Our 2023 Winter Meeting Speakers

Senate President Craig Blair is a Classified Certified Water Specialist Class V, Master Electrician, Master Plumber and Refrigeration Engineer.  The Martinsburg native is married to Andrea Dendy Blair and they have two children.  His affiliations include: Member, National Rifle Association; West Virginia Citizens Defense League; and Eastern Panhandle Business Association.  He was elected to the House from 2002 to 2008 and to the Senate from 2012-2020.  His legislative positions include:  Chair, Committee on Finance, 83rd and 84th Legislatures; Vice Chair, Committee on Education, 84th Legislature; Majority Whip, 83rd Legislature; Chair, Committee on Government Organization, 82nd and 83rd Legislatures.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) was elected by the people of West Virginia to the United States Senate in 2014, and re-elected in 2020. She is the first female U.S. senator in West Virginia’s history and was elected with the largest margin of victory for a Republican in state history—winning more than 70 percent of the vote and all 55 counties, surpassing the previous mark she set in 2014 when she won more than 62 percent of the vote and all 55 counties. After serving West Virginia’s Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for 14 years, and as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates for four years prior, Senator Capito decided to run for Senate to be an even stronger voice for the Mountain State. She also saw an opportunity to restore order to a Senate stuck in gridlock for far too long.
She believes that today’s challenges demand bipartisan solutions and cooperation across the aisle to advance legislation that benefits West Virginia and the country as a whole. Senator Capito is committed to being accessible and responsive to her fellow West Virginians and regularly travels, with proper health and safety precautions in place, to hear from and meet with West Virginians.
Senator Capito serves on the Appropriations Committee; the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee; and the Rules and Administration Committee. This committee portfolio puts her in a strong position to create new opportunities in the Mountain State and fight for West Virginia priorities, jobs, and families. As a member of the Committee on Appropriations, Senator Capito works to ensure West Virginia’s priorities are represented when our nation’s funding decisions are made. During her time on the committee, she has served as chair of the Legislative Branch Subcommittee, the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee, and the Homeland Security Subcommittee. Senator Capito currently serves as the top Republican on the Homeland Security Subcommittee, where she oversees funding for a range of national security resources and agencies. She has been a member of the Appropriations Committee since she became a Senator in 2015. On the EPW Committee, the senator serves as Ranking Member. As the top Republican on the committee, Ranking Member Capito has advocated for policies that protect vital West Virginia energy and manufacturing jobs and encourage investment in West Virginia’s infrastructure. As a leader on the EPW Committee, Ranking Member Capito is committed to promoting a commonsense regulatory strategy and protecting affordable, reliable energy production; building our nation’s infrastructure, and encourage economic development. She has been a member of the EPW Committee since she became a Senator in 2015.
On the Commerce Committee, Senator Capito oversees ways to address many issues that are critical to West Virginia, most notably broadband expansion, which she has been a leading voice on since she came to Congress. This committee assignment allows Senator Capito to continue advocating for improved connectivity in West Virginia. A lifelong West Virginian herself, Senator Capito was born in Glen Dale in the Northern Panhandle. She holds a B.S. in Zoology from Duke University and a M.Ed. from the University of Virginia. She and her husband Charles L. Capito Jr. reside in Charleston. They have three adult children: two sons, Charles (wife Laura) and Moore, and one daughter, Shelley (husband Colin Macleod). They have also been blessed with seven grandchildren: Celia, Charlie, Eliza, Rose, Arch, Macaulay, and Lewis.

Jim Crews, who became Vice President of Northeast Business Development for MarkWest Hydrocarbons (wholly owned subsidiary of MPLX) in October 2011 has held various positions with TC Energy-(and its predecessors NiSource Gas Transmission and Storage, Columbia Gas Transmission-TCO) from 1995 to 2011. Most recently he was Manag­ing Director of NGT&S’s Supply & Origination group and was responsible for building the Co­lumbia Midstream Services subsidiary to provide unregulated gathering and processing services in the Appalachian Basin. During his tenure at Columbia he was Director of Commercial Op­erations, Manager of Gas Control, Manager of Marketing, Manager of Business Development, and Engineering Supervisor. He has spent his entire professional career in the energy industry. From 1982 to 1985 he worked at Cabot Oil and Gas’ drilling and production division in Charles­ton, West Virginia. In 1985 he moved to the nu­clear power industry and served as a field service engineer for Babcock and Wilcox Nuclear Power in Lynchburg, Virginia. From 1987 to 1995 he worked in engineering, storage, and planning for Washington Gas Light Company in Washington D.C. Jim also served as president of WVONGA in 2010-2011.  Crews received a bachelor’s degree in Petroleum Engineering from West Virginia University and is a registered professional mechanical engineer in Virginia and Ohio. He is a past President of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association (WVONGA), and currently serves as a Director on the Board of the Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia (GO-WV).

