Lanham decides against Senate campaign
by Tim Maloney
POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. - State Sen. Charles Lanham (R-Mason) has decided not to run for election for the Fourth District seat to which he was appointed last year.

“It is after much thought and deliberation that I have decided not to seek the nomination as your senator for District 4 in West Virginia in the upcoming election,” he said.

Lanham delivered his announcement Thursday morning. At age 77, he said he would rather spend more time with his wife, Lilly Faye, than devote himself to a campaign. Humble as always, Lanham called himself a “novice” in Charleston and said he never considered himself a politician.

“No, not really,” he said. “I've participated in the process by working with county, state and federal officials, but not as an elected official.”

Lanham was appointed by then-Gov. Bob Wise in January 2005 to fill the unexpired term of Lisa Smith, who cited health reasons when she resigned in December 2004. She and her husband have since been indicted on federal charges of tax evasion and failure to pay about $1 million in employment taxes.

With Lanham deciding not to run, the only candidate who has filed for the 4th District seat so far is Jim Lees (D-Putnam).

Lanham said he will serve out the remaining year on the unexpired term, and will continue to lead the Route 35 Committee. He also said he will continue to work at Ohio Valley Bank, where he is governmental relations officer.

Lanham came to Point Pleasant in 1963, after having started his banking career in Ripley in 1953. He was president of Citizens National Bank in Point Pleasant for 20 years, until it was purchased by Key Centurion, which was then in turn bought by Bank One in Columbus.

Seeking a return to community as opposed to corporate banking, Lanham went to work for Ohio Valley Bank in 1997.

In January of last year, he was one of three nominees recommended to the governor to fill the unexpired state senate term. Wise picked him over 14th District Delegate Mike Hall (R-Putnam) and Scott Depot businessman Glen Yeager.

“Charles is highly qualified for this position and will make an excellent senator,” Wise said then. “He is a distinguished citizen and has been dedicated to community improvement in Mason County for years.”

One of the people Lanham worked most closely with over the years was the late Jack Fruth, with whom he co-chaired the Route 35 Committee. Frances Fruth said Thursday that her husband held Lanham in very high regard.

“Jack had the utmost respect for Charles and all of his endeavors for the county, community and state,” she said. “The Route 35 project was something he really did from the heart. He spent a lot of time working for the betterment of Point Pleasant.

“We are very proud of him.”

The news of Lanham's announcement brought nothing but words of respect and admiration from Mason County officials.

Mason County Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Parsons called Lanham “a complete gentleman.

“He is one of the most approachable, considerate individuals I ever met,” he said. “He took those attributes into his work as senator.”

Parsons said Lanham had become much better in one year on the job than he would ever allow himself to be credited.

“He became so good in such a short period of time,” Parsons said. “It sets you back to think for a moment that he will not be in that role any longer.”

Charles Humphreys, director of the Main Street program in Point Pleasant, said Lanham is known and respected all over West Virginia.

“I hate to see him go,” Humphreys said. “Even though he was a short-term senator, he could get in more doors than anyone with whom I've worked in economic development. He put us in a position where we could present our programs in Mason County.”

Lanham was only the third state senator from Mason County in the last 50 years. Before him were Bartow Jones in the 1950s, and Point Pleasant attorney Michael Shaw in the 1980s.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as your legislative representative for District 4 during 2005 and 2006,” Lanham said. “It has been a rewarding experience, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have served you during these two years.”
© 2006