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Thrasher calls on Senate to reject White

CHARLESTON — As the West Virginia Senate gears up to approve Gov. Jim Justice’s appointments and wrap up its portion of the special session called seven months ago, one of Justice’s primary challengers is calling on senators to give a thumbs down to the new head of roads.

Engineer and businessman Woody Thrasher, the former secretary of the Department of Commerce under Justice and a Democrat-turned-Republican challenger to Justice in the May 2020 primary, is calling on the Senate Confirmations Committee to reject the appointment of Byrd White as secretary of the Department of Transportation and Commissioner of Highways.

“Mr. White, while a fine gentleman, lacks the basic qualifications to lead the Department of Transportation,” Thrasher said. “These positions require experience in highway planning, finance, construction, maintenance, management and supervision. He was not hired for his transportation experience. He was given two critical jobs and a hefty salary just because he’s a friend of Jim.”

The Senate will gavel back into special session 9 a.m. Monday. The Senate Confirmations Committee will meet afterward at 9:30 a.m. to consider the appointments requested by the governor.

The West Virginia Constitution gives the Senate the power to advise and consent to certain appointments made by the governor.

“We’ve received a copy of (Thrasher’s) letter, and Senate leadership and the Confirmations Committee will be looking into the allegations,” said Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, chairwoman of the Senate Confirmations Committee.

Justice on March 13 announced the appointment of Byrd White as secretary of the Department of Transportation to replace Tom Smith. Justice fired Smith on March 10.

White is a former senior vice president for James C. Justice Cos. and managed the Black Knight Country Club in Beckley, formerly owned by Justice. White also donated $1,000 to Justice’s Democratic primary race for governor.

White recently also took the title of commissioner of highways. Jimmy Wriston, who had been the acting commissioner of highways, is now the deputy commissioner of highways.

According to state code, the commissioner of highways “shall be a person who is experienced in highway planning, finance, construction, maintenance, management and supervision qualifying him for the duties of his office.”

White has an associate’s degree in engineering from West Virginia Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s in business from Christopher Newport College. He also is a Certified Public Accountant.

State code also requires the commissioner of highways to live in Charleston, the state capital. White, who resigned from the Raleigh County Commission to take the transportation job, lives in Beaver.

“The appointment shows this administration’s lack of understanding about our dire road issues or how to fix them,” Thrasher said. “The citizens have spoken: they are sick of knee-jerk responses to real issues. West Virginians want solutions, not stunts.”

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