Klement Ford

Wise County Youth Fair

Granbd Champion

GRAND CHAMPION – Haley Rector with Paradise FFA won grand champion steer Friday at the Wise County Youth Fair. The European cross will be sold today at the auction. A complete list of show results will be published in a special section March 19. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Afternoon Nap

AFTERNOON NAP – Makaya Wakefield of Paradise sits in the pen Thursday with her show pig, Wilbur. While the duo was waiting for their turn in the arena, Wilbur napped to ease any pre-show jitters. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Visiting the Fair

VISITING THE FAIR – Whitney Lamance of Boyd and her daughter, Harper, take a closer look at a lamb at the Wise County Youth Fair this week. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

No Horsing Around

NO HORSING AROUND – Carsyn Bailey (left) and Tanner Baker, both of Decatur, take off in the cattle penning competition Tuesday at NRS Arena. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Family Project

FAMILY PROJECT – Sydnee Mowery, 9, of Alvord shows off her ribbon and prize-winning goat with her mom, Buffy. Mowery showed Tuesday morning. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Constant Care

CONSTANT CARE – An exhibitor waters her heifers Thursday at the Wise County Youth Fair. The beef cattle show was Friday, concluding the 2014 Wise County Youth Fair. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

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No runoff needed; Clark gets majority in 3-man race

No runoff needed; Clark gets majority in 3-man race

The Decatur Visitors Center erupted in whistles and cheers as the final numbers in the Republican primary were posted Tuesday night.

Chico Mayor J.D. Clark decisively won the Republican nomination for county judge with 55.33 percent of the vote, defeating Kyle Stephens and Bridgeport Mayor Keith McComis – with no runoff required.

Decisive Win

DECISIVE WIN – Chico Mayor J.D. Clark gives a thumbs up to his supporters after winning the Republican nomination for county judge. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Clark fist-bumped Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Terri Johnson as he wrote his vote total on the board – 3,001. Stephens received 1,170 votes, and McComis had 1,253.

“I don’t teach math, but that number’s a lot bigger than the two below it!” said Clark, who is also a history teacher at Bowie High School. “This is Wise County saying we believe in Wise County and that we can be better.”

Clark took command of the race early, leading 1,387 to Stephens’ 533 and McComis’ 506. Early voting numbers included absentee votes, which Clark also led with 209 votes to Stephens’ 101 and McComis’ 85. The margin barely fluctuated throughout the night.

“I feel completely incredible. I’m proud of the county, and it’s clear that the majority of us are on the same page,” Clark said. “They’re ready for fresh ideas and positive leadership.”

Stephens said “the voters have spoken.”

“(They) said what they wanted, and that’s what they’re going to have. I wish him all the luck in the world,” he said.

The former county commissioner wasn’t ready to commit to another race Tuesday night, but he didn’t rule it out.

“This is something I always wanted to do, even when I was commissioner, so we’ll have to see in four years,” he said.

McComis also said he might consider running for office again.

“I’m going to leave all those options open … it just depends,” he said. “I do appreciate the support I had, and the best part of this whole thing is I met some great people.

“The county has spoken, and that’s the way it is,” he said.

Clark will face Democratic candidate Jim Stegall in the November general election.

“I’m looking forward to good healthy debates,” Stegall said Tuesday night after congratulating Clark. “I’m just pleased that there were four good candidates for county judge.”

Stegall said since both he and Clark are educators, he expects they’ll both be skillful at informing voters. He noted that he did appreciate those who supported him in the Democratic primary, even though he had no opponent. He received 540 votes.

Clark’s Facebook page blew up as the final numbers were announced.

“So proud of the voters of Wise County. They put a great man in the judge’s office,” posted Clint Mercer.

“I have to say that I am honored to know each person that ran for county judge,” posted Victoria Holder. “I am so proud of J.D. for all of his hard work that he put into his campaign! Congratulations, J. D. Clark!”

Ready for November

READY FOR NOVEMBER – Republican county judge nominee J.D. Clark (left) gets a handshake from his Democratic counterpart, Jim Stegall, after Tuesday primary results were in. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“Congratulations to all the primary winners this eve. Had the pleasure of joining a fine young man and his friends this evening as he waited patiently to see if his hard work paid off,” posted Sabrina Easley. “Congratulations to the Wise County Republican candidate for county judge, Mr. J.D. Clark! Proud to call you a friend!”

Clark’s smile grew wider as he shook an endless stream of hands.

“A lot of people say I make a lot of speeches, but I’m pretty speechless right now,” he said, sinking onto a nearby table and taking a deep breath. “I’m just tickled that 3,001 people want me to work for them.”

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Local voters have say in state races

Statewide results were still being tabulated as the Messenger went to press late Tuesday, but we know how Wise County residents voted.

REPUBLICAN PRIMARY

John Cornyn was the clear favorite among local voters for U.S. senator. He received 59.92 percent of the local vote. The next closest candidate was Steve Stockman with 19.56 percent. None of the other six candidates reached 10 percent.

Mac Thornberry got just more than half of the Wise County votes cast in the District 13 U.S. representative race. The incumbent finished the night with 50.79 percent of the vote. Former Bridgeport resident Elaine Hays received 30.37 percent and Bowie resident Pam Barlow received 18.84 percent.

With 97 percent of the districtwide totals reported late Tuesday, Thornberry held a commanding lead with 67.86 percent of the vote.

For governor, local residents overwhelmingly chose Greg Abbott, who finished with 90.28 percent of the vote over three other candidates. Abbott was cruising to victory late Tuesday with a similar percent of votes statewide.

State Senator Dan Patrick was the local choice for lieutenant governor, taking 43.3 percent of the local vote. David Dewhurst got 24.31 percent, Todd Staples 22.97 and Jerry Patterson 9.41 percent. Statewide, it looked like Patrick and Dewhurst would be in a runoff.

In the race for attorney general, Ken Paxton received 47.61 percent of the Wise County vote. Dan Branch received 40.11 percent and Barry Smitherman 12.28 percent.

In local unopposed races:

  • County Clerk Sherry Coursey Lemon received the most votes with 4,893;
  • District Judge John Fostel had 4,870;
  • County Court-at-Law Judge Melton Cude polled 4,844;
  • Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns received 1,460 votes;
  • Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Terri Lynn Johnson got 1,469;
  • Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Mandy Hopkins Hays received 857 votes;
  • and Republican County Chairman Allen L. Williamson chalked up 4,884.

In other unopposed races, Kay Granger received 1,457 votes for District 12 U.S. representative; Craig Estes received 4,819 votes for District 30 state senator; and Phil King received 4,911 votes for District 61 state representative.

DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY

David M. Alameel was the local favorite for U.S. senator as he received 46.43 percent of the Democratic vote over four other candidates. Kesha Rogers received the second-most votes with 20.52 percent.

