CLARKSBURG -- Citing Harrison County's need for a full-time commissioner, Tom Keeley announced Thursday that he will resign his seat next month to assume a state post.
Keeley, who is Gov.-elect Bob Wise's nominee to head the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission, made the announcement before a sometimes teary-eyed crowd of more than 20 who gathered in the county commission chamber.
The 20-year commission veteran had considered serving in both positions, which was cleared by the West Virginia Ethics Commission last week, but later reconsidered.
"The residents of Harrison County deserve a full-time commissioner," Keeley said. "I'm leaving you in good hands. I look forward to this new job."
The resignation is effective on or about Feb. 15, pending Keeley's approval by the state Senate. That is the date he is scheduled to take over the agency.
Keeley was nominated Jan. 5 and immediately asked the Ethics Commission if serving in both the elected and appointed offices was allowable.
He received clearance to do so this week, but then decided that it would be too much.
The ABCC has about 125 employees and oversees about 5,000 liquor licenses, he said.
"I didn't think (keeping both jobs) would be fair," Keeley said. "I made a decision to devote full time to the ABC."
Fellow commissioner Beth Taylor was emotional when telling Keeley how important he has been to the county and her personally.
"When I first came on board with the commission, Tom Keeley was someone I counted on 100 percent," she said. "The breadth and depth of your experience on the commission has been invaluable to the county commission and to me."
Commissioner Roger Diaz said Keeley has been a fair commissioner.
"I don't mean fair as in average," Diaz said. "I mean you've always been fair in your decisions É and fair to the people of Harrison County."
Keeley became the county's youngest commissioner in 1980 when he first won election to the seat. He has four years left on his current term.
Taylor and Diaz have 60 days from the date of the resignation to agree on a replacement for Keeley. That person must not be a resident of either of their magisterial districts and must be a Democrat, which is Keeley's party.
If they cannot agree on a replacement, each will place a name in a hat and Chief Circuit Court Judge John Marks will draw a name.
Keeley spent some time Thursday reflecting on his years as a commissioner.
"When I first came here, electric typewriters were the hallmark of technology," he said. "With the help of other elected officials, we've now converted to computers."
Keeley served as commission president for nine years during his four consecutive six-year terms.
He and wife, Yvonne, plan to continue living in Harrison County while maintaining an apartment in Charleston.
Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404 or by e-mail at email@example.com.