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Report: Gov. Justice appoints Mark Sorsaia as Secretary of Dept. of Homeland Security

Homeland Security names new general counsel


April 26, 2021

W.Va. Homeland Security names new general counsel


CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The W.Va. Department of Homeland Security has a new general counsel, a military veteran who most recently served as a longtime lawyer at the state Legislature.


Homeland Security Secretary Jeff Sandy has selected Paul K. “Kip" Reese to lead the Cabinet department's legal office, effective Monday. He succeeds Thom Kirk, who retired in March after a half-century of public service.


“We knew it would be difficult replacing Deputy Cabinet Secretary and General Counsel Thom Kirk, but in Kip Reese we have hired a person that can hit the ground running and has the credentials and experience the Department of Homeland Security required," Secretary Sandy said.


Reese's nearly four-decade legal career began with the U.S. Navy's Judge Advocate General's Corps. Having attended the U.S. Naval Academy, Reese graduated from the College of Law at West Virginia University in 1980 after earning a bachelor's degree in history at WVU. He practiced in the Navy's legal arm in Washington, D.C., Japan and on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Midway.


Reese has practiced law in West Virginia since the 1990s, handling both criminal and civil cases on the trial, appeals and administrative levels. For much of the past decade, he has overseen the interests of children as a court-appointed guardian ad litem. He first served as legislative counsel in 1998, and returned as a staff lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee between 2007 and this year's just-completed Regular Session.


“I am humbly honored for this opportunity and look forward to fulfilling this task in the respected manner of GC Kirk," Reese said. “I am especially honored to join an exceptional team of dedicated professionals."


As general counsel, Reese serves as the chief lawyer for the Office of the Secretary. He also leads a legal office of other lawyers and support staff for the department, which has more than 5,300 employees across multiple agencies including the Division of Emergency Management, State Fire Marshal, Capitol Police and the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation.


Sandy consolidated the legal operations for the department, then known as Military Affairs and Public Safety, upon his appointment by Gov. Jim Justice to his Cabinet when he first took office in 2017.


“Allowing the various division attorneys along with an imbedded attorney from the Attorney General's Office to work as a law firm versus a private practice has shown so many benefits to not only the agencies within Homeland Security, but also to the Governor's Office and county prosecutors' offices as well as city, county, and federal law enforcement, FEMA, and our elected officials," Sandy said.


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Lawrence Messina (304) 957-2515 Lawrence.C.Messina@wv.gov