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 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 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.

Week of October 1, 2012

Replacement ref Mike Peek.

Story No. 1 – Replacement ref talks, and he’s from Athens!: TVCC professor Mike Peek spoke last week about his experience as an NFL replacement referee.
Why it is important:
In addition to getting to call games at the highest level, Peek is the only replacement ref who has agreed to give interviews.
Learn more:
Everybody has been talking to Peek, from the Washington Post to Good Morning America. You can check out the local treatment at the Review and The Malakoff/Athens News.

Story No. 2 – Dr. Steeber may be leaving AISD: Athens ISD Superintendent Dr. Robert Steeber has tentatively accepted a job with Region XI.
Why it is important:
Steeber has only been with the district a year.
Learn more:
Again, there are stories in the Review and The Malakoff/Athens News.

Story No. 3 – Jackie Guthrie indicted: Frankston resident Jackie Guthrie was indicted last week for Capital Murder.
Why it is important:
Guthrie was the focus of a statewide manhunt in July after he allegedly shot and killed one woman and kidnapped another.
Learn more:
The Malakoff/Athens News and KLTV.

Story No. 4 – City sponsors Christmas parade: The City of Athens announced late last week that it would sponsor the annual Christmas parade on Dec. 1
Why it is important:
The decision came after social media came alive with rumors that the Chamber of Commerce decided to not sponsor the parade (true) and that the parade had been cancelled (not true).
Learn more:
The Review and The Malakoff/Athens News.

Story No. 5 – Carroll Mayberry dies: Longtime Athens City Councilman Carroll Mayberry passed away this week.
Why it is important:
Mayberry served on the council for 17.5 years, starting in 1992. He was 73.
Learn more:
The Athens Review.

Week of September 17, 2012

Senior homecoming queen nominees include (top to bottom, from left) Kenzi Parrish, Hannah Windham, Demi Cumby, Yoselyn Robles, and Brenda Juarez.

Story No. 1 – Athens Homecoming: That’s right, it is that time of the year. Tonight is Athens Homecoming, with the Hornets taking on Rusk.
Why it is important:
It’s homecoming! Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
Learn more:
The Athens Review website has photos of the court.

Story No. 2 – West Nile case No. 3: A third case of West Nile virus has been confirmed in Henderson County.
Why it is important:
From 1999, when West Nile was first discovered in the U.S., until 2011 there were only two human cases of the disease in Henderson County. This year there have been three.
Learn more:
The Malakoff News and The Athens News have the story

Story No. 3 – Burn ban expires: Henderson County commissioners allowed the burn ban to expire this week. This is the first time without a ban since the first week of August.
Why it is important:
Looking forward, the weather will be warm and dry. Officials expect to be putting the burn ban back in place pretty quickly, so if you have something to burn you better do it now.
Learn more:
The Review had a story.

Story No. 4 – New bus line gets started: The Chariot bus line began operation between Athens and Tyler on Monday.
Why it is important:
The project is a mission of Gates Community Church and is aimed at filling a real need in the city.
Learn more:
Both The Malakoff News and the Review have stories.

Story No. 5 – County approves 2013 budget: After hearing from a group of folks upset at cuts to the library part-time employee budget, Commissioners’ Court approved the 2013 budget on Tuesday.
Why it is important:
The budget represents about $1 million in cuts from the present year, including the loss of 14 positions (eight employees will lose their jobs in January). 
Learn more:
Both papers and KCKL have reported extensively on this subject.

Week of September 10, 2012

Story No. 1 – Henderson County budget approval on the horizon: Henderson County Commissioners’ Court is expected to approve its 2013 budget and tax rate on Tuesday, Sept. 18.
Why it is important: It looks like the commissioners are going to keep the tax rate the same, but because of big increases in costs and flat property values, deep cuts to the budget were needed. As many as 10 county employees could lose their jobs this January.
Learn more: Both the Athens Review and The Malakoff/Athens News have done multiple stories on this subject.

Story No. 2 – Athens approves tax rate: This past Monday, the Athens City Council approved its tax rate and budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Why it is important: The new tax rate includes a 3-cent increase. The city tax rate will go from .600387 per $100 valuation to .630387.
Learn more: The 3 cents will raise about an extra $190,000 for the city, nearly all of which will go to pay for a new fire truck and street sweeper.

Story No. 3 – County loses community leader: Longtime Athens businesswoman and community activist Mary Lou Williams died Monday.
Why it is important: Mary Lou was a tireless volunteer who was active in many organizations in Athens.
Learn more: The Athens Review has a story.

