Week of December 10, 2012

County Judge Richard Sanders, left, administers the oath of office to new Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Randy Daniel Friday morning at the Courthouse Annex in Athens.

Story No. 1 – Randy Daniel sworn in: Former Athens mayor Randy Daniel was sworn in as Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Friday morning. Daniel is filling the seat left vacant when Henry Ashford passed away last month.
Why it is important: Always good to know the judge.
Learn more: 5 Things is actually being published before any of the local papers reported on the swearing-in, so here is an older story about the Athens City Council accepting Daniel’s resignation.

Story No. 2 – Lawsuit against Athens dropped: That’s right, San Antonio atheist Patrick Greene dropped his nativity lawsuit against the City of Athens the same week he filed it.
Why it is important: Over the past year, anything nativity related in Athens has become big news.
Learn more: The Malakoff/Athens News has the story.

Story No. 3 – Blake Stiles is official: The Athens ISD Board of Trustees made it official last week. Blake Stiles is the new superintendent. We know this might sound like old news, but state law requires a 21-day waiting period before school superintendent hirings become final.
Why it is important: Because Athens ISD arguably reaches the most people in the community.
Learn more: The Tyler Paper did a very good story with Stiles.

Story No. 4 – Big splash: Texas Trust Credit Union donated $5,000 toward the building of a splash pad in Kiwanis Park.
Why it is important: There has been a huge effort to make the splash pad a reality.
Learn more: The Athens Review has a story and photo.

Story No. 5 – Fighting Obamacare: Malakoff resident Clint Stutts travelled to Austin recently to lobby for a bill to nullify the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, in Texas. Stutts helped write the nullification legislation.
Why it is important: Regardless of your politics, Stutts’s story is reminder that Democracy is about participation.
Learn more: The Malakoff/Athens News has a story.

Week of December 3, 2012

Crestway Park Dental won the Grand Prize in last Saturday night’s Athens Christmas Parade for its Grinch/Whoville float (with real snow!). Here Crestway is receiving the $500 grand prize from city officials and the parade judges.

Story No. 1 – Christmas Parades: The Athens Christmas parade was a huge success last Saturday, and two more parades are on tap for this weekend. The Malakoff Christmas parade will be Saturday at 10 a.m., and the Eustace Christmas parade will be Saturday at 6 p.m.
Why it is important: Because it’s Christmas and we love parades.
Learn more: The Malakoff News has some info.

Story No. 2 – 15 percent rule: Texas Commissioner of Education Michael L. Williams announced last Friday that the state will defer the so-called “15 percent grading requirement” for the current school year.
Why it is important: Under the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), which went into effect last year, a student’s score on the STAAR end-of-course exams count as 15 percent of the student’s final grade.
Learn more: The Malakoff/Athens News.

Story No. 3 – Nativity lawsuit … not: San Antonio atheist Patrick Greene filed a lawsuit against the City of Athens on Monday in connection with the annual nativity scene on the County Courthouse lawn — and then he dropped it three days later to go after the Texas Attorney General instead.
Why it is important: Because the nativity scene controversy has taken on a life of its own, regardless of how weary we’ve become.
Learn more: The Athens Review.

Story No. 4 – Citizen of the Year applications: Nominations are being accepted for the 2012 Athens Citizen of the Year. The award was established to acknowledge and show appreciation to citizens who have exhibited generous community spirit, and a commitment to improving the quality of life for the citizens of Athens.
Why it is important: The award highlights someone who usually works without recognition.
Learn more: Nominations should be sent as a letter of recommendation, in a sealed envelope marked “Citizen of the Year Nomination” to the Athens Chamber of Commerce, 201 W.Corsicana Suite #1, Athens, TX 75751 no later than Dec. 28. The award will be announced at the Jan. 18, 2013 Chamber banquet at the Athens Country Club. For more information contact Sarah Hueber at 903-675-5181 or email shueber@athenscc.org.

Story No. 5 – Charlotte’s Web: The Henderson County Performing Arts Center will be staging “Charlotte’s Web,” running Dec. 7, 8, 13, 14, 15.
Why it is important: Because the crew at HCPAC put on an outstanding production.
Learn more: Get more information, or purchase tickets, on the HCPAC website.

Week of November 26, 2012

Jerry Don Vaught is sworn in.

