The company drilled holes for water wells. Eventually, they had proven themselves enough to get work drilling ventilation shafts in the Pittsburgh coal seam, which runs across North Central West Virginia and parts of Pennsylvania.
"You had to build up a reputation before coal miners really believe you can do things," Maloney said.
Dee Jay Utt was the company's second hire. He's still there. He remembers the early days. The first company car was a Ford Escort. Maloney, a tall man, did not fit well. So, they cut out part of the frame to lower the seat.
"Then it looked like he was sitting on the floor," Utt said.
Even though Maloney's job was mainly to sell contracts, he did not hesitate to come out and work in the snow and mud or bring pizza to his employees in the middle of the night.
"One of the reasons he and I got to be such good friends is he wasn't afraid to jump in and hand tools," Utt said.
When business was slow, the company did everything to keep workers on the payroll, Utt said. They would clean or paint or do just about anything to stay busy, "even if we had to turn gravel over in the parking lot." Maloney also fought to get employees a 401(k), health insurance and bonuses that grew from $25 to several thousand dollars.
Utt said Maloney constantly looked out for workers' safety.
At home, Sharon Maloney said, "He makes me wear goggles when I cut the grass."
By 2000, North American Drillers was big enough to buy out a competitor in the area.
Six years later, Maloney sold his interest in the combined company, Shaft Drillers International, and entered a fitful retirement.
Even before he retired, the Maloneys were active in charities. When one of their daughter's classmates suddenly lost his father, they started the Hope Works scholarship for Monongalia County students from families that suddenly lost income due to death or divorce.
Billy Atkins, a partner at Bowles Rice in Morgantown, met Maloney a quarter century ago. At the time, Atkins was reviewing loans for a bank and Maloney was trying to get his business off the ground. Years later, the two were among a group of well-to-do northern West Virginians that built an umbrella charity. Their goal was to give the Morgantown area a philanthropic group akin to the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, which serves the Charleston area.
"You get nothing other than the satisfaction of seeing it benefit the community," Atkins said.
Still, Maloney evidently had made a name for himself in the community. Republicans started talking to him about making a run for governor. He met with party officials in Washington, but Sharon was not on board.
Part of her hesitation was because of their two daughters.
"We didn't really want to expose them to the political life," she said.
That changed after Maloney flew to Chile in 2010 to help rescue 33 miners who were trapped 2,100 feet underground. Their ordeal, which lasted more than two months, captured the world's attention.
Maloney said he helped drill the hole that the miners came up through, as well as designed a capsule that could maneuver under ground to get the miners in and out. Credit for the design has gone to others, including NASA, but Maloney said he has now filed a patent.
The Chilean government spent millions on the rescue effort. But Maloney said he didn't take anything but hospitalities like the plane tickets and food.
"I coulda," Maloney said. "But I didn't want to."
Things changed after Bill returned from Chile.
Sen. Robert Byrd died in summer 2010. Then Joe Manchin left the Governor's Office to go to Washington. So, there was going to be a special election to fill Manchin's seat.
Bill said he ran into U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., at a mining industry event in Charleston in January 2011.
"What are you thinking?" Maloney recalled Capito asked.
"About what?" he said.
"Well, there's a special election coming," Maloney said the congresswoman said.
(A Capito spokesman said Maloney talked to Capito about running before 2011 and when Capito saw him at the event, she thought it was a good time to broach the subject again).
Maloney decided to run. He filed at the last minute.
Maloney came out of nowhere to upset former Republican Secretary of State Betty Ireland, one of the few Republicans to win a statewide office in recent memory. With a campaign led by a GOP operative with the knack for memorable attacks, Maloney turned Republicans from Ireland and commandingly won in a field of eight Republicans.
He lost narrowly to Tomblin last fall.
This year's race has been something of a rerun. Maloney's campaign tries to pin Tomblin with West Virginia's endemic problems. The Tomblin campaign argues Tomblin has helped right the ship and Maloney is untested and inexperienced.
Maloney is working to change the outcome.
Contact writer Ry Rivard at 304-348-1796 or ry.riv...@dailymail.com.