CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A swap near the top marked the biggest of relatively few changes announced Thursday by new Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, in crafting his House leadership team.
Last session, Delegate Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, served as majority leader. Delegate Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, was finance committee chairman. The two will switch roles, Miley announced Thursday.
"I had always envisioned making certain changes, just not sweeping changes or major overhaul," Miley said by phone.
"In my eyes, I look at it more as a lateral move for each of them while allowing me to maximize, I believe, their individual skills," he said.
Every speaker gets to pick which delegates he or she wants in leadership positions. Elected speaker in June, Miley pledged few switches for leadership positions during his campaign.
Miley said he spoke with Boggs and White about the potential change a few times, as recently as Wednesday night. But he didn't actually make up his mind to make White majority leader until Thursday.
"I was willing to have him serve in either role, but I slept on it and I realized I think he is more valuable to me as a majority leader than he is a finance chair because he will be able to help me work through the state financial condition while also staying abreast of what the finance committee is doing," Miley said.
During his nine years in the Legislature, Miley never served on the finance committee. He said working on a more intimate daily basis with White as majority leader will help him continue to better understand all of the intricacies of state finance.
Boggs served as majority leader for five years under previous speaker Rick Thompson. Miley noted that Boggs served on the finance committee before moving to the role, including one year as vice chairman under White. That previous experience played a role in the speaker's decision, he said.
In early June, all three Democrat delegates were in the hunt to become the next House speaker. Boggs eventually backed Miley, but White campaigned enough to make some worried there could be a contested election. White joined the Miley camp a few days before the election.
It is not uncommon for a new speaker to relegate political opponents to less prominent positions. Thursday, Miley said he and White have always worked well together in the past, and he's not a vindictive person.
Miley said making White majority leader could also "bring balance" to leadership: the speaker said it could silence critics who have tried to paint him with a liberal bias.
"To satisfy any concerns as to how balanced I'm going to be, I wanted to bring Harry Keith White downstairs with me to help manage the House and help the state move forward," Miley said in an interview with radio talk show host Hoppy Kercheval.
The offices for both the majority leader and speaker are on the first floor of the state Capitol, while the finance chairperson's office is on the second floor.
In an interview shortly after Miley announced the leadership changes, White said he had no idea he was the new majority leader.
"The last I heard I was still staying upstairs," White said.
White was out of town at a banking conference, and said he had been a little disconnected from local news. Miley said he sent White a text Thursday morning after he made his decision.