Story No. 1 – Athens gets new mayor: Jerry Don Vaught was sworn-in as the new mayor of Athens Monday evening. The council selected Monty Montgomery to take Vaught’s vacated council seat.
Why it is important: Always good to know who is in charge.
Learn more: The Athens Review and The Athens News.

Story No. 2 – Former mayor becomes judge: Why did Athens need a new mayor? Because former mayor Randy Daniel took over as the Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace.
Why it is important: Pct. 1 covers an important segment of Athens.
Learn more: See the same stories as above.

Story No. 3 – Parade time: The Athens Christmas parade is this Saturday, Dec. 1, at 6:30 p.m. The Malakoff Christmas parade is next Saturday, Dec. 8, at 10 a.m.
Why it is important: Who doesn’t like a parade?
Learn more: The Athens Review and The Athens News.

Story No. 4 – Nativity fiasco continues: San Antonio atheist Patrick Greene (not connected with the Freedom From Religion Foundation) has threatened to sue the county, then backed off, then threatened to sue, then backed off, and is now threatening to sue again over the nativity scene on the courthouse lawn.
Why it is important: While eccentric, Greene has won these sorts of cases before.
Learn more: Just Google “Patrick Greene Athens.”

Story No. 5 – Athens resident opens new business: Richard Haynie of Athens is opening a new business in Tyler next weekend. Pinot’s Palette is a place where you “bring your friends, open your favorite bottle of wine and get ready to be inspired by our local artists who will guide you step-by-step through a featured painting” (and you get to keep the painting!).
Why it is important: How often have you looked for something different to do?
Learn more: Here’s the website.

Week of November 19, 2012

Randy Daniel

Story No. 1 – Randy Daniel drops mayor, picks up judge: Randy Daniel was selected by Henderson County Commissioners’ Court this week to fill the open Justice of the Peace Pct. 1 seat. To take the job, however, Daniel had to resign as mayor of athens.
Why it is important: For the first time in almost eight years, Athens will have a new mayor.
Learn more: The Malakoff News.

Story No. 2 – Big Saturday on tap: The annual Athens Christmas parade and Holiday on the Square are set for Saturday, Dec. 1.
Why it is important: It’s Christmas, it’s family, it’s community, and it’s fun.
Learn more: The Athens Tourism Department and Keep Athens Beautiful have information.

Story No. 3 – One more time for Malakoff: The Malakoff Tigers are the last football team standing in Henderson County. Malakoff will face Pottsboro tonight (Nov. 23) in Royse City, with kickoff at 7:30 p.m.
Why it is important: It’s always important when an area team is still playing after Thanksgiving.
Learn more: The Malakoff News.

Story No. 4 – Patrick Greene threatens lawsuit … again: San Antonio atheist Patrick Greene is back with another possible lawsuit against the nativity scene, this time because he wants his own sign on the courthouse lawn.
Why it is important: Well, first the nativity scene story has taken on a life of its own. Large media stations swarm whenever anything happens on the story. But Greene has a history of this sort of behavior, which makes him hard to just ignore.
Learn more: Plenty of television and print journalists were in town early this week for the story, but locally you can find it at The News or the Tyler Paper.

Story No. 5 – Coffee City craziness: A new mayor plus two new council members were elected in Coffee City Nov. 6, but the new officials still haven’t been seated.
Why it is important: The power of the blog! A blog called “Concerned Citizens of Coffee City” is pushing the issue, seemingly questioning the integrity of every elected official in the county.
Learn more: The Athens Review has a story, but you might want to check out the blog for your self (WARNING: Content not suitable for everyone: crude humor, inuendo and language).

Week of November 12, 2012

Blake Stiles (right) is shown with Athens ISD Board of Trustees President Rob Risko.

Story No. 1 – The lone finalist named: Blake Stiles was named the lone finalist for the Athens ISD superintendent’s job. According to the law, there is a 21-day waiting period before AISD can officially hire him. Stiles has been serving as the interim superintendent, and was the assistant superintendent prior to that.
Why it is important: It’s the top job at possibly the most important entity in Athens. … And 5 Things says that AISD school board members made the right choice.
Learn more: The Athens Review had a story.

Story No. 2 – Playoff football on tap: The regular season ended last week for high school football around the state, but that isn’t slowing down Henderson County. Athens, Malakoff, Eustace and Trinidad all made the playoffs and will be playing tonight.
Why it is important: Because now it’s not only football, it’s the playoffs!
Learn more: The Malakoff/Athens News and the Athens Review.

