Posted by : admin | On : December 9, 2013

Library Polar Express2

By Tracy Martin
The News Correspondent
ATHENS-From a field of six applicants, Rachel Cox was selected as the new head librarian at the Clint W. Murchison Library in Athens. Henderson County Library Advisory Board members chose Cox and county commissioners approved their choice during their regular Dec.3 meeting.
Cox graduated with honors from Eustace High School in 2002, University of Texas-Tyler and received her masters in library information science from the University of North Texas.
Board chairman Terry Warren says it was her breadth of experience at other libraries and sterling recommendations that put Cox at the top of the list. “Rachel worked in California and New Jersey, both libraries told us about the great work she did implementing new programs as an assistant librarian.” Warren said. “Both [libraries] said they’d love to hire her back.”
After the resignation of Lorie Travi six weeks ago, the board started the search for a replacement, assistant librarian Erin Holyfield has been in charge during the interim.
Cox says she’s very excited and plans to bring some of the programs she started at other libraries to Athens, “I want to make the library a cultural center for the county and bring as many people through the doors as possible.”
Some of her plans include providing computer classes to teach basic skills, help with resume’ writing, a teen outreach program to bring more young people into the library and extending the operating hours.
Cox and the board are optimistic that getting the word out that the library is moving in a new user-friendly direction will increase traffic.
Work has been in progress to improve and update the look of the library, including outdoor tables, expanding the children’s section and the addition of eBooks.
The doors in the rear of the building are slated for replacement with handicapped accessible doors and more fundraisers are in the works.
Holyfield is organizing the Saturday free movie showing of “The Polar Express” in the children’s section and plans to stay on as assistant librarian.
Cox only recently moved back to Henderson County from New Jersey and plans to start her new role in the next few weeks.



Posted by : admin | On : November 15, 2013

Veterans Memorial 11 11 046 WEB

An estimated 1,000 people attend the dedication of the Henderson County Veterans Memorial Nov. 11 at the East Texas Arboretum in Athens.



Posted by : admin | On : November 15, 2013


By Tracy Martin
The News Correspondent

ATHENS–Old computers, broken televisions, mattresses, yard waste and junk were some of the items Athens residents got to freely dispose of Nov. 9.

Keep Athens Beautiful sponsors the event twice a year to assist residents with disposing their e-Waste and to promote recycling. Most of the broken equipment and electronics will be hauled off and recycled.

KAB director Carol Morton says it’s great to see the community participate.

“It’s an exciting day for us to see Athens come out and get rid of so much stuff. It keeps the city beautiful and keeps it (electronics) out of our local landfills,” she said.

The local fall clean-up day is part of the Texas Recycling Day and Keep America Beautiful initiative. Both events fall in mid-November and have been going on for more than 10 years.

The collections were accepted from 8 a.m. to noon, and hot dogs, snacks and drinks were free to all those making a drop. A second clean-up day will be held in the spring.



Posted by : admin | On : August 29, 2013


By Erik Walsh
The News Staff

ATHENS–Athens Hornets Head Coach Paul Essary is working hard to establish a culture of winning.
Now in his fifth year at the helm, Essary brought the Hornets to the playoffs three out of his four seasons.

When he was brought on board as the Athletic Director and Head Coach in 2009, the team made the playoffs two consecutive seasons. It was the first time in 51 years that a Hornet team made the playoffs back-to-back.

“I tell the boys that they are part of starting a tradition of winning at Athens High School,” Essary said. “One or two good years doesn’t start a tradition. It takes longer.”

If this year’s Hornets can make the playoffs, as they except to, a whole new class would achieve success after Essary’s arrival. It’s an important step in his vision.

“The most important part of winning is to get the kids to buy in and believe in themselves,” Essary said. “When it’s really become all about winning, losing is no longer an option. When this gets into a kids head, real results start to show. Winning is bigger than the individual. When the kids realize its important for the team, the family and the community, they finally start to believe in what they can do.”