Vernon Criss is a business executive who graduated from Parkersburg High School and West Virginia Wesleyan College.  He serves on the board of Camden Clark Foundation.  Criss was appointed to the House December 8, 1987 and elected in 1988 and again from 2016 to 2020.  He has served as Vice Chair, Committee on Banking, 84th Legislature; Vice Chair, Committee on Finance, 84th Legislature.

J. Kevin Ellis has served as Regional Vice President, Appalachia since November 2020.  Mr. Ellis was previously Antero’s Vice President of Government Relations from 2016 to 2019, Director of Business Development and Governmental Affairs from 2014 to 2015, and Manager, Administrative and Legal from 2011 through 2014. Prior to joining Antero, Mr. Ellis served as in-house counsel to Bluestone Energy Partners and practiced law at Steptoe & Johnson PLLC as a member of the firm’s energy practice group. Mr. Ellis held various other management positions from 1995 until 2002. Mr. Ellis is the past President of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia and the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, past board member of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association and Harrison County Chamber of Commerce, current member of the board of trustees for the West Virginia Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and formerly served on the West Virginia University College of Law Campaign Committee. Mr. Ellis holds a B.A. in Political Science from The Citadel and a J.D. from the West Virginia University College of Law.

C. Jeffrey Eshelman, II, is the president and chief executive officer of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.  IPAA is the national trade association representing the 6,000 independent, U.S. companies that drill 90 percent of America’s oil and natural gas wells. He is also the founder and executive vice president of Energy in Depth, the industry’s rapid response, research and communications coalition.  In his previous role as chief operating officer of IPAA, he oversaw public affairs and communications, administration, membership, IT and finance departments.  In his 25-plus years in the oil and natural gas industry, Jeff has also managed the communications programs of the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council and the National Stripper Well Association.  He has worked for three national and global public affairs firms. Other professional experience includes The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Department of Defense and the U.S. House of Representatives.  A native of Berks County, Pennsylvania, Jeff is an honors graduate (political communications) of The George Washington University.  He resides on Capitol Hill in the nation’s capital.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw is an Attorney and native of Charleston. He and his wife, Kirsten, are parents to Kathryn and Rebecca.  He was educated at West Virginia University, B.S.; West Virginia University College of Law, J.D. and University of Notre Dame, Ph.D. in Chemistry.  He is a member of: West Virginia State Bar; West Virginia Bar Association; West Virginia Farm Bureau; American Chemical Society; and National Association of Parliamentarians.  Elected to the House from 2014 to 2020, he has served as: Speaker of the House, 83rd and 84th Legislatures; Chair, Committee on Enrolled Bills, 83rd Legislature; Vice Chair, Committee on the Judiciary, 83rd Legislature.

Jeff Isner is the CEO and co-founder of Pillar Energy, LLC located in Charleston, WV. Pillar Energy owns and operates roughly 1800 wells in WV, VA and OH and has 30 employees.  He received his B.S. in Economics and International Business from West Virginia Wesleyan College as well as his MBA. He previously served on the IOGA board for 2 terms from 2014-2017 and 2018-the merger of the two associations. He co-chaired the initial Producer Issues Committee as well as chaired the Communication and Education Committee. As chair of the Communication and Education Committee, he introduced IOGA’s inaugural WV Science Teacher Conference planned in the sum­mer of 2018. He currently serves as the co-Vice President and Program Chair for GO-WV. Jeff resides in Ripley, WV with his wife, Jessica, and their children, Ava, Cohen and Cason. He at­tends Calvary United Methodist church in Ripley.