Story No. 3 – Get ready for the holiday events: Thanksgiving is next Thursday, which means Christmas is right around the corner, and there will be plenty to do in Athens. There’s a parade, Holiday on the Square, Home for the Holidays, and the annual Keep Athens Beautiful decorating contest.
Why it is important: Because it might take a little planning for you to participate in any of these events.
Learn more: The Athens News has a roundup of those events in this week’s paper.

Story No. 4 – Sen. Robert Nichols prefiles legislation: Henderson County’s state senator filed three pieces of legislation this week “designed to limit the growth of property taxes, prohibit the use of eminent domain for recreational purposes, and to significantly reform the state’s welfare system.”
Why it is important: While Nichols’ bills may not excite you, they are a reminder that we are just a little more than seven weeks away from the start of another Texas Legislative Session … and that is important.
Learn more: The Review has a story.

Story No. 5 – The FFRF takes the next step: It is almost Christmas in Athens, so that means it is time for our new holiday tradition: the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The now well-known-to-Henderson-County group of Wisconsin atheists filed an open records request with the county this week.
Why it is important: Because this whole thing is moving inevitably toward a court date.
Learn more: The Malakoff/Athens News.

Week of November 5, 2012

Pct. 1 Commissioner-elect Scotty Thomas rubs his eyes while talking with supporter Billy Lee at Republican Party Headquarters on the square in Athens Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Story No. 1 – New boss same as the old boss: President Barack Obama earned four more years in the White House by beating Gov. Mitt Romney Tuesday night.
Why it is important:
The “leader of the free world” is always important, but Tuesday’s result also sparked a literal meltdown for some folks around largely Republican Henderson County.
Learn more:
You’re going to have to pick your own flavor of coverage … it comes in two flavors: joy or despair.

Story No. 2 – Thomas elected commissioner: After a nearly year-long campaign (thanks to redistricting troubles), Republican Scotty Thomas was elected to replace the retiring Pct. 1 Commissioner Joe Hall.
Why it is important:
With no end in sight to budget struggles or government mandates, Thomas will be faced with answering some pretty big questions for Henderson County residents.
Learn more:
The Review and The News have stories.

Story No. 3 – The liquor is flowing: Voters approved alcohol initiatives in both Malakoff and Trinidad, as well as on the other side of the county in Chandler, on Tuesday.
Why it is important:
These elections are just the latest in what has been a sea change in the county over the past few years. While bars have not started popping up on every corner, you can’t really characterize Henderson County as dry any longer.
Learn more:
The News.

Story No. 4 – No bond in Cross Roads: Voters shot down a $6 million bond for a new ag building and gym in Cross Roads. For good measure, they also turned out two of three incumbents.
Why it is important:
The interesting thing in Cross Roads is that there is no mandate. Because there were so many candidates on the ballot (eight), no one picked up more than 17 percent of the vote.
Learn more:
The News.

Story No. 5 – Last chance for playoffs: The winner of tonight’s Athens-Brownsboro football game will advance to the playoffs. The winner gets to go home and start dreaming of next year.
Why it is important:
It’s football. It’s the playoffs. And it’s a neighboring rival. … ‘Nuff said.
Learn more:
The Review.


Week of October 29, 2012

With Election Day coming up on Tuesday, we’re changing things up today. Here you go:

The Top 5 Local Races.
Race 1 — Sheriff:
Ray Nutt (R) and Bill Burton (D) ran unopposed in the primary, but will face each other in the race for Henderson County Sheriff.

Race 2 — Commissioner: Scotty Thomas (R) fought off a large field of challengers in the primaries, while David McGlaun (D) ran unopposed. Now they face each other for the right to replace the retiring Pct. 1 Commissioner Joe Hall.

Race 3 — Tax Assessor-Collector: Longtime incumbent Milburn Chaney (R) will take on Bryan Barker (D).

Race 4 — Liquor in Malakoff: On the ballot is the sale of all alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption. In practical terms, if the measure is approved it will allow liquor stores (not just beer and wine) in the city.
In November 2008, Malakoff voters approved the sale of beer and wine for off-premises consumption by a close 331-315 margin. The sale of mixed beverages in restaurants by food and beverage certificate holders was approved 383-248.

