Earl Ray Tomblin runs a tight ship. From insisting on appropriate attire in the Senate chamber to keeping a taut fiscal leash on the state budget to his own record of perfect attendance during 35 years in the Legislature, the president of the West Virginia Senate has a reputation for getting things done. It's a track record that earned him this year's Excellence in State Legislative Leadership Award, the nation's top legislative honor.
"I was just shocked and honored that I was able to receive the leadership award," Tomblin says. "I didn't realize I was up for consideration. Apparently my staff and others keep some secrets from me."
Tomblin, a Democrat who became Senate president in 1995, not only has had the longest tenure in that office, but is also West Virginia's longest serving senator. He was elected in 1980 after serving from 1974 to 1980 in the House of Delegates.
It's a perspective that informs how Tomblin handles the job.
"I came here when I was a senior in college," he says. "I think people rely more on their legislators than they did then. People are just much more aware of their legislators and how they can be of assistance."
The leadership award is presented annually by NCSL and the State Legislative Leaders Foundation. It honors leaders whose careers embody the highest principles of leadership and have shown a commitment to protecting and strengthening the institution of the state legislature.
"It is an honor to commend Senator Earl Ray Tomblin's service with the Excellence in Legislative Leadership Award," says William T. Pound, executive director of NCSL. "As president of the West Virginia Senate he exemplifies the most important qualities of a leader--integrity, fairness and compassion. He has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to preserving and strengthening the Legislature."
Stephen G. Lakis, president of the State Legislative Leaders Foundation, called Tomblin "an example for all aspiring leaders. Throughout his long and distinguished career, Senator Tomblin has set many examples of what an exceptional leader can accomplish. He has the respect and admiration of his peers for his fairness, honesty, and willingness to put aside partisan differences."
Tomblin had plenty of support in his nomination for the award from the top tier of West Virginia politics. Governor Joe Manchin III called him a "problem solver and consensus builder who can be counted upon to give 100 percent of his focus on doing what is best for West Virginia regardless of the issue."