James C. Justice, II was born April 27, 1951, to James Conley Justice and Edna Ruth Justice. He attended Raleigh County public schools and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1969, attended Greenbrier Military Academy as a post graduate. Governor Justice went to Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, and was captain of the golf team for two years before earning his undergraduate degree and a Masters in Business Administration.  The Governor joined his family’s business in 1976. Because of his strong interest in nature and the outdoors, he started Justice Family Farms in 1977 in beautiful Monroe County, West Virginia. Under his direction, Justice Farming Operations has grown to be a major agricultural enterprise. His companies farm more than 50,000 acres of corn, wheat and soybeans in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Gov. Justice is the largest farmer east of the Mississippi River.  Upon the death of his father in 1993, and over the next 15 years, Jim launched a massive expansion of multiple businesses which included significant coal reserve expansion, Christmas tree farms, cotton gins, turfgrass operations, golf courses, timber enhancement and land projects just to mention a few. Before being elected governor, Jim was the president and CEO of 102 different companies.  Governor Justice spent his career creating thousands of jobs and understands how to put people to work.
In 2009, Justice rescued The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, from bankruptcy. He brought major events like the PGA Tour, training camps for the NFL and NBA, and countless high-profile acts and conferences to The Greenbrier. As governor, he wants to do everything possible to put West Virginia in a positive light.  Jim has carried on his family’s tradition of being major supporters of youth programs in Southern West Virginia. Since 1992 he has been President of Beckley Little League. He has coached basketball teams of all ages for the past 36 years and is currently the head girls and boys basketball coach at Greenbrier East High School in Lewisburg, WV. On November 29, 2016, Jim was honored when he coached his 1,000th career win in basketball.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was sworn into the United States Senate on November 15, 2010 to fill the seat left vacant by the late Senator Robert C. Byrd. For Senator Manchin, serving as West Virginia’s Senator is truly an honor and a privilege. Born and raised in the small coal mining town of Farmington, W.Va., Sen. Manchin grew up learning the values that all West Virginians share — family, common sense, fairness and hard work. As a small businessman, he learned firsthand from his grandfather, Papa Joe, who was an Italian immigrant and the town grocer, the importance of serving the public. As a young man, his beloved grandmother, Mama Kay, inspired Senator Manchin’s belief in public service through her unflagging compassion and desire to help those less fortunate. From his days as a state legislator to his six years as Governor to his current role, Senator Manchin has always been committed to his philosophy of “retail government” — in other words, connecting with all of his constituents and making service to them his top priority. As a Senator, Joe Manchin is committed to bringing this same spirit of bipartisanship to Washington. As he has done throughout his entire life, he remains committed to working with Republicans and Democrats to find commonsense solutions to the problems our country faces and is working hard to usher in a new bipartisan spirit in the Senate and Congress. Legislatively, job creation is Senator Manchin’s top priority and he believes that government should act as a partner, not an adversary, in helping to create the environment that produces good American jobs. Senator Manchin also firmly believes that our nation can and must do what he did in West Virginia – put our fiscal house in order. He believes we must find commonsense ways to cut spending while keeping our promises to our seniors and veterans by protecting Social Security and Medicare. Senator Manchin is strongly committed to developing a balanced national energy plan that utilizes all of our resources and recognizes that fossil fuels will be a vital part of our energy mix for decades to come. He believes that a balanced, commonsense approach that considers the needs of our environment and the demands of our economy, can and must be developed if we are to achieve energy independence within this generation. Senator Manchin currently serves as the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and also serves on the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Senate Committee on Armed Services, and the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs – four critical committees that tackle the important work of addressing our nation’s energy needs, overseeing discretionary spending, standing up for our Veterans, and defending our nation. Senator Manchin is an avid pilot, outdoorsman, hunter, angler and motorcyclist. He has been married for more than four decades to the former Gayle Conelly of Beckley. They have three children: Heather, Joseph IV and Brooke, and are the proud grandparents of 10.

Maureen “Mo” Miller currently teaches 7th grade Science, PLTW Energy & Environment at George Washington Middle School and she is an Adjunct Professor of Graduate Studies at Marshall University.  Miller taught 8th grade science, PLTW Design & Modeling at Hurricane Middle School for nine years and Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics for six years at Poca High School.  Early in her career, she was an Adjunct Professor in The University of Charleston’s Sports Medicine Department.  Among the awards she has earned are National Board Certification, Fuel Up to Play 60 Grant, Poca High School Teacher of the Year, New Science Teacher Academy Fellowship, Hewlett-Packard Grant,  PAEMST WV State Finalist and PAEMST Awardee.  Among her numerous presentations are the Science Teacher Workshop and NASA Endeavor STEM Leadership Program.  She earned her B.S. degree in Sports Medicine from The University of Charleston, her MS in Exercise Physiology from Marshall University and her teaching certification from Wheeling Jesuit University.

