CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - It was the eve of last week's special session when reality dawned on Speaker Tim Miley in his quest to lead West Virginia's House of Delegates.
Miley's main party rival had recently endorsed him, giving the Harrison County lawyer a likely shot at succeeding Rick Thompson given the Democrats' majority.
"It really began to hit me how my role would change, and how many more people would be looking to me and counting on me to lead the House in helping to move West Virginia forward in a meaningful and positive way," Miley told The Associated Press.
The 47-year-old had been chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee under Thompson, who stepped down as speaker and a lawmaker to become secretary of Veterans' Assistance. First elected to the House in 2004, Miley became speaker Tuesday in a close 53-44 vote that followed party lines.
"I have come to accept the reality that I've been given a position by my peers of incredible honor and responsibility," Miley said.
Miley expressed surprise at the deluge of people who now want some of his time, both to congratulate and encourage him and to discuss pet issues. He said he hoped to maintain what he termed an open-door policy from his tenure as Judiciary chair.
"I try to ask meaningful questions about their issue," Miley said. "I try to find out what the opposition is to their issue or their legislation, and then I try to reach a satisfactory point where all the parties involved can agree on a piece of legislation. That does not always happen."
Thompson gave his committee chairs leeway in how they managed their workloads, Miley said. While he has yet to announce his choice of chairs - he's said he expects minimal changes - Miley plans to continue that approach. Judiciary advanced 171 bills during this year's regular session, which ended in April, out of more than 620 referred there for review.
Besides picking a leadership team, the speaker's power also includes overseeing the powerful Rules Committee. This group decides which bills, once they clear the committee process, go before the full House for a vote on passage.