Sobonya elected county commissioner

November 8, 2018
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HUNTINGTON — Voters in Cabell County chose Republican Kelli Sobonya as their new commissioner on Tuesday night, ending the 24-year tenure of incumbent Democrat Bob Bailey.

With all 71 precincts reporting, Sobonya, 55, of Barboursville, received 15,626 votes to lead Bailey, 78, of Huntington, who received 13,111 votes. Sobonya’s term will begin in January and run for six years.

Sobonya is finishing a term in the House of Delegates, where she represented the 18th District for the past 16 years and recently served as assistant majority whip. This year she did not run for re-election to the Legislature, where she represented parts of Cabell and Wayne counties, seeking the commission seat instead.

Sobonya ran on a platform t hat touted her state-level experience and commitment to making the office more transparent and fiscally responsible. She discussed the need to update the county’s old strategic plan to add benchmarks, including a public safety aspect and an aspect of economic development.

“I just very thankful for the voters of Cabell County for giving me an opportunity to be their voice at the county level,” Sobonya said following her victory. “I hope to take experience I’ve had at the state Legislature to be able to serve the people at this level of county government.”

Bailey ran for re-election touting his history of public service and commitment to being in the office every workday as a full-time job. He discussed the need to lower the county’s jail bill and better prioritize the county’s budget to fund elected officials. He did not return phone calls Tuesday night.

Sobonya, who is also a Realtor at Century 21 Homes and Land in Barboursville, said she sees the position as going beyond the four walls of the county courthouse. She wants to be a face for economic development, hopefully attracting business to increase the county’s revenue.

She said her experience in business will help her reach out to job creators and bring in more development opportunities. She was previously owner of Gym Factory Tumble Jungle in Barboursville. She expressed a desire to bring enough revenue to adequately fund the county’s elected officials without raising taxes.

Her platform included a plan to create a public portal online of how county tax dollars are being spent so residents can see what their money is going toward. This will ensure elected officials are being good stewards with public money and are making efforts to alleviate the regional jail bill, she said.

Before he was commissioner, Bailey served as Cabell County sheriff for 12 years, a member of the Huntington City Council for eight years and Huntington mayor for one year. He was previously a teacher and coach.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

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