Morgan K. O’Brien is Hope Gas’s and Hearthstone’s Chief Executive Officer. He is a native Pittsburgher who was raised by a blue-collar Irish-Catholic family to value all people and all forms of work. His work ethic and value of other people helped him rise to become CEO at Duquesne Light Company the electric provider for Western Pennsylvania. He later moved over to become the CEO at Peoples Gas serving Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky.  In those roles, he was the face and voice of the hardworking employees who dedicated each day to helping the families and businesses they serve. He successfully helped grow both companies in terms of employment, customer base and in total investor value. He has positioned both Peoples and Duquesne Light as the true community partners and champions they are today. They both continue to invest and partner with many organizations that drive economic development and improve the quality of life in the regions they serve.  O’Brien earned his college degrees from Robert Morris University. O’Brien is active in civic organizations, including serving as the Chair of the Board of Trustees of his alma mater. He also serves on many boards, some which include Matthews International, Watt Fuel Cell Company, Dollar Energy, Co-chair of Pittsburgh Works Together and African American Chamber.

Jason Porter is currently the Director, EH&S for Apex Pipeline Services, Inc. based in Nitro, WV.  As Director of EH&S, Jason’s responsibilities include oversight of Apex’s compliance programs and oversight of the complete Safety Management Program.  This not only includes OSHA compliance pertaining to worker safety, but also includes compliance with additional regulatory agencies such as Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations.  Jason’s duties also include involvement in the management of Apex’s Workers Compensation program and maintaining Apex’s Drug Free Workplace program.  Jason is also involved in additional duties including Apex’s contractor management programs such as ISNetWorld, Veriforce Operator Qualifications, PEC Premier and others.   Prior to coming to Apex, Jason was Vice President of the Risk Management Division with Commercial Insurance in Charleston, WV.  In that role, Jason was responsible for providing clients with company specific Loss Control services.  These services ranged in industries from construction, manufacturing, drilling, municipal, healthcare and many others.  In this role, Jason assisted with compliance issues revolving around employee safety, company requirements, and overall loss prevention methods.  Jason assisted each company with implementing Best Practices in the arena of Loss Control/Risk Management and overall Safety processes.  Jason also held prior positions with Dow Chemical as an Industrial Hygiene Technician where he was responsible for multiple functions including ventilation studies, employee chemical exposure monitoring and employee noise exposure monitoring in a laboratory and plant setting.  He was also responsible for assisting with chemical waste remediation activities for the facilities while at Dow.  Jason obtained his Certified Safety Professional, CSP, designation in January 2011.  He continues to hold that designation and is active in multiple Safety, Health and Environmental organizations.  Jason received his Bachelor of Art degree in Occupational Safety and Health from Marshall University in 2003.

A 1977 graduate of the West Virginia University College of Law, Philip A Reale has served as general counsel for Waco Oil and Gas Company, served on the Board of Directors of Alliance Petroleum Corporation and currently serves as lobbyist for the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia (IOGAWV). He is a past president of IOGAWV and served as IOGAWV’s representative to Governor Tomblin’s Natural Gas Vehicle Task Force. In 1988, he chaired the transition team for incoming West Virginia Governor Gaston Caperton and ultimately served the new governor as his Chief of Staff. He has represented the state to the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and served as its Vice Chairman, co-chaired the Higher Education Advocacy Team, served two terms as Chairman of the State College System of WV Board of Directors, served on the WV Judicial Investigation Commission, was as a member of the WV Educational Broadcasting Authority, served on the WV Prepaid College Tuition Trust Fund Board of Directors. He is the recipient of two Distinguished West Virginian Awards of Public Service. Reale has served as Chairman of Special Olympics of WV, is the Chairman of the WV Golf Hall of Fame and President of the WV Golf Association Executive Committee. He serves on the Leadership Council of the WVU Cancer Institute.

A small business owner, Senator Eric Tarr and his wife Natalie have three children.  He was a Bachelor of Health Science, MBA, and Doctor of Physical Therapy.  His community affiliations include: Member, Putnam County Rotary Club; Board Member, Putnam County Chamber of Commerce; and Member, West Virginia Physical Therapy Association.  Elected to the Senate in 2018, he has served as Vice Chair, Committee on Health and Human Resources, 84th Legislature.  In addition to his legislative service, he is  Policy Advisor to West Virginia Chairman of Senate Health and Policy Advisor to West Virginia Senate Majority Leader.

Curtis Wilkerson founded Orion Strategies in 2006 with a vision of creating a full-service firm which would enable consistent quality and dependable results. Wilkerson has guided the company through layered expansions with experienced teams in multiple states. Understanding that clients look beyond borders for both policy and economic development, he developed a fully integrated structure within the firm to maximize talent.  Wilkerson has advised numerous organizations and companies as well as state, regional and national trade associations. These efforts include policy influence, permitting, tax abatement, environmental and crisis communication.  Prior to founding Orion Strategies, Wilkerson served as political director for a public relations firm and had consulted for campaigns in Georgia, Virginia and West Virginia. He has received numerous awards including being named a Young Gun.  Wilkerson has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History.