In February 2006, after the Sago Mine Disaster and the Aracoma Mine fire, Doug Conaway left the agency director's job for a job with Arch Coal. West Virginia University mining instructor James Dean then held the post until Wooten was appointed in late August that year.
At the time, UMW President Cecil Roberts said that the union would have preferred that Phillips get the post instead of Wooten, who is a former CONSOL Energy safety director.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Roberts said that Phillips' appointment "marks a new day for West Virginia's miners, as there will be someone in that office who understands what it means to pack a lunch bucket and go to work in a coal mine every day."
Phillips began working in the mining industry in 1969, working for Olga Coal Co. He served in several positions for the UMW, including international representative for the union's safety and health department and as an international executive board member for Districts 29 and 17.
Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said his group would work with Phillips' in his role as acting director.
"We don't have any problems with him," Raney said. "He's been very even handed."
But Raney said it was too soon to say if the coal industry would support Phillips being named to the job permanently.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.