CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The state Board of Education president who voted to abruptly fire state schools Superintendent Jorea Marple says he is a businessman, not a politician. But board President Wade Linger has made inroads with North Central West Virginia's two powerful political factions, the Manchins and Mollohans.
Linger, who has worked at or owned a string of technology companies, is a self-proclaimed "big supporter" of former Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va.
And, in the early-1990s, Linger, a computer programmer, also caught the eye of current U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
Linger met Manchin, then a state senator, through West Virginia technology entrepreneur Doug Kirby. Kirby was then married to Manchin's daughter, Heather Bresch.
In making connections with both Manchin and Mollohan, Linger was able to bridge the long-rumored divide between the two political families.
"That should tell you something," Linger said, pointing to his relationship with both Manchin and Mollohan as a sign he is not so much a political animal as someone working "straight down the line" for the benefit of the state.
"I respect them for what they do and I think they respect me for what I do, but in neither case is it a buddy-buddy, where it's, 'I'm you're friend so I can't be his friend,' " Linger said.
Nonetheless, Linger is now accused of being part of a "Manchin faction" that ousted Marple, the wife of just-defeated Democratic Attorney General Darrell McGraw.
Linger - and Manchin's Board of Education member wife Gayle - deny politics are behind the decision.
Joe Manchin, then governor, appointed Linger to the Board of Education in November 2008. The governor then praised Linger's "business acumen and technology-related background." In 2011, board members voted to make Linger the board's president.
Linger, 55, grew up in Putnam County. Then his family moved to Spencer, where he went to 7th and 8th grade before the Lingers moved to Virginia.
Linger spent eight years in the Air Force.
Then Linger joined ManTech International Corp., a large Virginia-based federal defense contractor.
In 1992, the company wanted someone to go open an office in Fairmont.
Linger, then a midlevel manager, said large companies that were doing business in Fairmont were using subcontractors from the small, fledging high-tech sector that Mollohan was trying to start in the area.
"We were expected to share a decent amount of the work with them, so I got to meet all these small companies that were starting up back in the day," Linger said.
He met the big names of the time, including Kirby and Bresch, the then-married founders of Tygart Technology. Linger said he met Manchin through the two.
Bresch and Kirby have since separated. She is now CEO of Mylan Inc., the generic drug maker. She was at the center of a scandal in 2007 when West Virginia University officials retroactively awarded her a graduate degree. The scandal eventually forced the departure of WVU President Mike Garrison and other top university officials.
Tygart drew attention in 2006 because it had done at least $100,000 in business with the Secretary of State's Office, both during and after Manchin's tenure there. The state auditor said there appeared to be no criminal intent involved in the firm's hiring.
Manchin's spokeswoman said at the time that Manchin's office began regularly using Tygart after the company was hired by another technology firm - TMC Technologies Inc. - to help with other state projects.
Linger founded TMC in 1996. He had just finished a stint as the vice president of the West Virginia High Tech Consortium, a group devoted to helping technology startups.