Joseph “Joe” Manchin III was born in Fairmont and grew up in Farmington. After graduating from West Virginia University, Manchin worked in the family carpet store and later ran an energy brokering company that is now run by his son. In 1982, he won a seat in the West Virginia House of Delegates, serving a single term; in 1986, he was elected to the State Senate, holding that office from 1987 to 1997. In 1996, Manchin ran for governor but lost in the primary. Four years later, in 2000, he won election to the Secretary of State’s Office. Manchin successfully ran for governor in 2004 and won re-election in 2008.
A fiscal conservative, during his six years in office Manchin oversaw the privatization of the workers’ compensation fund, reduction of the state’s tax rates on groceries and business, and reduction of the state’s unfunded liability in pensions. At a time when other states were in serious financial trouble, West Virginia continued to fulfill its constitutional mandate of a balanced budget.
Some of the most memorable moments of his administration involved the coal tragedies at the Sago (Upshur County), Aracoma (Logan County), and Upper Big Branch (Raleigh County) mines in 2006 and 2010 that killed more than forty miners. In the aftermath of the Sago disaster, Manchin appointed a committee to investigate and proposed a bill on emergency response and supplies that immediately passed the state legislature.
Following the death of longtime United States Senator Robert C. Byrd in 2010, Joe Manchin ran for Byrd’s unexpired term and won a special election held in November. Manchin was sworn in as United States Senator on November 15, 2010.
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