Republican Sobonya sworn in as new Cabell County commissioner
HUNTINGTON - West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Evan Jenkins swore in Cabell County Commissioner Kelli Sobonya on Thursday, who promised to work together with her fellow commissioners to rid the county of crime and clean up dilapidated housing.
Sobonya, a Republican who previously served 16 years in the West Virginia House of Delegates, was elected in November after defeating 24-year incumbent Bob Bailey, a Democrat and former commission president.
“I would like to thank my opponent, Bob Bailey. He has served our county for the last 24 years and in other capacities, and I would like to recognize his service to our county,” she said. “I know voters gave me the opportunity to be their voice at the county level, and I will do my very hardest to work for you and to make Cabell County the best county out of the 55 counties in West Virginia.”
Before being sworn in, Sobonya was introduced by Commissioner Nancy Cartmill, a fellow Republican who endorsed her candidacy.
“Kelli is the kind of person who does a lot of research. She wants to know the ins and outs of everything before she makes decisions,” Cartmill said. “She comes to us with a lot of knowledge, a wealth of expertise and a lot of contacts in Charleston. So I’m sure she will be a tremendous asset to the County Commission.”
Cartmill noted it was rare to have two Republican women serving together on the County Commission, joking that Commissioner Jim Morgan, a Democrat, will now be in the minority.
“I know they will, but may the women of the commission have mercy on me,” Morgan joked. “I’m a poor Democrat from down in the boondocks.”
Sobonya was also recognized by U.S. Rep.-elect Carol Miller, a Republican from Cabell County who defeated Democrat candidate Richard Ojeda during the midterm election in November. Sobonya and Miller served together for many years in the state House of Delegates, having shared an office for eight years. Miller said they were like twins in the same way as “Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
“We couldn’t have had two more different personalities and approaches to things,” Miller said. “Kelli is a fighter, and I used to say I didn’t know if I wanted her in front of me, beside me or behind me, but I definitely wanted her with me in any fight.”
Sobonya said she is anxious to get to work and looks forward to giving people across the county a voice. She wants to work on cleaning up crime and drugs and for state initiatives that would rid the county of dilapidated housing.
Approximately 80 people attended her swearing-in ceremony inside the courtroom of Cabell Circuit Court Judge Paul T. Farrell.
“I look forward to being called ‘the commish,’” she said.
Prior to Sobonya’s swearing in, the Cabell County Commission held a regular meeting with Bailey absent. Bailey, who is experiencing a bout of ill health, was not well enough to preside over his final meeting. He attended a previous meeting by speakerphone and thanked everyone for allowing him to serve the past 24 years.
Also during Thursday’s meeting, commissioners agreed to make New Year’s Eve a full holiday, meaning the Cabell County Courthouse will be closed that day and on Jan. 1. Originally the courthouse was scheduled to be open for a half-day on New Year’s Eve, but commissioners wanted to follow a proclamation made by Gov. Jim Justice.
Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.