Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

Bob Kiss '82: West Virginia's Mr. Speaker

Bob Kiss' rise in politics was meteoric. First elected to the West Virginia legislature in 1989, he was appointed Finance Committee Chairman in 1993. In 1997, he became West Virginia's 54th Speaker of the House at the age of 39.

Cameron, Bob, Carter and Melinda in his office
Cameron, Bob, Melinda and Carter
in Bob's office

In law school, Bob wasn't interested in politics. "It was something I fell into by accident and then I realized that I really enjoyed it," he says.

Bob, a self-described "Air Force brat," relocated frequently growing up. He landed in Dayton, Ohio for high school before attending Ohio State where he completed both his undergraduate degree in economics and his law degree.

Following law school, Bob accepted a position at a West Virginia law firm and worked primarily in estate planning and tax. He and his firm became involved in a case that reached the West Virginia Supreme Court. A non-profit group involved with the controversial case suggested Bob run for the West Virginia legislature, arousing his interest and ultimately, launching his political career.

Moritz law classmates report they had no inkling that Bob would enter politics, particularly in West Virginia. Once he did, they did their best to keep him focused on his Ohio State roots.

Friend Don Leach '82 recounts how Bob asked classmates to behave themselves at his wedding, given the number of business and political leaders who would be attending. Not wanting to go unnoticed at the wedding, coincidentally held in the week prior to the Ohio State v. West Virginia game, Moritz classmates wore identical OSU neckties to the wedding and then marched in formation through the reception after convincing the band to play Hang on Sloopy. The final word was spoken the next week when OSU handily defeated the Mountaineers. Fortunately for everyone, Bob's political career not only survived, it thrived.

While serving as Finance Committee Chairman, Bob helped to devise a pay-as-you-go finance plan to support the long-range construction of schools. Bob also played an important role in developing several long-term programs to build and expand West Virginia's infrastructure. Additionally, Bob created and implemented the "Rainy Day Fund," considered, by many, one of the State's most innovative fiscal tools.

Under Bob's direction as Speaker of the House, the West Virginia House ensured no new taxes for seven consecutive years, appropriated millions in the state budget to close a gap in the Teachers' Retirement System, and invested billions in infrastructure, roads, water, sewers, schools and jails.

If reelected this fall, the upcoming term that expires in 2006 will be Bob's last. "Then I plan on getting out and focusing on some other challenges," Bob says. These challenges include practicing law for the Charleston, West Virginia law firm Bowles, Rice, McDavid, Graff & Love LLP, which he recently joined, and keeping up with his busy family. He and his wife, Melinda, have two-year-old twin sons, Cameron and Carter.

But Kiss isn't saying goodbye to politics completely. He says, "If I'm still interested later on, I may consider running for governor years down the road." Stay tuned.