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Editorial: Bailey, Johnson best choices in county races

Oct. 21, 2012 @ 10:45 PM

Cabell County voters soon will decide who will have a say in their county government's policies and budget, which candidate should be entrusted to make sure their homes are valued fairly for tax purposes, and which people should be involved on the ground floor of the county's justice system.

Each of those decisions has the potential to affect thousands of lives, and voters should pay close attention to the candidates hoping to fill the county positions.

Altogether, the Nov. 6 election will fill 14 Cabell County positions. In five countywide races, incumbents are unopposed in their quests to be re-elected. They are Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell, Sheriff Tom McComas, Prosecutor Chris Chiles, Surveyor Jeffrey Stephens and Guyan Conservation District Supervisor Boyd Meadows.

However, there is competition for a seat on the Cabell County Commission, county assessor and for seven magistrate positions.

In the contest to become one of three county commissioners, Democrat Bob Bailey is seeking a fourth, six-year term. His opponent is Republican Greg Riley, a local businessman.

Bailey cites the county government's stable financial condition and progress the county has made in providing services for senior citizens and filling gaps in EMS service by building new stations. Those are both worthwhile goals. The incumbent also treats the position as a full-time job and represents the county well on the Tri-State Transit Authority Board of Directors and the Huntington Area Development Council board.

Bailey has a proven track record and remains focused on important issues. He deserves another term on the county's policy-making and budget-setting body.

In the assessor's race, two candidates are seeking to replace longtime assessor Ottie Adkins. Both Democrat Phyllis Kirtley Smith and Republican Irv Johnson bring good credentials to their candidacies.

Smith has worked as the human resources director for the Cabell County Commission and has served in various government capacities as Cabell County magistrate, city judge for Hurricane, Hamlin and West Hamlin, and a member of Milton City Council. Johnson points to his business experience with Johnson Photo Plus for about 25 years before the business was sold earlier this year to a national company. He also brings real estate experience, working with I & L Properties for a dozen years and being certified in property assessment through Allstate Insurance.

Both seem likely to be a capable manager of the assessor's office, which is responsible for assessing the value of property for the calculation of taxes and developing and maintaining tax maps and property records for public use. Based on Johnson's experience in real estate, he gains a slight nod.

Fourteen candidates are vying to become one of seven Cabell County magistrates, who issue arrest and search warrants, hear misdemeanor cases, conduct preliminary examinations in felony cases and hear civil cases with $5,000 or less in dispute. Magistrates also issue emergency protective orders in cases involving domestic violence.

Among the candidates are Democratic incumbents Darrell Black, Dan Goheen, Johnny McCallister and Mike Woelfel and Republican incumbent Ron Baumgardner. All have performed ably and merit re-election.

Among the other candidates, we recommend Republicans Tyler Beckett Smith and J. Larry Crawford. This newspaper has repeatedly called for tougher qualifications for magistrates, particularly a requirement that candidates have more education than a high school degree. Smith, an attorney, and Crawford, who has a degree in criminal justice, certainly meet that preferred test. Crawford also brings the additional merits of having worked in probation services for two decades. They both are well-equipped to step into this role.

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