Jan. 3, 2022
Cunningham named Homeland Security deputy secretary
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A career federal agent and former state trooper who now helps oversee Putnam County schools is the new second-in-command at West Virginia's Department of Homeland Security.
Cabinet Secretary Jeff Sandy announced G. Robert “Rob" Cunningham as his deputy, effective Jan. 3.
“In addition to managerial duties, Cunningham will be the Department of Homeland Security coordinator to ensure that during our citizens' times of need every employee of the Department of Homeland Security is ready to meet the challenges that face the state and our citizens," Sandy said.
Before retiring from the U.S. Department of Justice on Dec. 31, Cunningham served as a senior special agent at its Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for more than 20 years. At ATF, Cunningham focused on crimes of violence involving firearms, possession of firearms by prohibited individuals, firearm trafficking organizations, explosives-related crimes, commercial fire investigations, and investigations involving organized criminal groups, gangs and traffickers of illegal controlled substances.
Elected to the Putnam County Board of Education in 2013, Cunningham has served as its president since 2018.
“I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to serve as the deputy Cabinet secretary for West Virginia Department of Homeland Security," Cunningham said. “I am excited to work with Gov. Justice and the Legislature to provide the citizens of West Virginia a team that is ready 24/7 to proactively and reactively protect them from threats to their safety. Secondly, I want to provide each employee in the Department of Homeland Security the tools needed to excel in their career and most importantly to keep West Virginia a safe place to call home, to raise a family and to spend your golden years."
Cunningham began his law enforcement career with the West Virginia State Police in 1992, serving as a trooper in Wayne County and then with Executive Protection and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation before joining the ATF in 2001. Throughout his career, Cunningham was repeatedly honored by federal prosecutors for his investigative successes. In 2005, he earned the ATF's national Johnny A. Masengale Memorial Award given for a special effort or special achievement in an explosives investigation or an explosives-related support activity. He received a presidential commendation for bravery from President Clinton in 1995.
“I have had the privilege of working with Rob in his capacity as a West Virginia state trooper and as a special agent with ATF and look forward to working with him again in his new role as Deputy Cabinet Secretary," said West Virginia Fusion Center Director Jack Luikart, a fellow law enforcement veteran. “His integrity, knowledge and professionalism will be an asset to the agencies within DHS as well as the citizens of the state of West Virginia."
A 1987 Winfield High graduate, Cunningham earned degrees at Marshall University in Business Administration and Police Science in 1991 and 1992, respectively. During his ATF career, Cunningham was assigned to the field offices in Charleston and Ashland, Ky.
“Cunningham's love for West Virginia is revealed during every conversation I have had with him," said Sandy, himself a retired career U.S. Treasury agent. “Without question he takes his new position as an honor and will do everything in his power to protect our citizens."
The West Virginia Department of Homeland Security includes the State Police and the Fusion Center as well as the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Office of the State Fire Marshal, Parole Board, and Capitol Police. It has more than 5,300 full-time employees at facilities throughout the state and a $500 million annual budget. It was redesignated from the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety in 2020.
Other state leaders welcomed the appointment including Senate Finance Chairman Eric Tarr, who has known Cunningham and his family for more than 20 years.
“Rob is a value-driven servant leader who repeatedly demonstrates calmness and level-headed decision-making in incredibly high-stakes situations," said Tarr, R-Putnam. “While Rob's career experience and commendations are evidence of those attributes, those of us who know him well already have confidence in his application of those abilities to his love of West Virginia. I can't imagine a person better suited for the leadership team of West Virginia's Homeland Security.
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