Story No. 4 – Volunteer Connect helps you plug in: The Volunteer Connect will be a showcase at the First Methodist Church Saturday, Sept. 22, which will allow folks who want to volunteer a chance to find a place they fit.
Why it is important: There are a lot of good organizations doing work around Henderson County and nearly all of them need help. On the other hand, you’ve always said you wanted to get more involved, but didn’t know what to do. Here’s your chance to find out where you can make a difference.
Learn more: The Athens Review.

Story No. 5 – Church rises from the ashes: It seems like a long time since a pair of arsons were running around East Texas burning down churches … and it is, it has been more than two years. But one Henderson County church never gave up and finally reopened its doors this past Sunday after losing everything in January 2010.
Why it is important: By never giving up, Grace Bible Church members showed the type of spirit we can all learn from.
Learn more: The Tyler Paper has a story.

Week of August 27, 2012

Area high school football players will put on the pads and go at it for real tonight as the 2012 season opens around the county.

Story No. 1 – Turn on the lights!: Friday night football comes back to Texas tonight as area high schools hit the field for real. The game of the week should be in Malakoff, where the Tigers will take on the Mabank Panthers. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
Why it is important: Because this is Texas and we’re talking football!
Learn more: The Athens Review’s annual “Fanfare” section is now on stands.
Bonus: The University of Texas Longhorns open up the season Saturday at home against Wyoming. Game time is 7 p.m.

Story No. 2 – Marshall sentenced in murder trial: James Marshall was convicted of killing Desiree Brown in a drive-by shooting, and he was sentenced this week to 28 years.
Why it is important: Marshall is well known in Athens and the shooting shook the community.
Learn more: Art Lawler at the Athens Review covered the trial from start to finish.

Story No. 3 – Federal courts knock Texas – twice: Two different federal courts ruled against the state this week — first over redistricting maps (not again!) and then over the Voter ID law.
Why it is important: Both of these issues are extremely important as far as the integrity of the election process. Democrats feel, in both instances, that minorities are harmed. Republicans feel that they are protecting Americans. So far, the courts have agreed with the Democrats.
Learn more: Here’s the latest story from the Austin American-Statesman, and a local take from the Athens Review.

Story No. 4 – County budget woes continue: Jobs are beginning to be cut in county government as Commissioners’ Court continues to work through the 2013 budget.
Why it is important: What is being balanced now is not only the cost of government, but the level of services provided.
Learn more: The Malakoff and Athens News had a story.

Story No. 5 – How much weed is that!?: Federal and state officials located a field of marijuana in neighboring Cherokee County that contained an estimated 15,000-20,000 plants.
Why it is important: It might not be in Henderson County, but it is close, and that much pot could’ve kept Woodstock rolling another three days.
Learn more: The Tyler Paper.

Week of July 23, 2012

Mugshot of Guthrie.

Story No. 1 – Murder suspect back in Henderson County: Jackie Guthrie was arrested in Galveston last Friday on a murder warrant after a statewide manhunt. He is suspected of murdering an 18-year-old woman in Coffee City and kidnapping his 19-year-old pregnant girlfriend.
Why it is important:
This is the county’s first murder since July 4, 2011.
Learn more:
It seems like every media outlet had this story. Check out The Athens Review and The Athens News.

Story No. 2 – Tuesday is Election Day: Runoffs in the state’s primary election are set for this coming Tuesday.
Why it is important:
It seems like this primary has been going on forever, but really it has only been since late last year.
Learn more:
Check out The Malakoff News and The Athens News, because they have a list of combined polling places.

Story No. 3 – County budget coming: For the past few weeks, county officials have been going through the budgeting process for 2013.
Why it is important:
According to the Athens Review, the cost of running the county is going up, but the government has no more money.
Learn more:
Rich Flowers has the story.

Story No. 4 – Tool police chief fired: The Tool City Council fired Police Chief Warren Loscuito last week, citing “personnel problems,” in a 4-1 vote.
Why it is important:
Combined the change at the Tool PD with the craziness at Seven Points PD the past couple of years and you have to at least consider the problem of instability on the northwest corner of Cedar Creek Lake.
Learn more:
The (Mabank) Monitor and the Athens Review both had stories.

Story No. 5 – KAB Eco Camp: Keep Athens Beautiful and The East Texas Arboretum hosted an ECO Camp for children kindergarten through fourth grade all this past week.
Why it is important:
Because with murder, taxes and firings at the top of the list, I needed something happy. Plus, there are some great photos on the KAB Facebook page.
Learn more:
Check out the photos here.