By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS–The Lone Star Republican Women sponsored a Republican candidates meet and greet with a moderated discussion following Jan. 30.
With more than a dozen office seekers in attendance, the event attracted more folks than seats available. The moderated discussion ran in three one hour rounds, starting with those running for 392nd District Judge and State District 4 Representative. Each candidate was given a brief time to introduce himself or herself and an equally brief limit to summarize why they feel they are the best choice for office. In between each presented an argument and had an opportunity for rebuttal. Moderators Rich Flowers of the Athens Daily Review and Chris Quinn of KCKL-radio posed the same question to each candidate.
Former officeholder Lance Gooden argued for his return as Dist.4 State Representative on the basis of his effectiveness in office, pointing to his record as printed in a handout sheet, which also listed current Rep. Stuart Spitzer’s record to get legislation passed. He stressed legislation he passed that benefited the county fair grounds and a simple piece of legislation that should have been passed this last session, which didn’t.
Spitzer highlighted his efficiency on bills he co-sponsored and supported, along with his conservative stance and voice for those who sent him to Austin, as opposed to special interest groups. Gooden responded with mentioning Spitzer backing by a group wanting the Speaker of the House ousted.
Judge candidate Maryann Warren said the most important characteristics in a district judge should be an attitude of service from a heart of humility, compassion and mutual respect. She suggested that the citizens of Henderson County would be better served by treatment of many drug offenders rather than the court system. Changed lives would also impact the number of children being admitted into the foster care system, which would also impact the bottom line. She also highlighted the need for greater efficiency in the 392nd court that wouldn’t leave highly-paid lawyers for the indigent waiting. An uncontested docket would shorten the court schedule, she said. She pointed out her 23 years as a lawyer handling civic and criminal cases in several counties, where things are done differently.
She also felt her strength lies in not having any connections to Henderson County government, with no ties to apply the law equally.
“I’m about improving this court system and improving all that stems from the drug and alcohol problem in the county, along with the churches. If we work to improve that, it would be a significant savings to the county,” she said.
DA Scott McKee stressed his budgeting experience to save taxpayer dollars, overseeing a $33M budget at the DA’s Office. His record together with Sheriff Ray Nutt have greatly reduced drug manufacturing and selling in the county. He pointed out his service on various boards and organizations, work with youth sports and the Go Blue campaign to bring greater awareness to child abuse. He also listed his commitment to the unborn, family life, Texas law, U.S. Constitution and service as a reservist in the military. “I’ve served in the courtroom to the battlefield,” he said.
Scott pointed out that in the county he feels no one is really in charge that it takes teamwork among the department heads working toward a common cause to serve the people of Henderson County.
Former County Attorney James Owen proposed a consolidation plan of the county attorney with the district attorney’s office to save the taxpayers at least $500,000 to $1,000,000. He pointed out that this plan is seeing success in 52 other counties, including nearby Kaufman County, Navarro, Anderson and Van Zandt counties. Owen said this consolidation would increase efficiency in the court system, lessen the number of court-appointed attorneys for the indigent and would make for a smoother operation.
When asked why he didn’t move on this plan when he was county attorney before, he answered that with a politically split court of commissioners and a county judge who was sick, the proposal was not feasible, but now it is and Republicans should do whatever it takes to save tax dollars.
Current officeholder Clint Davis opposes this plan and outlined what it would take to establish the joint office, whose combined budgets total $2.4 million, he said. All but $100,000 is allocated to employee salaries and benefits, he stated. He pointed out that his office not only handles 3,000 misdemeanor case a year, but also mental commitments, juvenile and truancy cases, processing and responding to open records requests, collection of fines, court costs and hot checks and advising officials on the drafting of contracts and agreements. He also pointed out the benefits of having two offices, including a separation of powers, and how each office serves the other when a conflict of interest arises, and the fact the county receives $70,000 a year from the State of Texas for the County Attorney’s Office.
The race for sheriff is between Chief Deputy Botie Hillhouse, jail administrator and longtime HSCO investigator Billy Jack Valentine.
Hillhouse stressed his march up through the ranks, earning promotions under the last four sheriffs and the endorsement he has from retiring Sheriff Ray Nutt. “I’m the only candidate who knows the department from bottom to top,” he said. “I know county government. I work there every day.” He pointed to the $11 million budget he forged with the help of county commissioners. “That’s something I’m very proud of,” he said.
Valentine stressed what he would do to increase community involvement in order to make the department more effective and responsive. He would operate a transparent department, so citizens would know just how the Sheriff’s Office works and win their trust to partner with the department in getting the job done. “I propose community meetings with the deputy assigned to your area,” he said, ride-alongs and being available 24/7 “by phone to help you.”
“I want to take care of you, your children and save your tax dollars,” Valentine said, adding since he was 7 years old he has wanted to be the Sheriff of Henderson County. “I’ll be the best sheriff this county has ever had,” he said.
Both candidates demonstrated a lot of passion for the job.
