Bob Bailey reflects on election loss, future plans
HUNTINGTON — Cabell County Commissioner Bob Bailey said he will remain on several boards he was appointed to despite losing the seat he’s held for 24 years in November’s general election.
A recent bout of ill health isn’t going to get him down either, he said, and he intends to preside over remaining commission meetings in December.
“I want to be strong enough to come back and serve the last month because it’s my duty,” Bailey said. “That’s what people expect me to do, and I will do that.”
Bailey, a Democrat who currently serves as commission president, lost a re-election bid to Kelli Sobonya, a Republican and former member of the West Virginia House of Delegates. Sobonya received 15,700 votes to best Bailey, who received 13,176 votes, according to unofficial results.
Bailey said he’s not taking the defeat too harshly because he’s had a long career dedicated to public service. Before serving on the commission for 24 years, Bailey was a sheriff, a Huntington City Council member and mayor.
“I’ve held different offices now for 40 years. The people have been awfully good to me, and I hope I’ve been good to them,” he said.
Going over the election results, he said it was strange he won nearly all voting precincts in the city, but lost nearly all precincts out within the county.
“People in the county are probably the people I worked with the most,” he said. “I don’t understand why they would go against me, to be honest, but the Lord moves in mysterious ways.”
In the 24 years since he took the county commission seat, Bailey said he’s most proud of overseeing construction of six new ambulance stations and the creation of three senior citizens’ centers.
He’s also proud of a ballot initiate successfully passed to benefit the county’s fire departments.
“We were only giving them $5,000 or $10,000 a year, and I finally got it on the ballot,” he said. “Because of me, now we directly give them $50,000.”
Earlier this year, Bailey said he was able to convince his fellow commissioners to back the Cabell County Solid Waste Authority’s recycling program. He worked for six years, he said, to unsuccessfully get a ballot initiative to support the recycling program, which was becoming too expensive for the Solid Waste Authority to manage.
His fellow commissioners agreed to join him in giving $100,000 from the county’s economic development fund to revamp the program. Now the Solid Waste Authority is offering free or low-cost recycling for Cabell County residents.
Bailey thanked everyone who voted for him in the election and said he is proud of what everyone has accomplished together. He intends to serve on boards he currently serves, including the Huntington Chamber of Commerce, the Cabell County Solid Waste Board and the Tri-State Transit Authority, of which he serves as president. He will serve on those boards until at least 2020 and cannot be removed without due process.
“I know a couple of commissioners won’t want me on those boards, but there’s nothing they can do about it,” Bailey joked.
In the weeks leading up to the election, Bailey said he fell on ill health and has since bounced back. His oxygen levels were low, and he had a pacemaker implanted by doctors at King’s Daughters Medical Center in Ashland.
He intends to preside at the remaining commission meetings in December until Sobonya takes over the seat on Jan. 1.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be elected to as many offices as I was like sheriff, city councilman and mayor,” he said. “I’ve got no complaints.”
Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.