Wendy R. Davis was the clear choice for governor as she pulled in 89.77 percent of the Wise County vote compared to 10.23 percent for Reynaldo “Ray” Madrigal.

James “Jim” Stegall was the only Democratic candidate for county judge and received 540 votes.

The lone Democratic candidate for Precinct 4 commissioner, Kristina Kemp, received 148 votes.

Matthew Britt of Decatur was unopposed in his bid for the Democratic nomination for District 61 state representative and received 546 votes.

Tracy A. Smith received all 544 votes for Democratic party chair.

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Kennedy wins Republican primary, Ross finishes 3rd

Kennedy wins Republican primary, Ross finishes 3rd

Three ballot boxes from Precinct 4 were the last to trickle in Tuesday night.

But even before they were tallied, Gaylord Kennedy had built up a large lead over his two opponents in the Precinct 4 commissioner’s race. The trend that showed up in the early vote held true as Kennedy ran away with the race once the election-day votes were all in.

Kennedy Wins

KENNEDY WINS – Gaylord Kennedy won the Republican primary race for Precinct 4 county commissioner outright over David Stewart and incumbent Terry Ross. Kennedy talks with Ann Williams after his victory. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“I’m looking forward to November and the general election – I’m ready to go,” Kennedy said. “It makes me feel really good and that I have a good start for the fall. I’d like to thank all the voters and citizens of Precinct 4 that supported me.”

Kennedy received 981, or 59 percent, of the votes cast. In order to avoid a runoff election, Kennedy just needed 50 percent plus one of the votes.

“I was hoping to win outright,” Kennedy said. “I thought I might have a good chance. But there are other factors. It’s a race with two other guys, and you never know. But I feel good that so many people gave me their support.”

Although suspended from office since August 2012, incumbent Terry Ross still had some support from the voters. He received 319, or 19 percent, of the Republican votes in the precinct.

Candidate David Stewart received 351, 21 percent, of the vote.

“I was really disappointed with the voter turnout,” Stewart said. “I thought the numbers would be higher. I also thought more people would vote against Terry (Ross).

“It was my first time to run. I learned a few things. I’ll be back in four years, and I plan to do a lot better.”

Ross was unavailable for comment.

With the primary in the past, Kennedy can now look forward to the general election and what he can bring to the county.

“I was in the construction business my whole life,” said Kennedy, who already works for Precinct 4. “I know the county. I know the roads. I’m ready to step right into that.”

Kennedy also said his 12 years as a member of the Bridgeport school board would help him in the position.

“My experience on the school board is going to help me with work in the courthouse,” he said. “Some of the work I did there, such as bond issues and setting the tax rate, runs parallel to the office. I can do this.”

Kristina Kemp, the sole Democratic candidate for the position, ran unopposed in the primary. She said she’s looking forward to the general election in November.

“I was ready regardless of who the winner was,” Kemp said. “I had a feeling it was going to be Gaylord. He’s been a part of the community for a long time. I think it’s going to be a good race, and I’m looking forward to it.

“I’m glad the voters came out in the Republican race and voted for who they thought would be the best candidate for them.”

With the vast majority voting Republican, Kemp garnered 148 votes in the Democratic primary.

“Hopefully I’ll get a chance to get out there and talk with more voters – let them know I have what it takes to get the job done,” Kemp said.

“Honesty, integrity and accountability,” is what Kemp said the voters in her precinct are looking for. “It’s everything that always should have been required of the position. And I think it was, but at some point it just slipped through the cracks.”

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Rowe withstands challenge in clerk’s race

Rowe withstands challenge in clerk’s race

By the time the final box came in Tuesday night, District Clerk Brenda Rowe was ready to go back to work.

Rowe earned her second four-year term with 58 percent of the vote, holding off a challenge in the Republican primary from Callie Watts Manning.

Rowe polled 3,027 votes to Manning’s 2,168.

Victory Smile

VICTORY SMILE – District Clerk Brenda Rowe is finally able to smile Tuesday as the final Republican primary results indicated a win. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“I’m very happy, and thankful to the people for entrusting me with this honor,” she said at an election watch party at the Messenger office. “I’m grateful to have a chance to finish the job. It’s coming fast.”

Rowe’s office is under a mandate from the Texas Supreme Court to go all-electronic on records by July 1, 2015. The political campaign was a bit of a distraction, albeit a necessary one.

With no opponent on the Democratic ballot, the GOP primary win means another term for the Paradise resident.

Manning was philosophical about the defeat, noting she pulled a very respectable number of votes against the incumbent.

“Clearly, I’m disappointed, but I feel like I did a good job,” she said. “It’s hard to beat an incumbent. Congratulations to Brenda.”

Rowe polled 1,355 early votes to Manning’s 980 – virtually the same percentage as the final vote.

Surrounded by supporters, she heaved a big sigh of relief and headed home before 10 p.m.

After all, Wednesday was going to be another day in the office.

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Poynor earns 6th term

Clay Poynor has been in politics for almost 20 years. Following the March 4 primary election, he’ll get to tack on an additional four years to his tenure as Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace.

The incumbent barrelled past his opponent Teresa Marney Graves, earning 1,098 of the 1,634 votes cast in the race, or 67.2 percent.

“I had a lot of help,” said Poynor, who won his sixth term. “It takes everybody – the constituents, my family. I have people in Bridgeport, Boonsville, Runaway Bay. I couldn’t have done it without all of them and hard work and dedication.

“People don’t realize how hard it is until they’re doing it,” he continued. “It takes a lot of work, especially if you hold a job.”

Poynor began his political career 24 years ago, when then-Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Dewayne Kennedy decided not to seek re-election.

“He was the one who gave me inspiration,” Poynor said. “I wanted to interact with people and help them, which is what I’ve strived to do.

“Usually, the people that come in are mad, but I like being able to help people how I can – work with them and give them as much information as I can.”

Although his political career has spanned almost two decades, he hasn’t served those years consecutively.

“I lost one term,” he said. “So I’ve been on both sides of the program – I know what it’s like to win, and I know what it’s like to lose.”

Regardless of whether he won or lost, Poynor said he always worked hard and gave it his best, just as his opponent did.

“My opponent ran a fair race,” he said. “We both got out and campaigned and gave it our all. Luckily, I drew more votes.”

Graves, who garnered 536 votes, acknowledged that although she worked hard, she could identify areas of improvement.

“I talked to a lot of people and gave people a choice,” she said. “I guess they didn’t want change. If I were to do it again, I’ll definitely decide to do it earlier so I can start (campaigning) earlier. And I’ll definitely have more funds … I’ll consider running again.”

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Hudson back in with primary win

Katherine Canova Hudson won re-election as county treasurer in commanding fashion in the Republican primary Tuesday night.

She doesn’t have a Democratic opponent, so her win this week secures for her another four-year term.

