By Brad McElhinny in News | December 22, 2016 at 8:48AM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman is leaving his position.

DEP Secretary Randy Huffman

DEP Secretary Randy Huffman

Huffman, who has been cabinet secretary of DEP since May 2008, has decided to take a position with the Air National Guard. Huffman has been in the military for 36 years and says the opportunity to take a position with the guard full time as vice wing commander just opened last Friday.

Huffman is a colonel and already serves as the Support Group Commander in the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston.

“I am excited about the opportunity to further my military career and public service with the West Virginia Air National Guard. Because of the unique relationship that exists between the Guard and our state, I will be able to use my skills and experience to continue serving our people,” Huffman stated.

There had been speculation that Huffman would have been asked to stay on with the Justice administration.

“I have been blessed to watch Governors Manchin and Tomblin up close as they worked selflessly in the best interests of West Virginia,” Huffman stated. “I learned a great deal from both of them and am forever grateful for their leadership.  I also believe Jim Justice will serve our state well as governor and am looking forward to helping him from this new perspective as he works to take us to the next level.”

Before he was named secretary of DEP by then-Governor Joe Manchin, Huffman had been deputy secretary of the agency for the previous three years.

He had spent 20 years with the agency in a variety of capacities —  the Abandoned Mine Lands Program, the Division of Water and Waste Management, the Office of Administration, and the Mining Division.

“It has been a tremendous honor to serve the people of West Virginia for the past 30 years,” Huffman stated. “I came to DEP looking for a job and found a purpose. I have made many friends over the years and have learned that no matter our differences we share a common goal of making West Virginia a better place.”

Huffman graduated from West Virginia Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mining Engineering Technology and received a Master of Business Administration degree from West Virginia Graduate College.

As the end of Earl Ray Tomblin’s administration neared, many of state government’s upper tier sought exemptions from the state Ethics Commission to enter discussions about other employment. Huffman was among the first to do so, back in August.

Governor-elect Jim Justice has just started to fill his cabinet positions.

On Wednesday, the incoming administration announced that former Wood County Sheriff Jeff Sandy will serve as the secretary of the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.