John Ellem will not seek reelection

PARKERSBURG – Another longtime West Virginia legislator has announced his plans to step down following his current term and not seek re-election.

Del. John N. Ellem, R-Wood, announced Saturday his plans to back away from the Legislature after this year. He is currently serving his seventh term in the 10th District of the West Virginia House of Delegates.

“After a considerable amount of thought and discussion with my family, I have decided not to seek an eighth term in office,” Ellem said Saturday in an interview with The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. “This was not an easy decision, as I truly enjoy serving in the Legislature and being involved in public policy and my constituents in Wood County have been so kind to me.”

Ellem said he feels very proud of the positive legislative accomplishments he has helped to bring about, including the elimination of the food tax, keeping payday lenders out of West Virginia and reducing the state’s debt.

“When I first started serving in the Legislature nearly 14 years ago, I always felt that I would know when it would be the right time to conclude my service and thus will step down at the end of this term,” he said.

For the remainder of the current session Ellem plans to focus on a number of legislative items, such as a bill on lobbyist disclosures of compensation and another to encourage the use of SNAP benefits for the purchases of healthier food items including locally grown fresh produce.

When the term concludes at the end of this year, Ellem plans to devote additional time to his family and his local law practice, but emphasized he plans to find other ways outside of elected office to contribute to shaping public policy.

“I will keep all of my options open for the future – especially those that allow me to be involved in helping to make good public policy that helps move our state forward,” he added.

Greg Smith, chairman of the Wood County Republican Party, said he knew of Ellem’s plans.

“John’s reasons are pretty much the same as Tom’s (Azinger),” Smith said. “They both have been active in office for many years and need a change.”

On Thursday, Del. Tom Azinger, R-Wood, announced he plans to retire after this year.

The 78-year-old insurance agent and property manager was elected to the House in 1994 and has continually won re-election and represented the 10th District in the House for about 20 years.

“We are going to miss them both, but John is still a young man and we don’t know what the future holds,” Smith said. “He may choose to go back to the Legislature in the coming years.”

As for the standing of the Republican Party in the House of Delegates, Smith said he does not believe there will be an issue.

“We already have three people who have filed and I think without Tom and John running, those who have thought about it but not done it might be encouraged to file now,” Smith said. “These are big shoes to fill and it is a shaky time for the party because we often see these races as an automatic victory, so this will be an interesting election.”