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Randall Reid-Smith
West Virginia Division of Culture and History

"Growing up in West Virginia, all I wanted to do was get out," Randall Reid-Smith told Putynam Rotarians today. "And once I got away, all I wanted to do was get back!"

Over a decade ago, after singing opera in Europe and teaching at the University of Michigan, the Barboursville native got back to his West Virginia home. And in late 2005 he was appointed Commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Culture & History.

The job covers a broad range of responsibilities, and Reid-Smith has insisted on improvements and new directions despite the protests and controversies that changes often generate.

The Culture Center on the capitol campus was opened in 1976. "Gov. Moore wanted this to be the ultimate welcome center to the state of West Virginia," said Reid-Smith," the front door to the capitol complex. That was 36 yers ago.

"A year later, the Division of Culture & History became the first comprehensive agency of its kind in the country. [Gov.] Jay Rockefeller took four old departments -- archives, arts, historic preservation and the museums -- and combined them under one person.