's mansion, if the bill was not immediately paid," Senator Tomblin said. "We had people who did not get their tax refunds, our credit rating was in ruins, and the medical community was refusing to take public employees' insurance because they had to wait sometimes four to six months to get their reimbursement. It had a very strong adverse effect on the entire economy of the state."
Even though taxes were raised in 1989 to bail out the state and set it on a firm financial standing, no major tax increases have been passed by the Legislature since he became president in 1995. And, for most of those years, the state has enjoyed enough surplus revenues that a portion has been set aside in a "Rainy Day Fund" created by the Legislature in 1989 with Senator Tomblin's guidance. It is a fund that has served the state well through a series of disasters and financial shortfalls over the past 14 years, providing up to $100 million in state funds to match federal contributions in time of flood and other natural calamities.
He considers the work he did as Senate Finance Chairman during those tough times as some of his best work as a legislator. "I am very proud of how we came out of that period and the years of growth which followed," Senator Tomblin said. "In many ways those challenging years were among the best times for public service because we had to move and move quickly to address our monetary problems or we could have, quite literally, lost our state to bankruptcy.
"I am reminded of what Franklin Roosevelt said at the height of the great depression when asked if his reforms would work and pull the country out of the financial crisis it was in. Roosevelt said, 'I don't know if it will work or not, but I have to try something.' It was a time when political differences were laid aside and we went to work without partisanship and with the single purpose to put West Virginia and West Virginians first, pulling us out of the financial quagmire."
The long-ranging agenda Senator Tomblin had on his mind, though, produced one of the greatest educational advances in the United States. Among the greatest accomplishments he talks about, one of which he may be most proud, is the creation of the School Building Authority and development of high technology and computerization of the state's classrooms. Working with Lloyd Jackson, then Senate Education Chairman, and other Senate leaders, he led the enactment of legislation in this arena, placing West Virginia at the forefront of educational change and progress in the nation.
"It really began an educational revolution in this state and West Virginia was a national model for technological change," says Jackson. "We worked on hundreds of issues together, and so far hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to the counties for new schools and technology which is making a difference in the quality of education in West Virginia. It's a gift to the future of the state and demonstrates where Earl Ray Tomblin's heart is, when it comes to providing what the state really needs, and it begins with children. Both of us understand that the key to prosperity for West Virginia is our school system."
After studying business administration and earning a degree in 1974 from West Virginia University, Senator Tomblin already had been nominated for his first term in the House of Delegates. He also was actively engaged in developing his own investments in property and real estate as well as other small business. He even taught in the public schools in Chapmanville for a while.
Time in the Legislature, his own business activities and other interests would be enough to occupy all the time available to any young legislator, but during this period he also recognized the need for an advanced degree. He took advantage of Marshall's accelerated program leading to a master's degree in business, and completed his degree in fewer than two years.
"Even though no one in my mom's or dad's family had ever gone to college, much less graduated from high school, there was a great emphasis placed on formal education for both me and my brother Carl by our parents," Senator Tomblin said. "Earning the M.B.A. from Marshall has broadened my business knowledge and experience and has provided me with great tools not only in my private business affairs, but in the conduct of the affairs of state government as well.
"I cannot stress enough how important the M.B.A. program at Marshall University was to me at that time. It not only enabled me to earn the graduate degree and establish my credentials, but I was able to complete the program without having to give up any aspect of my private or public life to do it. No doubt it was a factor in being named Senate Finance Chairman, a post I held for eight years.
"Once John Kennedy was addressing a graduating class at Yale University and was given an honorary doctorate. A Harvard grad, the president quipped that he now had the best of both worlds, a Yale degree and a Harvard education. I sort of feel that way … But, in the good-natured debate between the state's two great institutions of higher learning, on a variety of competitive topics, I can take either side of an issue with [degrees] from both West Virginia University and Marshall. I do have the best of both worlds!"
Earl Ray Tomblin's commitment to public and higher education goes far beyond his own experiences and accomplishments as a student. It is surpassed only by his commitment to his family, in particular his son Brent, who will soon be a teenager. As most good parents are concerned about their children's education, Earl Ray and his wife Joanne, President of Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, are no different. Brent is their first and foremost priority. Not unlike a great many youngsters in public school in the Chapmanville area, Brent attends Chapmanville Middle School, the first School Building Authority project completed in Logan County in the mid 1990's. A multi-sport athlete, Brent's biggest fan is his dad. It is not uncommon to find West Virginia's Lieutenant Governor (Tomblin became the state's first lieutenant governor under the provisions of Chapter 169, Acts, Regular Session, 2000) at the Little League Field in spring and summer afternoons, cheering his son on like most other parents. "You only get one opportunity with your son's childhood and I take as many opportunities as I can to be with him," Tomblin says. "Once it's gone and given up to growth, maturity, and ultimately adulthood, it will be too late to share in these great experiences.
