UPDATE | Gov. Justice appoints new transportation secretary

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ/AP) - UPDATE 3/13/19 @ 1:15 p.m.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has appointed an acting transportation secretary.

Justice named Byrd White as the acting secretary of the West Virginia Department of Transportation at a press conference Wednesday. He also announced a plan to repair and maintain secondary roads, but could not name a dollar figure for how much it will cost.

White is a CPA with a good head on his shoulders, according to the governor.

"He knows numbers and knows business," said Justice. "He knows how to manage from the standpoint of being a COO or a CEO. He surely knows people and has the ability to know when he's getting the wool pulled over his eyes."

A few days earlier, the governor fired Tom Smith from the position that oversees the state's transportation and highways.

Justice said Wednesday the state needs to re-focus the highways department.

"I want to first say, Tom Smith's a good man," said Justice. "Good man -- did a good job -- a guy I really, really respect and think the world of."

When asked if this project was the wedge that led to the governor parting ways with Smith, Justice said the two have different philosophies.

"Tom has been in the federal government for a long time and he's attuned to doing big projects," said Justice. "We do have a different philosophy and we just can't keep spinning the wheels. We got to go another way."

Voters in 2017 passed a referendum for the state to sell $1.6 billion in bonds to finance state road repairs and construction. In his State of the State address in January, Justice proposed steering road bond money meant for major projects toward repairing secondary roads.

ORIGINAL STORY 3/10/19
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has fired state transportation secretary and highways commissioner Tom Smith.

Justice announced Smith's firing in a brief statement Sunday.

The governor says he wants "a new direction" for the department, including "a return to the core mission of maintaining the quality of our secondary roads and bridges."

Voters in 2017 passed a referendum for the state to sell $1.6 billion in bonds to finance state road repairs and construction. In his State of the State address in January, Justice proposed steering road bond money meant for major projects toward repairing secondary roads.

On Friday Justice said he would announce his plans Wednesday to accelerate secondary road repairs and maintenance. The governor said "our secondary roads aren't being addressed with the urgency needed."




 
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