Delegate Randy Swartzmiller will serve as speaker pro tempore for the 81st Legislature, West Virginia House Speaker Richard Thompson announced Friday.
"My job will be to do whatever the speaker needs," explained Swartzmiller, D-Hancock. "If the speaker can't be there, he will need someone to fill in to run the House. If there is a conflict in meetings he has scheduled, I will sit in and fill in for that.
"I also get a seat on the Rules Committee. That's where everything gets generated in the Legislature."
Delegate Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock, left, is congratulated by West Virginia House Speaker Richard Thompson, D-Wayne, after Thompson named Swartzmiller speaker pro tempore of the House for the 81st Legislature.
As speaker pro tempore, Swartzmiller, 52, also will participate in leadership meetings with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, and serve as an extension of Thompson's office.
While he might take the podium in Thompson's absence, Swartzmiller doesn't expect that to happen very often or for very long.
"He has been speaker for six years, and I've never known him to miss work," Swartzmiller said of Thompson. "When we have a six-hour session, he might come down to take a break or get a drink. I would fill in then."
The speaker pro tempore position in the House is among the top three leadership positions beneath the speaker in the House of Delegates - along with majority leader and majority whip, Swartzmiller noted.
House Clerk Gregory Gray, who serves as House parliamentarian, has informed Swartzmiller there has never been a delegate from the Northern Panhandle to serve as speaker pro tempore.
In recent years, former Delegate Scott Varner, D-Marshall, held the post of majority whip; and former Delegate Joe DeLong, D-Hancock, served as majority leader.
Swartzmiller was selected assistant majority whip by Thompson during the recently completed 80th Legislature. His performance in the role encouraged Thompson to promote him to the position previously held by Delegate Ron Fragale, D-Harrison - who lost his bid for re-election in 2012.
"The speaker pro tempore is a very integral part of my leadership team," Thompson said. "The speaker pro tempore has to be able to handle a gauntlet of issues on a daily basis, and has to have the experience to run the House in the event of my absence.
"Randy understands the procedures, policies and parliamentary rules of the legislature. Randy has done an excellent job moving homeland security forward in West Virginia while serving as chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security since its inception in 2002. Randy did exceptional work last year as a member of my state redistricting committee and I recently tapped Randy's educational experience to serve on my Education Audit Review Committee. When the speaker pro tempore position opened up, I knew Randy had the resume to handle the responsibilities that come with it."
Swartzmiller said he now will give up his chairmanship of the Committee on Homeland Security, but will likely remain a member of the Committee on Government Organization.
Swartzmiller has represented the 1st District in the House since 2001.