Justice Appoints Bailey Acting Commerce Department Secretary | News, Sports, Jobs
CHARLESTON — James Bailey, assistant secretary and general counsel for the West Virginia Department of Commerce, will serve as acting cabinet secretary when current secretary Ed Gaunch retires. According to a letter dated July 14, Gov. Jim Justice named Bailey acting commerce secretary effective immediately, replacing Gaunch whose last day was Friday. Bailey has served as assistant secretary and chief counsel for the department since last August. Previously, Bailey served as counsel to Senate Speaker Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, from 2019. He served as the Department of Justice’s senior policy and legislation counsel from November 2017. Bailey also worked as an attorney with the Senate Committee on Government Organization, then chaired by Blair, beginning in 2015. He began his career after graduating from West Virginia University as an assistant district attorney in Kanawha County .
“I look forward to serving Governor and State in this new role,” Bailey said in a statement Friday. “We will continue the tremendous momentum we have generated under Governor Justice’s leadership. It is an honor to be chosen to continue the outstanding work of Secretary Ed Gaunch and the team here at the Department of Commerce.
Bailey succeeds Gaunch, whom Justice appointed Commerce Secretary in late 2018. A retired chairman and CEO of the Carson Insurance Agency, Gaunch was elected to the West Virginia Senate in 2014 as part of the Republican wave that took the two legislative chambers. He lost a tight re-election bid in 2018 to current Sen. Richard Lindsay, D-Kanawha. During his legislative tenure, Gaunch served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Organization and vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Pensions. He was also the first co-chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Floods, which was tasked with investigating the Commerce Department’s handling of the RISE West Virginia flood relief program. Gaunch was appointed after the department lacked a permanent head for six months due to the resignation of former Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher following the shutdown of the RISE program. The program, funded by a $149 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, was supposed to help renovate and rebuild homes lost in the June 2016 floods. Instead, commerce officials have concluded several contracts with a contractor without going through the State. purchasing procedures according to the audits. The RISE program was halted in February 2018 while the governor’s office reviewed the Horne contracts. In June 2018, West Virginia National Guard Adj. General James Hoyer was made responsible for RISE, with Thrasher stepping down at the end of this month. Clayton Burch, the current superintendent of schools, served as acting secretary of commerce for the six months the position was vacant. The Commerce Department oversees the Forestry Division; division of labor; the Natural Resources Division; the Geological and Economic Survey; the Office of Health, Safety and Training of Miners; the Rehabilitation Services Division; and WorkForce West Virginia. The department previously operated the West Virginia Development Office, Energy Office, Tourism Office, Small Business Development Center, Broadband Improvement Council, International Development, Advancement and community development. In 2021, the Legislature transformed the Tourist Board into the Ministry of Tourism and transformed the other agencies into the Ministry of Economic Development. Steven Allen Adams can be contacted at [email protected]