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Gov. Justice and other state officials sworn in at outdoor inauguration at the Capitol

MORGANTOWN – In his second inauguration ceremony Friday, Gov. Jim Justice said he originally never expected to run again – that he’d thought four years would be enough. But run again, he did.

“There’s more to do,” he said. “West Virginia is really on the move.”

As he did in his 2020 State of the State Address, he broke out the ax and tackle box he’d bought from a woman in need. Holding them, he said, “I will turn every rock to do everything I possibly can to take the pain away and bring goodness to everybody’s life.”

The ceremony took place on the Capitol’s north side steps. COVID-19 precautions kept the audience, seated on chairs in the quad at the foot of the steps, fairly scant and spaced apart.

The various dignitaries who descended the red-carpeted steps from the Capitol’s main floor down to the large landing were masked and also seated well apart on white benches placed on the steps

The dignitaries included state Supreme Court justices, the five elected members of the Board of Public Works, legislative leaders, the three GOP members of Congress and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. Sen. Joe Manchin did not attend.

After the procession, Justice and his family emerged from a first-floor side door – a concession to his bad knees that earned a mention later – and went up a few steps to the landing.

Appalachian Bible College President Dan Anderson opened with prayer. Newly elected Delegate Larry Pack, R-Kanawha, CEO of Stonerise Heathcare and a national committeeman to the Republican National Committee, offered some partisan opening comments, noting the now all-GOP Board of Public Works with the addition of Riley Moore as treasurer.

Pack credited Justice for leading the state through the pandemic. “He rolled up his sleeves and went to work,” Pack said, and created a rock solid foundation for West Virginia to thrive when the pandemic ends.

Justice’s COVID-19 leadership team – COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh, Bureau of Public Health Commissioner Ayne Amjad, Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch and Gen. James Hoyer paid tribute to all those who’ve worked hard to protect the state during the pandemic – health care workers, state employees, front line workers, local health departments. A member of the Air National Guard rang a bell to commemorate all who fell to COVID.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Evan Jenkins ceremonially swore in three fellow Justices: Tim Armstead, John Hutchison and Bill Wooton. He also swore in the Board of Public Works officials: Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt, Auditor John McCuskey, Treasurer Riley Moore, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Secretary of State Mac Warner.

All had been previously officially sworn in.

Jenkins, Armstead, Wooton, Leonhardt, McCuskey and Moore were all former state legislators.

Bob Cochran, a Justice family friend, introduced the governor. In nearly 50 years of friendship, he said, “I have witnessed his compassion for people hundreds of times.” Now everyone has seen it during the pandemic. Justice has earned the respect of leaedrs across the country and many are looking to West Virginia for leadership.

Jenkins then ceremonially swore in Justice.

A staff member brought Justice’s stool for him to sit on, and Justice noted that both of his knees need repair.

“It’s a beautiful day beyond belief in so many different ways,” Justice said.

He thanked former President Trump who, he said, in many ways did so many good things. Trump got over his skis a bit but we should always respect the presidency. “We shouldn’t chase him to the grave beating on him.”

Justice also congratulated new President Biden and Vice President Harris. They will always be welcome in the state, he said. “We will break our necks to have the same kind of relationship with them we had with President Trump.”

Bringing out the ax and tackle box, Justice described how he saw the woman selling this and some other goods at the guardrail of a bridge while he was visiting his grandparents’ gravesite.

“Mister, you’ll never know how bad I’m hurting,” he said she told him. He paid her $100 for each and to this day regrets he didn’t give her everything in his pockets.

Justice spent time recalling the accomplishments of his first four years. “West Virginia needed to crawl from 50th to first,” he said. He mentioned the budget, education, the roads, tourism and more.

When the pandemic hit, he and his team developed the school map, he said. “We absolutely became the nation’s model, did we not?”

He learned his persistence from his dad, he said, and again recounted the day his dad slammed him on his desk because Justice didn’t know how to solve a problem. His dad said, “Damn you, there’s always something you can do and you damn well better remember that!”

Now, Justice said, “Over and over and over we are showing the world how great we truly are.”

The ceremony concluded with the Rev. Greg Lewis, of the First Baptist Church in Lewisburg, offering the closing benediction.

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