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

Justice honors retiring Kirk as Distinguished West Virginian


March 17, 2021

Justice honors retiring Kirk as Distinguished West Virginian


CHARLESTON, W.Va. – After a half-century of public service, frequently as a leader, West Virginia Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Thom Kirk completes his latest career chapter Wednesday with his retirement from state government.


Kirk’s accomplishments include more than two decades with the W.Va. State Police, culminating in his appointment as superintendent; his tenure as the inaugural director of the W.Va. Fusion Center; and his recent oversight of a revamped Division of Emergency Management as acting director.


Gov. Jim Justice has recognized Kirk’s record of achievement by declaring him a Distinguished West Virginian. Kirk received the honor during a farewell luncheon ceremony Tuesday at the Governor’s Mansion.


“I am truly honored by the governor’s award and I am grateful to the great people of West Virginia for always treating me with respect and for allowing me to serve them in many different capacities,” Kirk said. “My heart and soul reside with this great state. In these trying times, I feel blessed to have worked with some of the greatest, most sincere, honest and hardworking people on the planet.”


Kirk’s State Police career included several law enforcement firsts. After years of conducting major undercover and anti-narcotics trafficking investigations, Kirk founded its Bureau of Criminal Investigations and led the BCI as its first commander. Kirk also created the West Virginia Intelligence Exchange at the State Police. When Gov. Gaston Caperton nominated him as State Police superintendent in 1993, he also named Kirk the first deputy secretary of what is now the Cabinet Department of Homeland Security.


While a trooper, Kirk earned his law degree from West Virginia University’s College of Law. He went on to serve as an assistant prosecuting attorney and a special assistant U.S. attorney. He has taught at the college level and instructed law enforcement professionals from Maine to Florida.  He has been certified as an expert witness in both federal and state courts in multiple states regarding undercover operations, drug investigations, organized crime, police administration, behavior sciences and major case felonies. 


Kirk led the Fusion Center, created in response to the Sept. 11 attacks, from its 2008 founding until 2018. The WVFC allows federal, state and local law enforcement and homeland security-related offices to share information, expertise and other resources in the fight against terrorism, other criminal activity and all other hazards.


Kirk has been selected for several posts on the executive board of the National Fusion Center Association, a network of 78 state, regional and territorial agencies. In further recognition of his leadership in this area, the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Command tapped Kirk, himself a Navy veteran, in 2018 to advise and assist the Coral Triangle Initiative in establishing fusion-type agencies. This six-nation group encompasses nearly 2.5 million square miles between the Pacific and Indian oceans, home to 363 million people.


Kirk was also serving as general counsel for the Cabinet department, then known as Military Affairs and Public Safety, when Justice took office in 2017.


“When the governor advised me that I was his selection for Cabinet secretary, my first call was to Thom Kirk,” Secretary Jeff Sandy recalled. “Thom and I had worked two of our state’s largest drug investigations 37 years earlier. I knew him to be a person that I trusted. He was in his car with his wife, and I asked him if he would join me as deputy secretary and general counsel. Thom was 66 then, and after talking to his wife he agreed for 48 months. During those past four years, the Justice administration has made countless advances towards making West Virginia more secure and Thom was part of those advances. I wish Thom and his wife the most enjoyable retirement.” 


Emergency Management Director G.E. McCabe had served under Kirk at the State Police before helping him reorganize his current agency over the past year.


“I first met Colonel Kirk when I was a young trooper and appreciate all he did for the State Police during his tenure,” McCabe said.  “It is my desire as the director of the Emergency Management Division to continue the professionalism and relationships that Colonel Kirk built up while he served as the acting director. I wish Colonel Kirk and his wife the very best in his retirement, which is well deserved from all the years dedicated together for public safety.”


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