Appointments of State Officials

WV Governor's Seal

About the Governor's Appointments

The Governor is given the authority to make appointments of four types, including executive agency heads, members of boards, commissions, task forces and councils, positions authorized by the Legislature for specific reasons, and persons to fill vacancies in certain federal, state, legislative and judicial offices.

Executive Agency Heads

The appointment of executive agency heads, such as cabinet level secretaries, commissioners, directors and assistants, allows the Governor to set the direction of the administration. Each Secretary (often called a "super-secretary" in news reporting) is appointed at the beginning of a new governor's term, and all report directly to the Governor.

After the new secretaries are appointed, they work with the Governor to select division directors and commissioners and their deputies or assistants who will manage the ongoing operations. Most employees below the level of deputy or assistant director or commissioner are hired within the agencies.

Members of Boards & Commissions

Boards, commissions, task forces, advisory boards, councils and other terms are used in the names of two types of governing or advisory groups. For convenience, we will use the term "board" to describe all of these bodies. Boards which have governing authority, including the authority to make rules which have the force of law, are created by the Legislature. Boards which are created to serve in an advisory or study capacity may be created by either the Legislature or by the Governor through an executive order, and a few boards have been created by other means, such as by the courts.

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Creation by the Legislature

An Act of the Legislature creating a board specifies the number and qualifications of members, who appoints those members, whether the appointments are subject to confirmation of the State Senate, and the terms of office, compensation, duties and restrictions on other employment or political activity of members. In most cases, the members are to be appointed by the Governor, although some boards may have members appointed by other officers or bodies, and a few by the leaders of the Senate and House of Delegates.

Creation by the Governor:

When a board is created by the Governor, the executive order defines the membership and structure. Since the Governor has no authority to authorize spending authority to a board created by executive order, any expenses of the board must be covered by the budget of the Governor's Office or the agency which the board advises.


A member appointed by the Governor begins to serve either at the time of appointment or the beginning of the term, whichever is later. However, if Senate confirmation is required, any appointee who is not confirmed vacates the position. When a term ends, the Governor may either reappoint the same individual or appoint a new person. Often in the past, appointments for the new term were not made until long after the previous term had ended. In those cases, the previous member continued to serve into the new term until the Governor took action.


Each member appointed to a board created by the Legislature is required to execute an oath of office prior to beginning the duties of membership. Those oaths are also filed and maintained by the Secretary of State.

Sunset Provisions

Boards themselves often have a defined "life." To prevent boards from continuing on and on after the original purpose was fulfilled, the Legislature has adopted so-called "sunset" provisions. These refer to language within a board's legislative authorization that defines when the board will automatically cease to exist unless the Legislature takes a further action to continue it. When a bill to continue a board is proposed, the number of additional years may be set by the Legislature. When a board is not operating well, the Legislature may give it a shorter extension to force change. When a board is functioning efficiently, the Legislature may show its confidence by extending the board for a longer term. Boards created by the Governor that are given a sunset provision may be extended by Executive Order

Vacancies in Public Office

The Governor has the power to fill vacancies in many elective public offices. When an elected official resigns, retires or dies, the term is filled by this appointment, usually until the next election allows the citizens to choose a successor. There are a few exceptions to this rule, based on the requirements of the U. S. Constitution or the West Virginia Constitution and law. The Governor must appoint a person who meets the qualifications of the office. In some cases, the law provides methods for certain committees to offer formal nominations, and if the conditions are met, the Governor must select from the nominations provided.

Vacancies Filled by Appointment:

This list includes all the elective offices for which vacancies are filled by gubernatorial appointment, with the term of the appointment, the nomination process and the reference to West Virginia Code. The phrase "Until next election..." used in this table means "until a general election at which a person is elected to the unexpired term and that election is certified and the new official is declared elected." The timing of these steps varies some. If the office is scheduled to be on the ballot at the next general election, the appointee will complete the current term and the new term will be filled by election.

United States Senate

Until next election if more than two years and six months of term remain. No nominations.

State Senate

Until next election if more than two years and two months of term remain. Must select from three nominees submitted by appropriate Senatorial District Executive Committee, or for single-county districts, by the county executive committee of the same party as the former Senator, if the committee provides nominations within 15 days of vacancy.

Circuit Judge

Until next election in which candidate can file for nomination. No nominations.

Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals

Until next election if more than two years and six months of term remain. No nominations.

House of Delegates

Until the end of the term. Must select from three nominees submitted by appropriate multi-county Delegate District Executive Committee, or for single-county districts, by the county executive committee of the same party as the former Delegate, if the committee provides nominations within 15 days of vacancy.

Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Auditor, Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture

Until next election if more than two years and six months of term remain. No nominations.

Two high offices are filled by means other than gubernatorial appointment. Members of the U. S. House of Representatives must be elected by the people through a special election (West Virginia Code §3-10-4). The Governor cannot appoint his or her own successor, so that authority has been assigned to the President of the Senate, to be followed immediately by a special election (West Virginia Code §3-10-2).

Local offices in counties and municipalities are filled by local officials.


Most resignations presented to the Governor are eventually filed in the Secretary of State's Office. However, that practice has not been consistent, so some resignations may not be able to be found.

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