Hudson defeated first-time candidate Daniel Rivas 2,143 to 769, earning 73.59 percent of the vote. She took the lead right away with early voting receiving 1,457 votes to Rivas’ 541.

“I’m just grateful that they gave me four more years, and maybe I can sleep tonight,” she said. “And tomorrow I go to work like usual and work for the citizens.

Rivas, who is manager of Casa Torres Mexican restaurant in Decatur, said it was a learning experience and a great opportunity.

“Hopefully I can come back next time and come back stronger,” he said. “Now I know the process, and next time I can work even harder than this time.

“It was a new experience and a good experience for me,” he said. “I want to thank all the people who did come out and support me. Like I said, I’ll come back and get better.”

Rivas said in the meantime, he may consider serving the community in other ways.

“I haven’t thought too much about it, but I’m going to try to look forward and see what all opportunities are out there.”

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Morrow wins 5th term

Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Jan Morrow handily won a fifth term in office in Tuesday’s Republic primary.

Morrow garnered 69 percent of the vote enroute to an 882-393 victory over Joshua Reynolds, an investigator with the Wise County Sheriff’s office.

“I would like to say that I appreciate the people of Wise County – the people of Precinct 1 especially,” she said. “Freedom is about people’s choices, and the people’s choices have been stated tonight.”

Morrow’s margin in the early voting was just over 70 percent at 488-204.

Reynolds could not be reached for comment.

Without an opponent on the Democratic ballot, Morrow is assured of re-election this November. She said she enjoys her job and is excited about civil law reform, electronic filing and the opportunity to continue serving the people of Wise County.

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Vigil sentenced for providing murder weapon

A Colorado woman is going to prison for providing the gun Evan Ebel used to kill two people in Colorado and shoot a Montague County deputy last March.

Stevie Marie Vigil, 23, was sentenced in federal court Monday to 27 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of providing a firearm to a felon, according to a story in The Denver Post.

Ebel was killed in a shootout with officers in Decatur March 21, 2013.

Chase Video Released

CHASE VIDEO RELEASED – It’s been nearly a year since Evan Ebel, of Colorado, died following a chase and shootout with officers in Decatur. Authorities released video of the chase this week. View it at WCMess.com/ebel. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

A court document filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Denver states Vigil bought a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun on March 6, 2013, and gave it to Ebel two days later outside an apartment complex in Thornton, Colo. On March 14, 2013, Ebel cut off the electronic monitoring ankle bracelet he was required to wear as a condition of his parole.

Three days later, Ebel used the firearm to kill 27-year-old pizza delivery man Nathan Leon, whom he had lured to a location in Denver, according to the court document.

Before Leon was killed, Ebel forced Leon to make a statement into a recording device in which he talks about mistreatment of prisoners who were locked in solitary confinement.

“You treated us inhumanely, and so we simply seek to do the same, we take conform in the knowledge that we leave your wives without husbands, and your children fatherless,” the statement, which apparently had some mistaken words, read in part.

Two days later, Colorado Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements was shot and killed at his home in Monument, Colo. Evidence found in Ebel’s vehicle would later tie him to both murders.

On March 21, Ebel was pulled over for a traffic violation near Bowie by Montague County Deputy James Boyd. When Boyd approached Ebel’s car, Ebel raised the gun and shot Boyd three times, including one in the head.

Boyd managed to call in a description of the vehicle as it sped away toward Wise County. Several officers joined the pursuit, and Ebel continued to fire at officers as he sped toward Decatur.

Dash camera video of the chase released Monday shows Ebel reaching speeds of close to 100 miles per hour, weaving in and out of traffic and nearly striking several vehicles as he traveled along U.S. 81/287 and then U.S. 380 Business in Decatur. Ebel wrecked when he ran into a rock hauler at the U.S. 380 and Business 380 intersection near the Sheriff’s Office, and he was killed following a brief shootout with officers.

According to the court document, the only weapon Ebel had in his possession was the handgun purchased by Vigil.

Prosecutors had been seeking a harsher penalty than the guidelines called for, asking U.S. District Judge Christine M. Arguello for a six-year prison sentence rather than the 21- to 27-month time frame.

According to the Post story, Arguello said there was no evidence Vigil could have predicted Ebel’s plan as she sentenced Vigil to 27 months and three years of supervised parole.

Boyd, as well as members of Leon’s family, testified Monday. All asked for the harsher punishment, according to the Post. Vigil did not testify.

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City council, school board races set

With no contested races on the ballot, four Wise County cities will not be required to hold elections this May.

The cities of Boyd, Chico, Decatur and Runaway Bay have just one candidate for every spot. State law allows them to avoid the expense of an election when no seats are contested – although a few cities will still serve as voting locations for their school districts.

Alvord, Bridgeport, Newark and Rhome all have contested city council races, and six school districts – Alvord, Bridgeport, Boyd, Decatur, Chico and Northwest – have contested races for their boards of trustees.

The Paradise and Slidell school districts hold their elections in the fall.

Early voting runs April 28-May 6 for these entities. The election is Saturday, May 10.

Except in the case of Newark’s special election, the filing period ended Friday.

A few ballots were not complete when the Messenger went to press with its weekend edition, but this summary contains all the updates.

ALVORD CITY COUNCIL

Incumbents Kirk Gibson (place 3) and Jim Enochs (place 5) are unopposed for re-election, but three people are competing for place 4.

Debra McKelvain, Shane Raney and Lenda Barnes all filed for the spot, which opened when Megan Adams opted not to run again.

ALVORD SCHOOL BOARD

Three candidates – Lex Williams, Tracy Barclay Parker and Lance Thweatt – are seeking place 6, the spot vacated last June by the resignation of trustee Randy Hamilton, who had served two years of a three-year term.

Incumbent Jeannette Ward has an opponent in her bid for re-election to place 7 – Charles Neal Matthews.

BOYD CITY COUNCIL

The Boyd City Council doesn’t have a contested race, so they will not have to hold an election May 10.

But they do have a candidate for every spot.

Incumbents Rodney Holmes (place 1) and Gary Brown (place 5) are unopposed in their bids for re-election. Vince Estel is also unopposed for place 3 after incumbent Crystal Keiper opted not to seek re-election.

In place 2, which has been vacant since Rodney Scoggins was elected mayor last spring, Tim Hammonds is unopposed in seeking the one year remaining on that term.

BOYD SCHOOL BOARD

Boyd ISD has one contested race.

Three candidates – Jake Tackett, Mikeul Fite and Cathy Gordon – are seeking place 2, which opened up when Pam Galloway opted not to seek another term.

Incumbent Jana Tate is unopposed for place 3, and Rebecca Parr has no opponent for place 1 after Kim Hudson decided not to seek re-election.

BRIDGEPORT CITY COUNCIL

With Mayor Keith McComis seeking the county judge’s spot, Kathy Kennedy and Corey Lane are on the ballot for that job.

