GILBERT, WV (LOOTPRESS) – Sadness enveloped the Mingo County courthouse and spread throughout the county Tuesday as officials and citizens alike reacted to the tragic news that County Commissioner Gavin Smith of Gilbert had passed away.
Smith’s death was sudden and unexpected Tuesday morning, courthouse sources said.
A Republican, Smith’s tenure as a commissioner was brief. Beginning his first term on January 1 of this year, Smith drew praise from colleagues for his dedication to the county.
“When someone new comes in, you don’t know for sure what to expect,” said Commissioner Diann Hannah. “In working with and getting to know Gavin, I can truthfully say he had the best interests of the people of Mingo at heart.”
Hannah said she had been working “with him on plans to bring Mingo County back,” referring to the county’s economic plight caused by the downturn in the coal industry. “He wanted to bring jobs in here and work to develop tourism.”
Smith was elected following a low-key campaign for the commission seat. So quiet was Smith’s campaign that he did not even submit biographical information to the Williamson Daily News during the campaign. Nevertheless, Smith was handily elected in November 2020.
Ironically, Smith’s passing came just hours into his 64th birthday Tuesday. Although no arrangements have been announced, Smith is survived by his wife, Audrey. He was the corporation president of Stacy Equipment and Repair in Gilbert.
Governor Jim Justice issued the following statement:
“Please join Cathy and I in our prayers for his family and all of his loved ones. Thank you so much, Gavin, for your contributions to our great state. But, more than anything, thank you for being a great West Virginian.”
Smith’s death was initially confirmed on the Mingo Commission’s Facebook page.
“It is with immense sadness that we confirm the passing of Commissioner Gavin Smith,” the post said. “In his brief time as a commissioner, Gavin worked tirelessly to serve the people of Mingo County. His love for our county and his passion to make it the best it can be were evident in both his words and actions. His time on the commission may have been brief, but his impact is undeniable. Please join Commissioners Taylor and Hannah and the entire county commission family as we keep his family and friends in our prayers.”
Smith’s membership on the commission brought the three-member body to a 2-1 Republican majority. Hannah is a Democrat. The third commissioner, Thomas Taylor changed his registration from Democrat to Republican.
Under West Virginia Code 3-10-7, it will be those two remaining commissioners who select Smith’s replacement. The code gives Hannah and Taylor 30 days to try to agree on a new member.
Whoever is chosen must be a member of Smith’s party, a Republican. By law, the person cannot reside in the same magisterial district as either of the two sitting commissioners. There are seven districts in the county.
If the two remaining commissioners cannot agree on a replacement after 30 days, the Mingo County Republican Executive Committee will then recommend three possible candidates. Hannah and Taylor would then have 15 days to agree on one of those names.
If, after 15 days, the commissioners still cannot agree, the longest serving commissioner would eliminate one of the three from consideration. Then the shortest serving commissioner would eliminate one.
The remaining member of the trio would then become the new commissioner.
Whoever is eventually named would serve by appointment only until the next election in 2022. Then, voters would fill the spot for Smith’s unexpired term. Taylor’s term is up for election in 2022 as well. Regular terms are six years in length.