Coaching well takes a high level of tenacity. Essary explains the difference between successful coaching and mediocre coaching.
“It’s hard to be a good coach. It’s easy to let the students slide on little things and not give their full effort. But how does that profit them? How does that profit the team? How would that reflect on me? It’s easy to not constantly demand they give their best effort and constantly reinforce it. The same with a coaching staff. It’s easy not to demand their best. But when you do, it forms a culture of winning.”

According to Essary, a culture of winning will field well-prepared teams that come ready to play at their highest level each week. They may not always win the game, but it won’t ever be because they didn’t give 110 percent.
“I tell kids when they give all they have they are getting close to what it takes to win. Once they give everything, they need to give just a little bit more to get there.”

That little bit more can be the difference between a win and a loss. Essary says that when the whole team gives all they have, plus more you will no longer beat yourself. This forces a good team to play its best to win.

“We do not accept losing here,” Essary said. “Losing means we caused the loss. Getting beat, however is a different story. If we are well prepared, played our best, but the other team is just better, we can accept this kind of loss.”
“We want to be a team that does not lose, that forces other teams to beat us.”

Essary knows that some days students, and even coaches, don’t want to work hard. But it’s those days when it is more important to push through to success.

“I tell them there will be days when they have a family and they may not feel like getting up to go to work. Who’s going to feed their family then? They will need to get up and do it anyway. I teach the boys that lesson here and now.”



Posted by : admin | On : August 29, 2013

By Tracy Martin
The News Correspondent

ATHENS-Henderson County fire marshal Shane Renberg asked commissioners Aug. 27 to consider taking the burn ban a step further, banning both fire works and outdoor welding. “People are following the burn ban, we’ve had fewer grass fires and issued fewer citations, but fires are starting from people setting off fireworks, and one grass fire started from just a few welding sparks,” he reported. “We’re getting complaints all over the county about fireworks, but can’t do anything more than ask them to stop.”
Halting the use of fireworks can happen if an emergency declaration is issued. The current burn ban continues through Tuesday, Sept. 3, but commissioners do not meet until the following week, which could allow the ban to expire.
County Judge Richard Sanders plans to stay in contact with updates from Renberg and has the authority to either extend the ban or declare an emergency to further limit what can and cannot be burned.

Fireworks are not included in the parameters of the current burn ban and can only be banned under an emergency declaration.
According to the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, a model measuring moisture in the ground and plants and used to predict the likelihood of wildfire, Henderson County’s western portion rates a 724 out of 800, signifying a complete absence of moisture. The eastern portion scales at 624.

On Sept. 4, 2011, over the Labor day weekend under similar conditions, a fire started in Bastrop County which burned 35,000 acres, destroying 1,645 homes and killing two people. With drought conditions close to the extreme, officials are urging caution.
In other business, commissioners:

• acknowledged the appointment of Carolyn Tyler as the new 4-H County Extension Agent. Tyler holds a B.S. from Texas A&M and will develop and implement education programs.
• agreed to contract revisions and renewals with United Healthcare for group healthcare and choice silver benefit plan.
• approved the hiring of a part-time medical technician, to fulfill insurance requirements preparing medications for inmates, now required because the inmate population exceeds 350. Current inmate population is 373, of which 104 are from Smith County, housed while a new jail construction project is underway.
• revised the county personnel policy manual.
• renewed a contract with U.N.T. to allow historic data to be collected, scanned and made available to the public. Some records date back to the 1800s.
• accepted the price of $5,000 for a lot in Willowwood in Gun Barrel City, Precinct 2, as a resale deed.
• set a public hearing for 9:30 a.m. Sept. 17, to consider a speed limit of 35mph on a section of CR 4530 in Precinct 3, as requested by local residents.



Posted by : admin | On : August 1, 2013

Arson fire Crescent Heights 010-2

By Tracy Martin
The News Corespondent

CRESCENT HEIGHTS-Around 2 in the afternoon July 24, a 12-year-old girl allegedly started a fire that destroyed her family’s home. Sources and witnesses spoke with The News about the fire, but will not be named to guard the identity of the juvenile. It took mere minutes for the fire to spread from room to room. The child’s mother attempted to put the fire out, while trying to get two other children out of the mobile home.