Place 1 incumbent A.Z. Smith drew an opponent, David Correll.

In place 2, Calvin Coursey and Art Velasquez are seeking the spot vacated by Kennedy when she chose to run for mayor.

Jimmy Meyers is unopposed in his bid for re-election to place 3.

BRIDGEPORT SCHOOL BOARD

The Bridgeport ISD Board of Trustees has three candidates for one spot and four for another.

Incumbent Ken Kilpatrick seeks re-election to place 6 while Donald Majka and Scott Hiler are also seeking that position.

Place 7 trustee Marti Hines withdrew from the election at the filing deadline last Friday, leaving challengers Robert Marlett, Steve Stanford, Loretta Hill and Steven Lara to battle for her spot.

CHICO CITY COUNCIL

With two at-large seats open, incumbent Karen Garrison and newcomer Greta McDaniel are assured of election. Incumbent Louise Gossett is the only candidate for a partial term on the council.

CHICO SCHOOL BOARD

Two incumbents are seeking re-election with one opponent each.

G.A. Buckner is opposed in his re-election bid for place 6 by J.D. Coffman, while incumbent Doug Bowyer in place 7 is being challenged by Noel Ruddick.

Decatur school board

With the decision of longtime trustee Alan White not to seek re-election, three men are seeking place 3 on the board: Jim Lamirand, Pete Rivera and Ricky Stutt.

In place 4, incumbent Dr. Jeff Alling is opposed by Charles Ross.

DECATUR CITY COUNCIL

Mayor Martin Woodruff and council members Cary Bohn (place 3) and Jay Davidson (place 5) are unopposed in their bids for re-election.

Place 1 council member Dana Clinesmith opted not to seek re-election, and Carmelina Holloway is running unopposed for that spot.

NEWARK CITY COUNCIL

Two special elections are being held after a pair of vacant positions were filled by appointment last year. Filing remains open for mayor and place 4 until March 10.

Mayor Gary Van Wagner is opposed by Darla Loggains in his bid to win the seat to which he was appointed. Mark Wondolowski, so far, is the only candidate for place 4, which was filled by the appointment of Taylor Burton last year.

Place 1 has two candidates vying for the seat now held by Robert Wells, who chose not to seek another term. Monique Murray and Cary Mellema are both signed up to run.

Incumbents Doug Anderson (place 2) and Linda Anderson (Place 3) are unopposed in their re-election efforts.

NORTHWEST SCHOOL BOARD

A pair of incumbents each drew an opponent, and one wide-open race for an empty seat attracted five candidates in the Northwest ISD.

Place 5 trustee Devonna Holland is challenged in her re-election bid by Jerry Burkett, while board president Mel Fuller has opposition from Doug Smith in his bid for re-election to place 7.

Place 6, vacated when trustee Kerry Jones resigned, is sought by Kristi Wade, Edward Mergenthal, Lillian Rauch, Andrew Bennett and Stan Durham.

RHOME CITY COUNCIL

With Mayor Chris Moore stepping down, two candidates are seeking that position.

Current council member Louis Godfrey signed up, along with Mark Lorance. Former mayor David Wilson had filed for the office, but withdrew his application this week.

Two at-large seats are also on the ballot, with incumbents Jo Ann Wilson and Michelle Pittman both seeking re-election. They are challenged by Timothy Robison, Shawn Holliman and Jason Miller.

RUNAWAY BAY CITY COUNCIL

Mayor Robert Ryan drew no opposition, and incumbents Neil Peters and Kay Simmons are the only ones who signed up for the two at-large seats on the ballot.

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2014 off to a cold, dry start

Wrecks were rampant Sunday afternoon after sleet and ice pellets pelted the county.

This year is quickly becoming one of the coldest in recent memory and one of the driest on record.

The half-inch of frozen precipitation accumulated to create slick and frozen roads as temperatures did not crawl above freezing until Tuesday. This prompted most area schools to close Monday, as well as county government offices.

Boyd, where the road ice was less prevalent, opened with a two-hour delay, and even some events at the Wise County Youth Fair were postponed.

At one point there was a combination of sleet and ice pellets accompanied by thunder, a phenomenon that has been called “thundersleet” and “ice thunder.” There was even a dusting of snow.

Throughout Sunday afternoon more than two dozen wrecks were reported on major highways, including several near Alvord on U.S. 287, one at the intersection of Texas 114 and FM 51, Farm Road 730 south of Decatur and on U.S. 380 in Decatur, Bridgeport and Runaway Bay.

January 2014 saw 21 days where the temperature dipped below freezing, according to data by Decatur weather tracker Doyle Green. February had 19 sub-freezing days. There were only 10 sub-freezing days in February 2013 and 15 last January.

The dry weather accompanying the cold is even more extreme. The first two months of 2014 have only produced 1.44 inches of precipitation. Compare that to the 5.48 inches of rain Wise County had received at this time last year – including 3.32 inches in January and 2.16 in February.

So far, 2014 is the sixth-driest year on record, according to the National Weather Service. Since records began in 1899, only 1900, 1909, 1943, 1967 and 1976 were drier through the end of February. The driest was 1909 with 0.20 inches.

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New video surveillance to be installed at courthouse

Security at county government buildings will be kicked up a notch over the next year.

Wise County commissioners decided Feb. 24 to move forward with upgrading the video surveillance system at the courthouse and installing cameras at the justice of the peace offices, with the exception of JP2 because it’s located at the Sheriff’s Office.

They awarded the bid to Stanley Security Solutions for $172,000.

Commissioners first considered the upgrade in December when Heinrich Downes, with the sheriff’s department, presented the recommendations of the Courthouse Security Committee. He explained the project would standardize all county-controlled video systems to operate on a one-user platform, and the system could be monitored remotely.

The committee recommended a total of 11 buildings be included in the plan.

Commissioners took no action on the issue in December because there was a question as to whether Stanley was on state contract. That has since been resolved, prompting county officials to move forward.

Cost for the courthouse and JP offices is $81,000. Auditor Ann McCuiston said in December it will be covered by courthouse security funds and court security money assigned to each JP.

McCuiston said the $91,000 cost for systems at the remaining buildings would be covered by the general fund, and commissioners plan to budget for that in fiscal year 2015.

The county first started implementing pieces of a new courthouse security plan a year ago. In March 2013, the courthouse was closed after 5 p.m. and on weekends, and in May 2013, commissioners approved hiring additional security personnel to monitor hallways and help direct foot traffic at the conclusion of hearings.

The Courthouse Security Committee includes District Judge John Fostel, County Court-at-Law No. 1 Judge Melton Cude, Sheriff David Walker, Captain Kevin Benton and Chief Deputy Doug Whitehead. The late County Judge Bill McElhaney was also a member.

