Military Affairs and Public Safety
Official State Biography of Joseph Thornton
Born in Princeton, West Virginia, Joe is a 1983 graduate of Athens High School. After graduation, he entered the United States Air Force where he served 10 years, receiving an honorable discharge. During his Air Force career, Joe was stationed in San Antonio, Texas; Minot, North Dakota and Pirinclik Air Station, Turkey: where he served in direct support of the nation’s first Gulf War efforts.
Upon separation from the Air Force in August 1994, Joe enrolled in the Journalism and Mass Communications program at Marshall University where he completed his bachelor’s degree – with honors – in May 1998.
Joe continued his studies and enrolled in the Marshall University graduate program to begin his master’s level studies in Public Relations; at which time he was also hired by WSAZ News Channel 3 in Charleston.
Joe received his master’s degree in May 2000 and was named an Outstanding Master’s Program student.
In October 2001, Joe began his career path in State Government when he was hired as a public information specialist with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. He served in that capacity until January 2005 when he took over as Director of the Division of Rural Health, Bureau for Public Health, WV DHHR.
In September 2005, Cabinet Secretary James W. Spears hired Joe to be Deputy Cabinet Secretary for Operations and Media Relations for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. In December, 2009, Joe was appointed Acting Cabinet Secretary of the department and on June 2, 2010, Governor Joe Manchin III officially appointed Joe Thornton as Cabinet Secretary of DMAPS. Upon Governor Earl Ray Tomblin taking office in November, 2010, he asked Joe to remain in his role as Cabinet Secretary.
A resident of Culloden, Joe is married to Karen O’Sullivan Thornton, Assistant Attorney General for the State of West Virginia. Joe and Karen have one daughter Jorden, age 15, who is an honors student at Cabell Midland High School.
Biography retrieved from Governor’s website on 04/23/2011.