Candidates for constable in precincts 2 and 5 answered questions about their responses to open carry gun law, and serving as bailiff in their courts and district court, when asked to. All agreed that they would not approach someone just because they were wearing a gun on their hip. “I assume everyone is armed in all cases,” Precinct 2 Constable Mitch Baker said.
Wick Gabbard, candidate for Precinct 5, said, “As long as they don’t point a gun at me, I’m glad they have one. Precinct 5 Constable Brad Miers said he wasn’t in favor of open carry, having seen a lady newly licensed, who he described as “scared and carrying a gun.”
Precinct 1 Commissioner candidates Ken Hayes and Keith Pryor faced off. Hayes said his 24 years in road construction and as a businessman makes him a well-rounded commissioner.
Pryor with a long career with the Texas Department of Transportation makes him the best choice. “I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work,” he said.
Precinct 3 Commissioner candidates Kevin Head, Charles “Chuck” McHam, Mark Tillison and Sammy Scott also sounded out their qualifications and willingness to serve.
Posted by : February 4, 2016| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
Posted by : November 5, 2015| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
HEARNE–A Trinidad family is grieving the loss of a son and brother today, as are many in the Malakoff ISD circle. Early Sunday morning (Nov. 1, 2015), 2011 Malakoff High School graduate Andrew Keheley was killed in a head-on collision just outside of Hearne.
His mother, Ruth Keheley, and father, John Keheley, both having residences in Trinidad, received the news from DPS Troopers on Sunday. A memorial service is set for 11 a.m. Nov. 5, 2015 (today) at the First Baptist Church in the “Cotton Patch” on State Highway 274 in Trinidad. Huckabee-Tomlinson Funeral Home is overseeing the arrangements for the lifelong Trinidad resident.
The family also received a condolence visit from Trinidad Mayor Larry Estes.
Andrew, 23, was visiting friends in College Station, his mother said, and had risen early to bring back fresh-baked donuts. He was on the return trip, driving his friend’s Dodge Dart on State Highway 190.
The crash report stated that he was driving east toward Bryan when he crossed into the westbound lane and attempted to correct his vehicle but not before colliding head on with a F-150 Ford pickup at 5:38 a.m. A First Responder at the scene said the “crash was really bad.”
Trooper Jimmy Morgan said there is a curve in that section of roadway and also a center turn lane equipped with a rumble strip.
“I have two radio shows, and I always tell young people that when driving, things can change just so quickly,” Morgan said in a phone interview with The Monitor. “There is evidence that the deceased took evasive action, trying to correct and get back on his side of the road,” he added.
Officials say the pavement was wet at the time of the crash, but have not determined a cause.
Andrew was pronounced dead at the scene. The two occupants of the pickup suffered non-life threatening injuries, according to the crash report and were taken to a local hospital.
While at Malakoff High School, Andrew was known as a talented football player and also was the first student to ever qualify for a state power lifting competition, which he did in 2011. After high school, he attended Kansas Weslyan College, but later transferred to a junior college in San Antonio, where he played semi-pro football as a San Antonio Texas Tiger. His last game was played in Cowboy Stadium, Oct. 25, according to a post on Facebook.
Posted by : November 1, 2015| On :
Monitor Staff Reports
PINNACLE CLUB–The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office has arrested two suspects in connection with the theft of more than $100,000 worth of jewelry from a Pinnacle Club residence.
According to a press release, Deputy Duane Sanders spoke with the victim Oct. 20, who was able to provide detailed descriptions and photos of some of the jewelry.
The case was assigned to Investigator Bradley Gray, who located some of the jewelry at East Texas Gold and Silver in Gun Barrel City. The recovered jewelry had been sold there by Amanda Brewer, 25, and Brandon Miller, 26, both of Log Cabin. The pair had done some work at the victim’s home in August.
Gray obtained arrest warrants and HCSO Deputy Cynthia Clements located the vehicle Miller had been seen in at the Pinnacle Club Oct. 27.
Miller fled on foot once Clements made contact with him and a manhunt ensued.
Miller was later located in the Log Cabin area, placed under arrest and charged with theft $2,500-$30,000. This is the third time this year Miller had been taken to the Henderson County Jail, where he is being held with a $15,000 bond on the charge.
Brewer’s warrant was served at the jail where she had been in custody since Oct. 21 on unrelated charges. She has an arrest record going back to 2005 on numerous charges. She is being held in lieu of bonds totaling $26,840.
Both are awaiting arraignment and additional charges are expected.
In a separate incident, Deputy Brad Beddingfield made arrests following a traffic stop on Oct. 27 on State Highway 198 in Payne Springs.
The driver of the vehicle was identified as Adaniel Martinez, 25, and the passenger was identified as Amanda Kay Owens, 31. Martinez was driving without a valid license and had been previously convicted of driving while license invalid. Also during the traffic stop, Beddingfield found Owens to be in possession of suspected methamphetamine. Her criminal record shows three prior drug possession convictions, all in 2014.
Martinez was arrested on the traffic violation and held on $4,500 bond; and Owens was charged for possession of a controlled substance less than 1 gram with bail set at $6,500.
Both were transported to the Henderson County Jail.
If convicted, Owens will face up to 2 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.