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District Clerk Records filed January 2014

ACCOUNTS, CONTRACTS, NOTES

Amy Snider and Kenneth C. Snider vs. Cypress Texas Lloyds

Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. vs. Christopher J. Peel

The Sherwin-Williams Co. vs. David A. Fowler aka David Fowler

Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance Inc. vs. Deyone D. Sparkman

AAA Well Service LLC vs. Foxborough Energy Co. LLC

Green Tree Servicing LLC vs. Robert Deering and Marsha Deering

Prospera Cos. Inc. and 287 Place LP vs. A. Ary Co.

INJURY OR DAMAGE – MOTOR VEHICLE

Danny L. Beebe vs. Kenneth Dewayne Garmin, et al

Stacy Diante Otto and Gregorey A. Otto vs. Gurbaj Singh and Juan Najera

John Holden vs. Marci Gail Brease and Steven C. Holbrook

Gwen Wood, et al, vs. Ty Alexander Harris, et al

DIVORCES FILED

Jose Bernal Vera and Tammy Sue Vera

Areli Rodriguez and Cesar Rodriguez

Jonathan Eric Jordan and Shelli Lynn Jordan

Alexis Jordan Hackfeld and Brady Wayne Hackfeld

Julie Beth Landers and Randy Dale Landers

Billie Faye Martin and Rickey Dale Martin

Amanda Lynn Brown and Michael Dale Brown

Robert Allen Koger and Katherine Ann Bailey-Koger

Beverly Denise Harp and Martin Evan Harp Sr.

San Juanita Guadalupe Tabares and Victor Tabares

Jason Brian Harrell and Christy Renee Harrell

Janice Marie Holbert and Harley Michael Holbert

Lisa Anne Watkins and Matthew Randolph Watkins

Mindy Kay Annunziato and Frank Anthony Annunziato

Sarah Danille Beck and Justin David Beck

Albert Jo Qualls and Randy Warner Qualls

Daniel Lee Thomas Underwood and Cyndell Rae Underwood

Teresa DeJesus Galindo and Sergio Galindo

Crystal Kay Smith and Jeffrey Scott Smith

John Paul Ary and Stephanie Rae Ary

Michael Jeffrey Rayford and Stephanie Christene Rayford

Tyler James Tolbert and Felicia Nicole Canchola

Gregory Franks and Amy Franks

Shanna Lanece Whitaker and Daniel Wayne Whitaker

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Youth Fair workout

Youth Fair workout

Despite living much of their lives inside barns and pens, the animals bound for the Wise County Youth Fair undergo a more rigorous exercise regimen than most people.

“Sometimes they look really tired after the treadmill,” said Shelby Drews.

The 17-year-old junior at Decatur High School has been taking care of a small flock of sheep she’ll be showing at next week’s Youth Fair. As the treadmill spins, one of Drews’ sheep marches along, picking up the pace as she slowly increases the speed of the machine.

High on the Hog

HIGH ON THE HOG – Parker Griffeth and Caylla Cotten stroll behind a pig at the Decatur High School ag barn Friday. The hog will be one of many animals shown at the Wise County Youth Fair next week. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“I’ll put them on the walker for about 20 minutes,” she said. “Then they’ll run on the treadmill for about five minutes. And sometimes I’ll let them run up the hill.”

Before the animals ever make their way into the dusty show arenas from Decatur to Houston, their caretakers have spent months getting their beasts into shape.

Caylla Cotten and Katarina Scoma, a senior and freshman, respectively, at Decatur High School work daily to get their hogs the best physique possible.

“You have to walk them every day,” Scoma said as she softly swished a whip against Babe’s side, leading him around a little arena in the ag barn.

Scoma lives in a subdivision that doesn’t allow swine. But thanks to the high school ag barn, she and many other students still have a chance to raise these animals.

“I love animals,” she said. “And I thought this would be a great experience and helps teach responsibility.”

The diet is just as crucial as the exercise.

“The front legs on Babe are a little small so I have to give him the correct food for muscle growth,” Scoma said. “Feeding them correctly is a real art.”

“You want a nice line down the middle of their back,” Cotten said. “The judges will be looking at the ham in the back and strong legs in the front. You don’t want them to have a low gut.”

This will be Cotten’s second year showing pigs at the Youth Fair. She admits after spending so much time raising these animals it makes her sad when they finally go to market.

“I remember watching him walking up the ramp and into the back of the truck,” Cotten recalled from last year. “I cried for three hours.”

“I’m probably going to cry, too,” Scoma said. “I probably shouldn’t have named him.”

When she approached the pen Friday morning, the 215-pound hog stuck out his tongue, and then showed off a bottom row of teeth.

“I think my mom might cry more than I do when he finally goes to market,” Scoma said.

Even though these projects are kept at the school, preparing for Youth Fair is oftentimes a family affair.

“My family comes up here, and we spend a lot of time together taking care of them,” Drews said.

Animals aren’t the only show in town. Decatur ag teacher Joey Brooke has been working with some students for almost a year rebuilding a 1955 John Deere 40 tractor. Juniors Scott Gogniat, Jake Cobb and Cody Reed have invested more than 600 man hours de-constructing, refurbishing and rebuilding the antique tractor. They started working on it last May.

“We cranked it up for the first time yesterday,” Reed said. “It was a good feeling.”

Now, after months of early mornings and late nights, students hope their efforts and exercises are enough to win at the Wise County Youth Fair next week.

WINTER WEATHER RETURNS FOR FAIR

Bring out the hats and coveralls. Old Man Winter will again sweep across Wise County just in time for the 2014 Youth Fair.

A cold front is expected to blow through Sunday afternoon dropping temperatures into the 30s and bringing with it light freezing rain and drizzle.

Exhibitors will wake up to temperatures in the 20s Monday morning, and the high isn’t expected to get out of the 30s.

Evan Culpepper, Youth Fair board president, said he’s hoping the roads don’t get icy.

“We can’t move a show to a different time because we don’t have that much flexibility,” he said. “The shows will be at the times they are posted unless the judge can’t show up.”

He said no shows would be canceled, but they might delay the start of some if roads are deemed treacherous.

It could be an issue for the broiler and horse shows, both of which start early Monday morning. Twenty-degree temperatures are also expected Tuesday morning, but there’s no precipitation in the forecast. “I’ve just been telling everyone to bundle up!” Culpepper said.

The Youth Fair kicks off Saturday night with the Queen Contest starting at 7 p.m. at the Women’s Building on the Wise County Fairgrounds. Livestock shows start Monday and continue throughout the week. Youth will also be participating in food competitions, arts and crafts, clothing, photography and ag mechanics contests.

A complete schedule ran in this week’s All Around Wise. It can also be found online at www.wcyouthfair.org. Watch Update next week for a daily list of events.

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Primary task: Vote Tuesday

After months of campaign pitches, candidates will now hear from the voters.

