Randall Reid-Smith: West Virginia’s arts, culture and history are ‘still the best bargain in state government’

By Matthew Young, RealWV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “Are you ready? Fasten your seatbelts.”

That’s what Secretary Randall Reid-Smith of the W.Va. Dept. of Arts, Culture and History told members of the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday, after delivering what may be his final budget presentation. 

“As we begin the final year of Gov. Jim Justice’s term, it is imperative that I mention that the governor – with your (legislature) support – has grown the arts beyond belief,” Reid-Smith said. “We support the governor’s budget unequivocally, and we are grateful for his unwavering support of the arts.”

Moments before, Reid-Smith presented the committee with a fiscal year (FY) 2025 budget request of just over $23 million, which includes $15.8 million from the state’s lottery fund, and $7.4 million from general revenue. Reid-Smith also noted that his department receives “just about $16.6 million” in federal funding, bringing the total annual operating budget to slightly under $40 million. 

“The value in the return on investment that the West Virginia Dept. of Arts, Culture and History brings our state is immeasurable,” Reid-Smith said. “Whether it’s the fine and performing arts at Culture and History, the literary arts at the Library Commission, the digital and media arts at Public Broadcasting, the cultural heritage at the National Coal Authority, or just the true art of giving at volunteer services. They are all housed at the W. Va. Dept. of Arts, Culture and History.”

Since its transition from the “Division of Culture and History” in 2018, Reid-Smith said that the department has reduced operating expenses by some $15.6 million, with no impact to the programs offered or grant funding provided. 

“Through time, we have seen value, worth, and pride in our historic districts, “Reid-Smith said, “Arts communities, state enhancements to records preservation, our youth activities, public broadcasting programs, Mountain Stage, and our 170 libraries all across West Virginia, and the many services through Volunteer West Virginia.”

Randall Reid-Smith, cabinet secretary and curator of the W.Va. Dept. of Arts, Culture and History, addresses the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.

“We make history vital to our future,” Reid-Smith continued. “We give our people a reason to care about what we were, what we are, and what we will become in time. And we do this while receiving a mere 2,500th of 1% of the state’s general revenue budget.”

“We are still the best bargain in state government,” Reid-Smith added. “And we are the creative side of ‘wild and wonderful.’”

Reid-Smith was named Commissioner of the Division of Culture and History in 2006 by former Gov. Joe Manchin. In 2018, the Division was transitioned into the Department of Arts, Culture and History, with Gov. Jim Justice appointing Reid-Smith as both Cabinet Secretary and Curator of the department. Reid-Smith noted that 2024 marks the eighteenth time he has presented a budget request before the legislature.

With Justice’s term expiring at the end of the year, it is uncertain if Reid-Smith will remain in his current role under the state’s next governor.

“As this may be my last opportunity to present, I was thinking a lot about what I wanted to say,” Reid-Smith told committee members. “I turned to the good book, and I want to leave you with something from Matthew 5:14-16.”

“You are the light of the world,” Reid-Smith quoted. “A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.”

Reid-Smith then tearfully began to sing “This Little Light of Mine.”

“Thank you all, truly, from the bottom of a very grateful heart,” Reid-SMith added.

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