By Jess Mancini, Parkersburg News and Sentinel
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — A member of the House of Delegates from Ritchie County is resigning to take a new job at his employer, a company spokesman said.
Delegate Jason Harshbarger, R-7th, a 14-year employee of Dominion Energy, will become the new state policy director for the company in September, spokesman Samantha Norris said.
Harshbarger, the assistant majority whip in the House of Delegates, notified House Speaker Roger Hanshaw on Wednesday by letter, saying his resignation will be effective Aug. 30.
“After much thought and discussion with my family, I have decided to pursue a private-sector employment opportunity that will unfortunately not allow me to continue my service in the House,” he said in the letter.
A voicemail for comment left for Harshbarger was not immediately returned.
The following statement came from his employer, Dominion Energy:
“Jason Harshbarger, Dominion Energy employee of 14 years and member of the WV House of Delegates serving Ritchie and Pleasants county, announced today that he will be stepping down from his elected position to pursue a new role with Dominion Energy. Beginning this September, Harshbarger will become the new State Policy Director for Dominion Energy following the retirement of Bob Orndorff after 24 years with the company. While mentoring Harshbarger for this new role, Orndorff will remain with Dominion Energy, serving as lobbyist through the end of the 2020 legislative season. Jason will not be lobbying the WV Legislature for a year from his date of resignation from the House of Delegates.”
The 7th Delegate District includes all of Ritchie County and the southeastern part of Pleasants.
Vacancies in the House of Delegates and Senate are covered in West Virginia Code, 3-10-5, which says the vacancy will be filled by appointment by the governor from three nominees from the executive committee of the same political party “with which the person holding the office immediately preceding the vacancy was affiliated at the time the vacancy occurred.”
The list of three shall be submitted to the governor within 15 days after the vacancy occurs and the governor shall appoint someone within five days after the list is received. If the nominees are not submitted to the governor within the 15-day period, the governor shall appoint a legally qualified person of the same political party within five days thereafter, according to the code.
The nominees will be submitted by the party executive committee in the 7th Delegate District, which covers Pleasants and Ritchie counties.
“Under that timeline, we would expect to have a new delegate in place by the next round of interim meetings, which begin Sept. 23,” an email from the House of Delegates said.
It was undetermined Wednesday if Hanshaw will appoint a new assistant majority whip before or after the vacancy is filled.
The decision will likely be made after Hanshaw speaks with the majority whip, Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, House spokesman Jared Hunt said.
“I don’t know what that timetable will be,” he said.
Harshbarger, 44, was elected to the House in 2016 and 2018. He is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and serves on the Education Reform Committee C, energy, industry, labor and judiciary committees, and chairs the Water Resources Interim Committee.
“It has been an absolute honor to represent the people of the 7th district these past three years,” Harshbarger said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed serving with you and my fellow legislators and wish you continued success in your efforts to make west Virginia the best place to live, work and raise a family.”
Jess Mancini can be reached at [email protected]