Election day for the Democratic and Republican primaries is Tuesday. Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (See below for polling locations.) Be sure to note that Precincts 2-7 and 2-8 will vote at a new location this year: Assumption Catholic Church, 1305 S. Deer Park in Decatur. Also, be sure to bring a photo identification.

Early voting ended Friday with a total of 2,311 ballots cast. That is up from the 1,869 early votes from the primary elections four years ago. This year’s total includes 2,156 votes in the local Republican primary and 155 votes in the local Democratic primary.

Local candidates on the Democratic primary ballot include the following:

County judge – James “Jim” Stegall

Precinct 4 commissioner – Kristina Kemp

Local candidates on the Republican primary ballot include the following:

District judge – John Fostel

County judge – Kyle Stephens, J.D. Clark and Keith McComis

County Court-at-Law No. 1 judge – Melton Cude

District clerk – Brenda Starnes Rowe and Callie Watts Manning

County clerk – Sherry Coursey Lemon

County treasurer – Katherine Canova Hudson and Daniel E. Rivas

Precinct 2 commissioner – Kevin Burns

Precinct 4 commissioner – Terry Ross, Gaylord Kennedy and David Stewart

Precinct 1 justice of the peace – Jan Morrow and Josh Reynolds

Precinct 2 justice of the peace – Terri Lynn Johnson

Precinct 3 justice of the peace – Mandy Hopkins Hays

Precinct 4 justice of the peace – Clay Poynor and Teresa Marney Graves

Other contested races include U.S. senator, District 13 U.S. representative, governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, commissioner of the General Land Office, commissioner of agriculture, railroad commissioner, Supreme Court chief justice, Places 6 and 8 on the Supreme Court and Places 3, 4 and 9 on the Court of Criminal Appeals.

The Wise County Messenger will hold an election-night watch party beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Messenger office located at 115 S. Trinity St. in Decatur. The public and candidates are invited. Refreshments will be served.

Results will be posted as they are available at WCMessenger.com, and full coverage of Tuesday’s election will be featured in the midweek Messenger on newsstands Wednesday.

POLLING LOCATIONS

PRECINCT 1-1
Decatur City Hall
201 East Walnut St., Decatur

PRECINCT 1-2
Ag Extension Building
206 S. State St., Decatur

PRECINCT 1-3
First Baptist Church
119 CR 2822, Slidell

PRECINCT 1-4
Masonic Lodge, 1st floor
147 CR 2640, Greenwood

PRECINCT 1-5
East Wise Fire Hall
107 CR 4421, Blewett

PRECINCT 1-6
New Fairview Community Center
Farm Road 407 E., New Fairview

PRECINCT 2-7
Assumption Catholic Church
1305 S. Deer Park, Decatur

PRECINCT 2-8
Assumption Catholic Church
1305 S. Deer Park, Decatur

PRECINCT 2-9
Alvord City Hall
215 W. Elm, Alvord

PRECINCT 2-10
Victory Baptist Church
4346 Texas 101 N., Sunset

PRECINCT 2-11
Crafton Baptist Church
Fellowship Hall
2590 FM 2127, Crafton

PRECINCT 2-12
Chico Public Library
106 W. Jacksboro, Chico

PRECINCT 4-13
Bridgeport High School
One Maroon Drive, Bridgeport

PRECINCT 4-14
Lions Hall
1107 8th St., Bridgeport

PRECINCT 4-15
Norma Coble Civic Center
51 Runaway Bay Dr., Runaway Bay

PRECINCT 4-16
Boonsville Community Center
West on Farm Road 920 off County Road 3743, Boonsville

PRECINCT 4-17
First United Methodist Church
Activity Center
302 S. Oak, Paradise

PRECINCT 2-18
Bridgeport Recreation Center
1102 Lawdwin, Bridgeport

PRECINCT 2-19
Lake Bridgeport Fire Hall
301 S. Main St., Lake Bridgeport

PRECINCT 3-20
Cottondale Community Center
161 CR 3571 off Farm Road 2123, Cottondale

PRECINCT 1-22
Ag Extension Building
206 S. State St., Decatur

PRECINCT 3-23
Boyd Community Center
420 E. Morton Ave., Boyd

PRECINCT 3-24
Newark Fire Hall
406 Hudson St., Newark

PRECINCT 3-25
Boyd Community Center
420 E. Morton Ave., Boyd

PRECINCT 3-27
Boyd Community Center
420 E. Morton Ave., Boyd

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E-cigs draw attention of kids, officials

Electronic-cigarettes, also called e-cigs, are battery-operated nicotine inhalers.

E-cigs work by burning liquid on a small heating element inside the smoking device. It creates a vapor that is inhaled and exhaled by the smoker, just like a regular cigarette.

The device creates no actual smoke or odor. It’s also absent of the tar and other dangerous chemicals present in conventional cigarette smoke.

No Vaping

NO VAPING? – Bridgeport ISD is looking at banning the use of e-cigs by anyone at all campuses. Some North Texas cities have placed bans on selling to minors or use anywhere else in town where smoking is prohibited. Proponents argue e-cigs help tobacco users quit. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The e-cig liquid comes in a dizzying array of flavors such as bubble gum, gingerbread, peanut butter cup, kettle corn and marshmallow. Only e-cig liquid that contains nicotine is illegal to sell to minors. But store owners can sell the electronic cigarette device and any of the flavors without nicotine to anybody if they choose.

Electronic cigarettes have gained in popularity as stores specializing in them continue to pop up across North Texas.

Use among young people is up as well.

“We don’t sell to kids, no matter what,” said Danny Cagle, “even though it’s not against the law.”

Cagle and his wife, Shirley, own Vapor-ettes Electronic Cigarettes store in Decatur. He believes the state or federal government needs to step in and create a law banning the sale of all e-cigarettes and e-liquid to minors.

Cagle stands by the e-cig and believes it has helped a lot of people quit using tobacco.

“I think it’s a very good product because it gets people off smoking and snuff,” he said. “That’s the object of this product. To help people quit smoking.”

“This is the new sexy,” said Jane Jones, an employee at Vapor-ettes. “The Marlboro man has died. It’s cool now to be seen vaping. And I’ve seen it get an 80-year-old man who smokes three packs a day to quit.”

Employee Katrina Williams said they add the amount of nicotine there at the store. There is a process whereby longtime or heavy smokers can whittle their daily intake of nicotine down to zero.

“A heavy smoker would start off with what we call a 24,” she said. “Then they might go down to an 18, and keep lowering their nicotine intake.”

“We’ve even had doctors send us some patients to try and help them quit smoking before an upcoming surgery,” said employee Linda Branscum.

Several North Texas cities have banned the sale of electronic cigarette devices or accessories to minors. Flower Mound’s city council approved a ban on Feb. 3, prohibiting minors from purchasing or possessing the devices and outlawing use of the product on any town property where smoking is prohibited. Lewisville, Rockwall and Murphy have all passed similar prohibitions.