Race 5 — Bond in Cross Roads: Cross Roads ISD is looking at a $5,995,000 bond to fund an agricultural sciences facility and a multipurpose building, which will contain a new gym and science classrooms.

The main components of the proposed project include:
- Ag Building: The facility is projected to cover 6,720 square feet and include two classrooms. The current ag building is 5,000 square feet.
- Multipurpose Building: The multipurpose building plans call for a 26,635 square-foot facility to house a 500-seat gym, locker rooms, coaches offices, and two fully-equipped science classrooms. Currently plans call for the gym to have stadium (individual) seating.
- Parking: The project also includes a new concrete lot, with lighting and more than 150 parking spaces.

Both facilities would be built behind the current high school and next to the football field.

Here is a list of polling places:

1A – Seven Points City Hall
1CR – Willow Springs Baptist Church
1CR-CRISD – Willow Springs Baptist Church
1CR-MISD – Willow Springs Baptist Church
1M – Malakoff City Hall
1M-MISD – Malakoff City Hall
1M-Malakoff – Malakoff City Hall
1M-CRISD – Malakoff City Hall
1MN – Caney City–City Hall
1MN-MISD – Caney City-City Hall
1T – Trinidad Community Center
1T-MISD – Trinidad Community Center
1T-LOP – Trinidad Community Center
1T-MISD-LOP – Trinidad Community Center
1TC – Oran White Civic Center
1TC-MISD – Oran White Civic Center
1TC- TOOL – Oran White Civic Center
1TC-MISD/City – Oran White Civic Center
2 – United Pentecostal Church
2E – Eustace School
2E-ESD – Eustace School
2GBN – Gun Barrel City Hall
2GBS – St Peters Lutheran Church
2PSN – Payne Springs Community Center
2PSS – Pinnacle Club Fire Station
2PSS-MISD – Pinnacle Club Fire Station
3 – Henderson County Election
3B – Brownsboro Community Center
3B-BISD – Brownsboro Community Center
3C – Chandler Community Center
3C-BISD – Chandler Community Center
3M – Murchison School
3M-MISD – Murchison School
3M-BISD – Murchison School
3M-BISD/City – Murchison School
3M-Murchison – Murchison School
3N – Bethel Christian Church
3N-BISD – Bethel Christian Church
3N-MISD – Bethel Christian Church
3WS-BISD – Westside Volunteer Fire Dept.
4 – Athens First Baptist ROC
4A – Athens First Baptist ROC
4BV – Berryville Community Center
4CC – Coffee City-City Hall
4CC-City – Coffee City-City Hall
4CC-BISD – Coffee City-City Hall
4CC-BISD/City – Coffee City-City Hall
4MS – Moore Station Community Center
4MS-BISD – Moore Station Community Center
4NYL – New York Community Center
4NYL-BISD – New York Community Center
4PF – Poynor Community Center
4SE – Faith Fellowship Church
4SE-BISD – Faith Fellowship Church
4W – Shady Oaks Baptist Church
4W-CRISD – Shady Oaks Church

Week of October 22, 2012

Story No. 1 – Judge denies FFRF banner:
This week, Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders denied the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s request to display an atheist banner on the square in December.
Why it is important:
The FFRF is the organization that protested the county’s inclusion of a nativity scene in its courthouse square decorations last year.
Learn more:
Michael Hannigan at The Malakoff/Athens News broke the story. The Athens Review also had a story.

Story No. 2 – FFRF targeted AISD first: A month before the nativity scene controversy broke, the FFRF contacted Athens ISD to complain about a field trip to a church pumpkin patch.
Why it is important:
See Story 1.
Learn more:
The Athens/Malakoff News.

Story No. 3 – Fourth case of West Nile Virus: A fourth case of human West Nile Virus was confirmed in Henderson County last week.
Why it is important:
This is double the number of cases in all other years (back to 1999) combined.
Learn more:
The Malakoff/Athens News.

Story No. 4 – Pct. 1 JP Henry Ashford passes away: The Rev. Henry Ashford passed away of an apparent heart attack in Waco last weekend. He was 65.
Why it is important:
The Rev. Ashford was a pastor, Justice of the Peace, municipal judge, and active member of the community.
Learn more:
Both the Athens Review and The Malakoff/Athens News.

