Adjoining a newly completed expressway, Sophia in southern West Virginia has the potential to grow significantly over the next several decades, according to a new mayoral candidate who's excited about tourism and its commercial potential.
Brian Fanary says he's exploring state and federal programming available to attract investment to the town, which boasts an attractive historic district and festival ground and proximity to outdoor recreation development.
"Sophia is poised to grow—now more than ever," says Fanary, a highway project manager who grew up in the town of just more than 1,300 residents.
Several factors have set the stage for growth in the town, Fanary says, including the influences of the global work-from-home movement and the presence of the nearby New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, located fewer than 10 air miles to the northeast.
However, the completion of a new arm of the Coalfields Expressway and increases in all-terrain vehicle tourism stands to greatly influence the town, and Fanary says he thinks the community is ready to come together to harness the potential.
"People are coming to me daily now with ideas about what they'd like to see accomplished, and I'm taking notes on each and every one," he says.
Fanary says he also hopes to increase police officer pay, find a health and dental plan for officers, and speed construction of the municipal sewer project.
He says he'll also concentrate on building a tourism infrastructure that ties Sophia to many of the other local trail systems being developed across southern West Virginia.
Sophia may best be known as the childhood home of the late U.S. Senator Robert Byrd, though the town is also historically important as a coal-mining era boomtown with a well-preserved national historic district.
Fanary says owners of properties in the historic section of the downtown are eligible to receive grants and tax credits to maintain and restore their properties, and he'd like to ensure they're receiving all that's available to them.
"I'd like to see all these buildings filled with quality shops and restaurants, and I think that's very possible," he said.
Early voting will be held at the Sophia Town Hall through June, and the municipal election is set for June 8.