Last month, the Bridgeport school board looked at adopting a rule that would prevent e-cig use by anyone at all campuses.

“We already have rules in place that don’t allow students or district employees to use them at school,” said superintendent Eddie Bland. “The only group not covered by it is visitors. The board could, if they choose, adopt a policy to prevent anyone from using them on campus.”

Bland has heard of the devices being used in other ways by minors than just smoking the liquids sold at stores.

“I saw a report where kids would put vodka in them,” Bland said. “It vaporized it sent it directly into the blood stream. They get hammered on it.”

Others have been known to put liquid THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in their e-cig device.

“It’s like anything else,” said Shirley Cagle. “It’s up to the parents to warn their kids about it being misused.”

There is still more research needed on the health effects of e-cigs, but the medical profession and scientists generally agree that e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco smoking.

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City, school ballots set

The filing period for May 10 city council and school board elections ended Friday.

Wise County voters will face choices in eight city council and six school board races this spring. Listed below are the candidates who filed for office. Entities holding special elections to fill vacancies can accept filings until March 10.

ALVORD CITY COUNCIL

Place 3 – Kirk Gibson (incumbent)

Place 4 – Debra McKelvain, Shane Raney, Lenda Barnes

Place 5 – Jim Enochs (incumbent)

ALVORD SCHOOL BOARD

Place 6 – Lex Williams, Tracy Barclay Parker, Lance Thweatt

Place 7 – Jeannette Ward (incumbent), Charles Neal Matthews

BOYD CITY COUNCIL

Place 1 – (no one has filed)

Place 2 – Tim Hammonds

Place 3 – (no one has filed)

Place 5 – (no one has filed)

BOYD SCHOOL BOARD

Place 1 – Rebecca Parr

Place 2 – Jake Tackett

Place 3 – Jana Tate (incumbent)

BRIDGEPORT CITY COUNCIL

Mayor – Kathy Kennedy, Corey Lane

Place 1 – A.Z. Smith (incumbent), David Correll

Place 2 – Calvin Coursey, Art Velasquez

Place 3 – Jimmy Meyers (incumbent)

BRIDGEPORT SCHOOL BOARD

Place 6 – Ken Kilpatrick (incumbent), Donald Majka

Place 7 – Marti Hines (incumbent), Robert Marlett, Steve Stanford

CHICO CITY COUNCIL

At-large (2 seats) – Karen Garrison (incumbent), Greta McDaniel

Partial term – Louise Gossett (incumbent)

CHICO SCHOOL BOARD

Place 6 – G.A. Buckner (incumbent), J.D. Coffman

Place 7 – Doug Bowyer (incumbent), Noel Ruddick

DECATUR SCHOOL BOARD

Place 3 – Jim Lamirand, Pete Rivera, Ricky Stutt

Place 4 – Jeff Alling (incumbent), Charles Ross

DECATUR CITY COUNCIL

Mayor – Martin Woodruff (incumbent)

Place 1 – Carmelina Holloway

Place 3 – Cary Bohn (incumbent)

Place 5 – Jay Davidson (incumbent)

NEWARK CITY COUNCIL

Mayor – Darla Loggains

Place 1 – (no one has filed)

Place 2 – Doug Anderson (incumbent)

Place 3 – Linda Anderson (incumbent)

Place 4 – (no one has filed)

NORTHWEST SCHOOL BOARD

Place 5 – Devonna Holland (incumbent), Jerry Burkett

Place 6 – Kristi Wade, Edward Mergenthal, Lillian Rauch, Andrew Bennett, Stan Durham

Place 7 – Mel Fuller (incumbent), Doug Smith

RHOME CITY COUNCIL

Mayor – Louis Godfrey, David Wilson, Mark Lorance

At-large (2 seats) – Jo Ann Wilson (incumbent), Michelle Pittman (incumbent), Timothy Robison, Shawn Holliman, Jason Miller

RUNAWAY BAY CITY COUNCIL

Mayor – Robert Ryan (incumbent)

At-large (2 seats) – Neil Peters (incumbent), Kay Simmons (incumbent)

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County gets clean audit report

Wise County’s finances are in good condition, according to outside auditor Snow Garrett and Williams.

Kathy Williams, a representative of the firm, gave a report on the audit for fiscal year 2013 at Monday’s commissioners meeting and said the county is in good financial shape.

Capital assets, which includes land, buildings, roads, bridges, machinery and anything the county uses daily to function, showed a decrease of $2.1 million due to depreciation. In fiscal year 2012, capital assets were valued at $82.7 million and in fiscal year 2013, they dropped to $80.6 million.

Williams said the county’s major capital events in FY 2013 included completion of the Weatherford College Wise County building, road and bridge work, radio tower construction, purchase of a mobile command post and numerous vehicles for various county departments.

She said the county’s debt is also down. In fiscal year 2012, debt stood at $36 million and in FY 2013, it was at $33 million.

Total assets for fiscal year 2013 were at $21.1 million, and total liabilities were $3 million.

The county’s revenues in FY 13 were $50 million and expenditures were $52 million, reflecting a $1.6 million deficiency before financing from outside sources such as transfers, grants and the sale of capital assets.

Public safety accounted for 32 percent of total expenses at $16.3 million, a $344,000 increase from fiscal year 2012. The second largest category of expenses was public transportation at $12 million, which represents 23 percent of total expenses. It decreased $1.1 million from FY 12.

Williams also noted that the county received $1.1 million in federal grants during FY 13, most of which was Homeland Security Grant money. Those dollars were primarily spent on the mobile command post and radio project.

The county’s general fund closed fiscal year 2013 with $5 million in the bank, $2.8 of which is unassigned. This represents 9 percent of the total general fund expenditures and about 32 days operating expenses. The county has a goal of maintaining 25 percent in unassigned funds, which equals about three months of expenditures.

“Twenty-five percent is not a magical number,” Williams said. “There’s no set rule or anything, but it’s pretty standard.”

In other business, commissioners:

  • accepted donations including $263.82 on behalf of Cans for Canines and an anonymous donation of $3,850 to cover the Sheriff’s Office annual banquet;
  • accepted the final plat and granted a variance for the drainage study for Dauenhauer Estates, lots 1-4, block 1 in Precinct 3;
  • accepted a bid from Donald R. Brown for Suite 9632 in Runaway Bay, which has been struck from the Wise County tax roll;
  • approved a proclamation declaring March 16-24 Poison Prevention Week in Wise County; and
  • approved the designation of Assumption Catholic Church in Decatur as a polling place for voting Precincts 2-7 and 2-8.

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Ross seeks jury trial

Suspended Precinct 4 Commissioner Terry Ross is seeking a jury trial instead of a summary judgment in the civil suit regarding his removal from office.