"I once heard a story about a man and his son who went to the zoo to spend the day together. After visiting all the animals and eating hot dogs, ice cream and cramming as much fun as they could in the time they had, the father asked his son what he most liked about the visit to the zoo. The dad thought his son would say it was the visit to the giraffes, or maybe the lions or the monkeys, but his son came back with this reply: "Dad, the best thing about today was just being with you."
"That's the way Joanne and I feel about him, the best thing is just being together. And, if I have to make changes in my schedule and she hers, it is worth it. Raising children is just something parents cannot afford to fail."
Sometimes it can become a bit confusing at the Tomblins' home when someone asks for "the president." Senator Tomblin and Joanne are not the only "presidents" in that household. For a while, Brent was president of his class at Justice Elementary School in Logan County.
With Joanne's duties running a multi-county campus institution and Earl Ray's business and political activities, one might expect Brent's parents to have difficulty finding time to be full-time parents. "It's all a matter of priorities," Joanne says. "Some things can wait, but a growing youngster with his interests in school and outside school activities … you only get those opportunities once in life. Everything else gets done just as it's supposed to."
Earl Ray Tomblin first met Joanne Jaeger while she was a legislative intern in the public communications office. She was not an unfamiliar person to those in the Legislature or West Virginia, because she was employed as an on-camera television journalist for WSAZ-TV in Huntington. She also served there as an evening news anchor. Not unlike the eventual Senate President, Joanne was recognized as a person with a bright future of her own.
The attraction between the two was immediate and mutual, and a courtship ensued. No wedding plans had been made, but the couple was an "item" under the glistening dome of the Capitol. That issue, though, came to the front when Joanne was offered a lucrative major market television news job that would have catapulted her into a national news media role with one of the three major television news organizations at the time.
"It was time for a decision and it was either me or the career and thankfully she chose me and the rest is history," Senator Tomblin said. "She made the commitment to stand by my side in Logan County and not only I, but southern West Virginia have reaped the benefits of her life and that commitment ever since. It was a case of not letting her get away and we've been together now nearly three decades."
Giving up a career in broadcast journalism to work alongside a young legislator from a rural southern West Virginia area was something Joanne never looked back upon as an opportunity lost. It was an opportunity gained. As Senator Tomblin did, she went on to complete a master's degree program at Marshall University and began a career in public service in her own right, accepting a position with the anti-poverty program P.R.I.D.E. Inc. in Logan County. From there she entered professional education at Southern, eventually working her way into the school's presidency a few years ago. Under her guidance the school continues to see increases in enrollment, expansion of curriculum offerings, and continued growth into the technological area, all designed to create and sustain an educated and employable workforce in southwestern West Virginia.
"Working in this role is challenging, but it is a delight to be able to be in such a key position to do something vital to the future of southwestern West Virginia," Mrs. Tomblin states. "Both Earl Ray and I believe that education, traditional and non-traditional, is the way to break with the one-industry past of Logan County and other coal-producing counties. By providing technical training, even liberal arts education, we are in the business of creating opportunities through learning, so necessary in the competitive nature of today's global economies. He believes and I believe that education does not cost, it pays.
"A great many of our graduates go on to colleges and universities, in particular Marshall, so we feel that continued state support of Southern is important to Marshall University in continuing to produce the graduates our state will need today and tomorrow. I guess one really doesn't know what awaits them in the twists and turns of life. I thought a career in journalism, armed with my degree from Marshall, would be just fine for a young lady from Long Island, New York … that is, until I met this up-and-coming young legislator from Logan County.
"Coming to live and work in the southern part of the state was not something I expected to do, but it is something I genuinely love. West Virginia and the people who live here are the nicest people anywhere … friendly, helpful, and loyal to the core. I just could not think of my life being any different than it is and wouldn't consider changing a thing. I have no regrets and look forward to each day as another opportunity to do what I can to help others get the education they need to get a good start on their own lives."
Visitors to the Tomblins' country home estate in the hills, where Logan and Boone County come together along the meanderings of Trace Fork of Big Creek, will experience one of the qualities that marks the gentleman who occupies the top Senate seat and the lady who guides higher education in his political district-honest-to-goodness southern hospitality. Even first-time guests quickly discover there are no strangers at the Tomblin home.
Guests for dinners, suppers, or the occasional cookout for friends and colleagues will always find Earl Ray at the barbeque pit preparing a steak or keeping a glass filled. He has turned entertaining guests into an art, and obviously goes out of his way to make certain every guest in his home and at his table gets the royal treatment. It also is typical of a visit to his Senate office in Charleston. All visitors are greeted cordially and always with a sincere personal touch. He always will inquire of his guests in a positive way, "Hope you had fun and enjoyed yourself." He takes a great deal of pride in being a good host.
