Senate Elevates Economic Development, Tourism to Cabinet-level

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The Senate completed legislative action Friday on a bill that will elevate the West Virginia Development Office and the Division of Tourism to cabinet-level positions, in an effort to reflect the importance of those agencies.

House Bill 2019 would rename the West Virginia Development Office to the Department of Economic Development, and the Division of Tourism to the Department of Tourism. The leaders of both new departments would be subject to confirmation by the Senate, but other than new titles, nothing else will change.

Both agencies are currently under the Department of Commerce at the direction of Secretary Ed Gaunch. They will now report directly to the Governor. Chelsea Ruby, the Commissioner of Tourism since 2017, will retain her role leading the Department of Tourism as secretary, while the new Department of Economic Development will be led by recently-appointed West Virginia Development Office Director Mitch Carmichael.

The legislation now heads to the Governor for final approval.

Also on Friday, the Senate introduced bills 460-476.

The Senate has adjourned until Monday, March 1 at 11 a.m.