CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Helping Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin respond to Obama administration decrees amid West Virginians' distrust of Washington was a recurring challenge for chief of staff Rob Alsop, who stepped down from the position last week.
Alsop told The Associated Press that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency policies and provisions from the sprawling federal health care overhaul would prompt rounds of fact-finding and debate during his two and half years as the Democratic governor's top aide.
"I think the policy issues that are being driven at the federal level can put a lot of challenges on us that we didn't foresee coming," Alsop said. "Those were issues where we had federal -- I won't call them mandates -- but federal requirements that came out that were probably the most challenging, particularly given the political climate and the mood of the electorate in West Virginia toward the federal government. Doing the right thing has been difficult."
But Alsop believes his hardest task came after State Police Cpl. Marshall Lee Bailey and Trooper Eric Michael Workman were fatally shot in August 2012 by a suspect. Alsop recalled how the governor was cautious about going to the hospital where the men's loved ones had gathered.
"He's a really private person. I know for him, if something happened to one of his family members, the last thing he would want to see is a long line of politicians coming in to sort of interrupt the family's grieving time," Alsop said. "But we made the call to go down, and when he knelt down and thanked them for everything their sons had done, it was really emotional for him and emotional for the families <t40>...<t$> One of the things the governor doesn't realize enough is how much it means when he visits, the difference he can make."
Alsop, 35, plans to join the Bowles Rice firm later this month. Besides practicing law, the Webster County native held several government posts before his time with Tomblin. He was a deputy general counsel for then-Gov. Joe Manchin before becoming the chief lawyer for his Department of Revenue and later, its Cabinet secretary. Alsop was also chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Carte Goodwin, appointed following the June 2010 death of Sen. Robert C. Byrd.
Having eyed the gubernatorial chief of staff job previously, Alsop said he welcomed the chance to serve in that role for Tomblin and found "it was a lot better than I thought it would be."
"You are involved in, for good or for bad, just about everything that goes on in the executive branch. To be in the position of trusted adviser and help run the executive branch is something that was very appealing," Alsop said.