Terry Ross

Terry Ross

Ross’ attorney, David Fielding, on Monday filed a response to the motion for summary judgment, which Wise County Attorney James Stainton had filed in the 271st District Court.

Fielding says in the response that the motion raises the following question: Can a county commissioner be removed from office for “official misconduct” without a jury trial when he was not convicted of “official misconduct,” but instead has pleaded guilty to a lesser offense?

Ross pleaded guilty Sept. 23 to abuse of official capacity, a misdemeanor, which was tied to the construction of a playhouse for his grandchildren in the Precinct 4 barn. Two felony charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement, which gave him $500 restitution and 180 days in jail, probated for one year.

In an amended petition for removal filed in October, Stainton says Ross’ guilty plea and misuse of government property “constitutes official misconduct,” which can result in removal from office according to Local Government Code 87.013.

The code says “conviction of a county officer by a petit jury for any felony or misdemeanor involving official misconduct operates as an immediate removal from office ”

Although Ross was not convicted by a jury, Stainton’s motion contends the guilty plea is enough to warrant the removal.

In the response filed by Fielding, Ross says when negotiating with the prosecutor last fall, he was “informed there was no evidence of the commission of any felony, and that if he accepted a plea bargain to the misdemeanor charge, he would be allowed to continue to hold public office.

“In fact, he engaged in negotiations with the prosecutor that, if successful, would have resulted in his reinstatement with full back pay at the time of his conviction,” it says.

Fielding says in his response that a respondent, in this case Ross, “should not be deprived of his day in court if there is the slightest doubt to any of the issues” … in the motion for summary judgment.

Ross, who has been suspended from office since August 2012, is seeking re-election in the March 4 primary. His opponents are Gaylord Kennedy and David Stewart. The winner of the Republican primary will face Democratic challenger Kristina Kemp in the November general election.

On March 19, District Judge Roger Towery is scheduled to hold a hearing for the motion for summary judgment. If Ross is removed from office, whether by Towery or jury trial, it will be for the duration of his current term only. It does not affect a new term if he’s elected or prohibit him from running again.

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Wise County Sheriff’s Posse seeks a deal

Wise County Sheriff’s Posse President Russell Stephens and attorney Frank Newman stood before county commissioners Monday hoping to strike a deal.

They left empty-handed.

The Posse continues to seek reimbursement from the county for the buildings and improvements the group has made over almost 60 years to the Wise County Fairgrounds.

The group had leased the 15-acre property from the county for $1 per year since 1955. But last September, the late County Judge Bill McElhaney told commissioners the county could no longer offer multi-year renewals.

The commissioners appointed a committee to oversee the transition, and intense negotiations – mostly private – followed. On Nov. 11 the county gave the Posse a Dec. 1 deadline to turn in the keys and schedule book.

The Posse moved its office and removed its locks from the property Dec. 2 – but it’s not over.

Newman reminded commissioners that an appraisal of the buildings at the fairgrounds, conducted at the Posse’s request, valued the facilities at $1.6 million. He said it was suggested that the county pay $1.2 million.

“I see a number of different possibilities to resolving this,” he said. “I can throw out some alternatives if the commissioners court wants to hear them.”

Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White urged him to proceed.

“There’s the outright purchase,” he said. “We have a thought that we’d like to continue the activities of the Posse, but we need land to do that on. We’d be glad to consider some sort of purchase of the improvements in land and money perhaps.

“I think this horse has left the barn, but the idea of entering into another lease, that’s certainly open to us,” he said.

White asked why the county’s offer to allow the Posse continued use of the grounds was not acceptable.

“That was our offer in the very beginning … to let them have … every event they would like to schedule,” he said.

Newman said under the old lease, the Posse kept the schedule book for the facility and they want to “maintain that flexibility.”

“The power. You want to maintain the power of it,” said White.

Newman said the Posse “had a few money-making events and that money has always been spent on kids and rodeos, things like that.”

Citizen Richard Pietila of Decatur interrupted.

“… as a person who buys and sells property all the time, if you put permanent infrastructure on my property, either it’s renewed or you get nothing. Nothing.

“It was lost, and you deserve absolutely nothing,” he said. “If you want to sue this county, go ahead. You’re going to get nothing.”

White again expressed frustration that the Posse seems to be the only group with which commissioners can’t seem to get along.

“I don’t understand why we’re having an issue with the Sheriff’s Posse when we’re not having an issue with anyone else,” he said. “Just because we took over the scheduling book?

“I’ve heard the term that we ‘ran them off’,” he said. “No, we did not. Their lease expired.”

Newman admitted the property did belong to the county, and commissioners had the right to lease it out to any group they choose.

“Our preference would be to have our own land where we can build our buildings and have control over that just as you have control over the fairgrounds,” he said.

Stephens said county officials first told them nothing would change other than the county would assume responsibility for the maintenance and utilities.

“By the second meeting, we started having differences because the county couldn’t do maintenance if they didn’t have the property,” he said. “The Posse has been there 60 years. They’ve done the improvements with the help of the community, not tax dollars, and we were OK with that. We were going to go forward with that.”

Stephens recalled the day he removed the Posse’s belongings from the office at the fairgrounds and expressed frustration that the county turned off the group’s electronic sign.

“This negotiation has went south since it started,” he said, “and the way the Posse feels is we aren’t wanted down there – plain and simple. For whatever reason, whether it be me or another member, I don’t know. That is the way the Posse feels. We’re not welcome. We’re not wanted.”

White disagreed, insisting Posse members were told from the beginning that the county would take over not only maintenance and utilities, but the schedule book.

Newman said both groups should move on.

“All those discussions are in the past, and we find ourselves where we are right now,” he said. “We’re ready, willing and eager to discuss any way the court would like to resolve this.”

White said he remained in favor of allowing the Posse to have their events at the fairgrounds – free.

“If you do that, what kind of bad blood does that represent?” White asked. “‘Bad blood’ would be ‘Get your stuff, get out and bye-bye.’ We never told them that.”

Precinct 3 Commissioner Harry Lamance said he didn’t think the county could move forward with any negotiations until it had its own appraisal conducted.

Wise County asset manager Diana Alexander said they have requested an appraisal by the Texas Association of Counties and are awaiting its completion.

“It doesn’t matter what the property is worth,” said Burns. “The lease is up.”

Newman reminded them that under the terms of the lease, improvements on the grounds are the Posse’s property. He asked if they could meet again after the county’s appraisal is complete, and they agreed.

Lamance had questions about the lease and suggested further study, but Burns had the last word.

“This court cannot bind any future court to any sort of agreement past this group of guys right here as mandated by the Texas Constitution,” he said. “So whatever he has in his hand is a worthless piece of paper when we get to the courthouse.”

Newman and Stephens departed with no further discussion.

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