Story No. 5 – Former TVCC coaches fired/investigated: News broke last Saturday that former Trinity Valley Community College girls basketball coaches Michael and Kenya Landers were fired from their jobs at the University of Mississippi for “impermissible recruiting contacts and academic misconduct.”
Why it is important:
The last time Athens saw Mr. and Mrs. Landers they were celebrating a national championship title in March.
Learn more:
The story is all over the web, so just Google “Michael Landers.” The Review also has a story.

Week of October 15, 2012

Story No. 1 – Athens sailor accused of rape:
One of the two sailors accused of raping a woman in Okinawa, Japan this week comes from Athens, Texas. Christopher Browning, 23, is currently in the custody of Japanese authorities.
Why it is important:
The incident has strained relations between Okinawa and the U.S.
Learn more:
Here is one story, but there are many others on the web.

Story No. 2 – Cross Roads grad signs at VP debate: Lisa (Rakestraw) LeDonne provided the interpretation for the deaf at the vice presidential debate last week.
Why it is important:
Beside the obvious interest in someone local being involved with the VP debate, there is an incredible story of how LeDonne unexpectedly wound up interpreting the debate alone.
Learn more:
Michael V. Hannigan of The Malakoff/Athens News had the story.

Story No. 3 – Nichols meets with superintendents: State Sen. Robert Nichols was in Athens recently to meeting with superintendents from Henderson, Anderson and Cherokee counties.
Why it is important:
The Texas Legislature will convene in January. Time to start getting focused on state politics.
Learn more:
The Athens News had a story.

Story No. 4 – Big Tex burns: Big Tex, the 52-foot tall icon of the Texas State Fair, was destroyed in a fire Friday, Oct. 19.
Why it is important:
Big Tex was the face and voice of the fair … but in addition, he was born in neighboring Kerens, which makes him something like kin to Henderson County.
Learn more:
News of the fire was all over the web Friday, but where else would we turn by the Dallas paper.

Story No. 5 – Early voting starts Monday: After the longest primary season in memory, it is finally time to start voting in the General Election. Early voting opens up Monday.
Why it is important:
First, we’ll elect a president; but there are also plenty of local elections of importance, including: Pct. 1 commissioner, sheriff, tax assessor/collector, constables, school boards, a bond in Cross Roads, and a liquor election in Malakoff.
Learn more:
The important thing you need to know is where to vote. So here are the locations:

- Seven Points City Hall, 428 E. Cedar Creek Pkwy, Seven Points, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

- Chandler Community Center, 811 Hwy 31 East, Chandler, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

- Henderson County Election Center, 201 E. Larkin Street, Athens, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Week of October 8, 2012

Dr. Steeber

Story No. 1 – Dr. Steeber is gone: Dr. Robert Steeber is no longer the superintendent of Athens ISD. He resigned and his last day is today, Oct. 12.
Why it is important:
It is good to know who is in charge, and for now it is Interim Superintendent Blake Stiles.
Learn more:
The Review and The Athens News have the story.

Story No. 2 – Athens man in national Hall of Fame: Dave Campbell has been named to the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.
Why it is important:
A longtime employee of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Athens resident, Campbell is just one of the good guys. He has also been inducted in the Texas Hall of Fame.
Learn more:
The Athens News has a story, but here’s one from the Professional Anglers Association.

Story No. 3 – October is Domestic Abuse Awareness Month: Henderson County Commissioners’ Court proclaimed October as Domestic Abuse Awareness Month on Tuesday.
Why it is important:
It is no secret that Henderson County has a domestic violence problem. The East Texas Crisis Center served 242 new clients this year.
Learn more:
The Review has a story, plus here’s some information from the Texas Council on Family Violence.

Story No. 4 – Burn ban over: No more burn ban! Commissioners’ Court allowed the ban to expire on Tuesday.
Why it is important:
While the county is in the best shape drought-wise that it’s been in since late July, the winter is coming, and that usually means more burn bans.
Learn more:
The local papers had short stories, but really, what more can we say other than, “Burn ban is over!”

Story No. 5 – Sen. Nichols meets with superintendents: State Sen. Robert Nichols met with school superintendents from Cherokee, Anderson and Henderson counties this week in preparation for the upcoming Legislative session.
Why it is important:
The school finance system figures to be a major bone of contention during the coming session. Also the meeting was held in Athens, so local superintendents were on hand in large numbers.
Learn more:
I haven’t seen a story yet, but The Malakoff/Athens News promises one for next week, plus has a photo with one of the local superintendents.