CHARLESTON - Gov. Joe Manchin on Wednesday announced his appointment of Ronald Wooten to serve as Director of the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training (MHST).

Wooten replaces James Dean, Director of Extension and Outreach and Associate Director of the Mining Extension Program at West Virginia University (WVU), who in February agreed to serve as Acting Director of MHST on a strictly temporary basis until an appropriate search for permanent replacement could be conducted.

A 30-year veteran of the mining industry, Wooten served as Vice President of Safety for Consol Inc. from 1982 to 1998. Most recently, he served as Safety Director of Mt. State Bit Service Inc., an independent explosive contracting company located in Morgantown. In addition, Wooten has served as a mine safety consultant to companies in the industry and law firms. He previously served as Director of Federal Government Relations for Consolidation Coal Co., and as an Assistant Legislative Counsel, Assistant General Counsel and Senior Counsel for The American Mining Congress. He began his career in the industry with United States Steel Corp. in 1972.

"Ron Wooten is a recognized figure in the mine safety community and I appreciate his desire to be part of our continuing efforts to enhance mine safety in West Virginia, making our state a model for the rest of our nation," Manchin said. "I appreciate Jim Dean's service during the past seven months during one of the most critical periods in the history of this agency and the state's oversight of the mining industry, especially his leadership in implementing many of the recommendations presented by the Mine Safety Technology Task Force report and Davitt McAteer's Sago Mine report. Furthermore, I look forward to Ron's building on the solid foundation that Jim and his staff have established for a safer mining industry."

A Bruceton Mills resident, Wooten is a 1968 graduate of Emory and Henry College, where he earned dual degrees in economics and history, and a 1972 graduate of Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis) College of Law. He is a past chairman of the Bituminous Coal Operators' Association Safety Committee, Joint Industry/United Mine Workers of America Safety Committee, and American Mining Congress Coal Mine Safety Committee. He also has served on National Mining Association Safety and Health Committee, West Virginia Coal Association Steering Committee and West Virginia Coal Association Mine Law Committee.

Wooten's transition into this position will start immediately, and will be complete no later than Oct.1. His salary is $82,000.

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