One of Senator Tomblin's guests at his home in the summer of 1986 was a member of the British Parliament and the Labour Party. Not many people in the United States had ever heard of Tony Blair, a rising English political star, but that can't be said of him today. He is Prime Minister of Great Britain-America's staunchest political and military ally.
"He was one of the friendliest and most charismatic persons I ever met. He came for dinner and almost stayed for breakfast," Tomblin said. "We talked politics and the differences and similarities of our two legislative systems into the wee hours of the morning. It was almost as if we had been friends all our lives. Who knows what might have been said at that cookout to help change the course of history or help to mold the bond Great Britain and the United States have enjoyed for centuries? I am not one bit surprised that Tony Blair rose to the top. He understands the nature of grassroots politics and he has the desire to govern."
Notably, it is a philosophy similar to Senator Tomblin's, a fact not lost on those others who know both men. Earl Ray was Senate Finance Chairman at the time, nearly a decade before becoming Senate President. In the intervening years, he has made contact with political leaders from practically every state. He has served a number of national political and legislative organizations as officer and board member and once chaired the Southern Legislative Conference. It is from these organizations that ideas and friendships are fostered. At a dinner you never know if the man or woman you are seated next to might be, or become, a governor, senator or later even president.
"These organizations provide the state with opportunities to learn about innovative ideas and programs going on within them," Tomblin says. "They also provide us with a showcase of our own progress and innovations."
West Virginia's motor vehicle law requiring drivers under the age of 18 to be in school was a hot topic at one meeting. Another was the incorporation of the "Rainy Day Fund" which receives a percentage of any surplus funds from fiscal years that end with positive balances. Even the oft-maligned Budget Digest has attracted more than one legislator from another state with questions about how it works and what makes it so unique.
"Advances in public education, such as new building construction, expansion of computer technologies, and curriculum development have been able to turn West Virginia's educational program into a national model," Tomblin said. "Our growth in education always attracts interest in these forums and it really helps to change the image some may have of West Virginia."
While he has valuable contacts and friends in every state of the union, providing an outstanding model of West Virginia ambassadorship, and is a valuable state tool in interstate relationships in behalf of West Virginia, Senator Tomblin is one who always turns to his Logan County home as a place of solace and reflection.
He is first and foremost a family man, who manages his public and private time to achieve the right kind of balance public servants everywhere envy. In everything public that he does, he remembers to promote the advantages of life and investment in southwestern West Virginia.
At public meetings, his ear is always available to hear the comments and needs of constituents, not just because it is good politics, but because these are his friends and neighbors. They sometimes need his help to cut a bit of government red tape or need him to listen to their concerns over public issues. Maybe it could be a request as simple as wanting a West Virginia Blue Book (the government "yearbook" of West Virginia, published biannually) or as serious as someone in need of medical attention who cannot afford the cost of an operation. Whatever the need, he listens.
His mother, Freda, sums it up best: "He's always been a caring and loving person and there's really no difference in the Earl Ray his daddy and I raised than the man who runs the West Virginia Senate every day. He cares about the people he serves, is proud to be from Logan County and southern West Virginia and he has devoted his life to public service, because he always wanted to make a difference and improve the conditions of the people who live in these hills. No mother could have asked for a better son and no place could have a better senator than Earl Ray."
What's in the future for the Senate President? The governorship, one day, perhaps, or even further?
On any political list of potential gubernatorial candidates, you will always find the name of Earl Ray Tomblin. While he often dismisses the notion that one day he might head the executive branch of state government, no one, not even Earl Ray Tomblin himself, can ignore the fact that his experience and knowledge of state government along with his desire to help others and bring economic growth to West Virginia make him a strong contender.
"I really don't know what the future holds for me. No one knows the answer to that question either for themselves or others," he says. "I am grateful for the opportunities the people of the seventh district and my colleagues in the Senate have given me, and I hope to be able to continue to serve for as long as I am called upon."
Whatever happens to Earl Ray Tomblin politically, there is no denying he has already made his mark on West Virginia's history in a way to which few could lay equal claim. His fingerprints are on every piece of major legislation over the past quarter century and his ability to resurrect needed legislation over the objections of special interests is simply a well-known fact, establishing this Son of Marshall as a prominent West Virginian, an outstanding legislator, and a leader of today and tomorrow.
Raamie Barker is administrative assistant to West Virginia Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin and a Marshall graduate, class of '68, M.A. Journalism 1992,and Senate President Tomblin's high school teacher.To read about the President's wife, Joanne Tomblin, click here.