Belmont County remembers Shubat

Bill Shubat

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County leaders and election officials remember Bill Shubat as a fair, mindful man who exuded confidence in the electoral system.

The retired director of the Belmont County Board of Elections passed away Monday at his home in Bellaire. He was 61. He had retired in January after 24 years with the board.

Board Member Michael Shaheen has known and worked with Shubat for close to 25 years.

Before he came back to the Valley to work, he worked for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, when Brown was secretary of state in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“Fortunately for everybody in Belmont County who has an interest in a fair and accurate election process, he graciously agreed to begin working at the Board of Elections here in Belmont County,” Shaheen said. “He was always able to navigate the waters so as to be mindful of everyone’s political affiliations and allegiance while always keeping politics out of his job as a director of the board of elections. He has friends from here to Washington D.C. who are mourning his loss.

“I … am heartbroken that he worked so long, finally gets to the point where he can retire, and then this tragedy happens.”

Board Member Robert Quirk said he has known Shubat for close to 40 years, as fellow members of the Democratic Party and during Quirk’s work as an assistant prosecutor when he represented the board. Quirk has been a board member for about eight years.

“When he was in charge, there was a feeling that there were going to be no problems,” he said. “You had a tremendous air of confidence … that we were going to get through the elections, and the elections would be fairly-run without difficulty.”

Quirk said Shubat was instrumental in instituting new security requirements after the 2016 election.

Both Shaheen and Quirk said Shubat was instrumental in convincing them to seek a position on the board.

Kelly McCabe, who succeeded Shubat as director of the board, was emotional Tuesday. She said Shubat both taught her much and set an example of professionalism and devotion to fulfilling the will of the voters.

“He was extremely dedicated to the voters of Belmont County,” she said. “He was still dedicated to our office and helping us in any way that he could. He was important to many different people in Belmont County, not just the Board of Elections.”

She said they had worked together since 2004.

“Everything from day one was a learning experience with Bill. I watched him and I learned from him, and we all will try to honor him by doing the very best job that we can do,” McCabe said. “The knowledge Bill had about the election process cannot be replaced. Our staff is extremely saddened by this terrible loss. We all spend a lot of time working together and during elections the hours are long and the stress is high, but we support each other to get the job done, and he was always there to encourage and teach all of us.”

McCabe said Shubat oversaw the shift from the punch-card voting system to the touch-screen voting system. He also led the board during the implementation of the Help America Vote Act and other changes in legislation.

“He had so much knowledge from this office. He’s been through many different changes, because laws change and procedures change and equipment changes,” McCabe said. “This office has gone through many changes with him, and he guided us all.”

Most recently, Shubat was involved in the process of moving the Board of Elections office and facilities from the Plaza West location to the new site, in a central building formerly owned by The Health Plan. Shubat was visiting the new location during the move and offering assistance.

“He was pleased. He liked it,” McCabe said.

The office will be closed Friday, June 28 at 11 a.m. in order for the staff to attend the funeral

“He was just part of our family. He wasn’t just a co-worker. All of us were very saddened. He was very genuine. Very genuinely nice and kind,” she said.

McCabe added that the election boards of counties and the state have been sending their best wishes.

“He was very well-respected throughout the State of Ohio. The election community is very saddened by his loss,” she said.

Shaheen was also impressed and his personal connection to friends and co-workers.

“He always handled himself with the utmost class. He always showed respect to everyone,” Shaheen said. “He always looked for the best in people, even if he knew they made a bad decision, he would try to find some good in them.”

“We were personal friends, we were connected politically,” he added. “He’s been a guest in my home and in functions I’ve had dozens of times.”

Quirk and Shaheen both admired Shubat’s love and devotion to his mother,

“When I had knee surgery in January, Bill provided me with my cane,” Quirk said. “It’s sad for the county. He was a good person. He took care of his mom. I think that’s one of the reason why he retired: so he could take better care of his mother.”

“I’ve never worked with a person as dedicated his job and more dedicated to the citizens of Belmont County,” Clerk of Courts Cynthia Fregiato said. She had been a board member for 23 years prior to taking office. “Not only did he have an impact locally, he had an impact across the state. … His knowledge will be sorely missed. … His family has all the county’s deepest sympathy.”

Belmont County Commissioners Meyer Josh Meyer, J.P. Dutton and Jerry Echemann said he had been a boon to the county during many elections.

“It came as a surprise. I saw him two to three weeks ago at the new building as he was helping the Board of Elections move. It was unfortunate to hear,” Meyer said. “He was a very good director for the Board of Elections for many years and we’ll miss having him around.”

Echemann, who is serving his first term, said he was familiar with Shubat both during Echemann’s time as a journalist and while preparing his election campaign. He said he was impressed by Shubat’s devotion to fairness.