She was one of five treated for smoke-inhalation, including three firefighters who required medical attention due to the extreme heat and smoke. Two other residents of the small mobile home park needed hospitalization, one wheelchair bound, another with emphysema and high blood pressure.

The home was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived from Malakoff, North 19, Trinidad and Southside, two mobile homes on either side were saved because of the efforts by these fire departments. Had the fire not been contained, witnesses say three or four other residences could have been destroyed. They told firefighters how thankful they are for the saving of their homes. Bob Norris with North 19 fire and rescue says it was an incredibly hot fire. “The biggest concern was the proximity of the other homes and getting people away from the fire and heat. The smoke was very dangerous for everyone near the fire,” he said.
Henderson County Fire Marshal Shane Renberg was immediately called to the scene when arson was suspected. “It is always a delicate investigation when dealing with a juvenile and a serious crime like arson, especially when victims and firefighters battling the fire suffered injuries,” Renberg said.

One source told The News the mother had been dealing with behavior issues with the child, including treatment and medications, the 12-year-old attended school and is described as being a sweet, pretty girl. Renberg transported the child from the scene to a juvenile detention facility in Anderson County, where she is being held, undergoing evaluation and facing felony charges of arson to a habitation with injuries.

The family is described as hard-working and had purchased the mobile home after renting it and had been doing renovations and making improvements. The home is a total loss, and the family did not have insurance. The Red Cross provided emergency aid and temporary accommodations. Sources say the mother, father and three children had recently gone on a family vacation and are devastated by the fire and charges their little girl now faces.



Posted by : admin | On : July 13, 2013

Help Center

By Erik Walsh
The News Staff

ATHENS–The Henderson County Help Center has been helping residents in their time of need for more than a quarter century.
The Help Center originally got its start in 1987 as a place where local churches could organize and track where resources were going. Executive Director Leslie Saunders explained.

“There was some overlap on where some of the churches were dispensing funds,” she said. “The Help Center assisted in preventing the same people from going from church to church – making their rounds and starting over again at the first church.”
More than simply preventing potential abuse, the purpose of the Help Center was to find out why people needed help and assist them is becoming self-reliant.

In the early ‘90s, the Help Center finally found its home. First Baptist Church offered a very generous lease on a building at 309 Royal St. in Athenswhere it is to this day. The 99-year lease costs The Help Center a dollar.

“First Baptist has been a continued blessing to the county,” Saunders said. “They are still one of our biggest partners today.”

Another Help Center partner which has been there since the beginning is The United Way. In fact, in its origin the program was called “The United Way Help Center.” Today it shows its support through the United Way Help Line,a clearing house of available resources to individuals and families by locating a way to meet their needs. There is a screening process that includes documentation. Residents may recieve financial aid in dire circumstances but ussualy only up to three times, with six month intervils.

In some rare circumstances these rules can be breached, but the need and situation must be merited and urgent, Saunders said.
The Help Center offers many services including various forms of counseling including assistance to physically or sexually abused children, pregnant mothers, school children and new parents.
Other programs include:

• PEP (Pregnancy, Education and Parenting), a school drop out prevention program for pregnant or parenting teens. The program can provide transportation, life skills and day care.

• SAP (Student Assistance Program) provides therapy services to at risk youth at school campuses.

• CAC (Child Advocacy Program) works with law enforcement, child protective services, the District Attorney’s Office and medical and mental health professionals to assist children from suffering abuse.

• Heritage Keepers is an abstinence and life skills education class developed to equip and empower adolescents to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage.

For more information about The Henderson County Help Center call 903-675-4357 or visit their website at www.the



Posted by : admin | On : July 2, 2013


By Erik Walsh
The News Staff

ATHENS–There’s a new leader at the helm at the Athens Chamber of Commerce; and he sees a bright future with endless possibilities on the horizon for Athens and the Region.

Mark Rathe officially began his tenure as the chamber president June 3, and after a month, he has been busy instilling his vision of Athens to the community and its businesses.

Everybody knows Athens is already a beautiful place to live, work and play, and the region has all the building blocks to become an even greater regional financial center and hub.

“If you look at what we have in this region, it’s an incredible place. It’s on the cusp of outstanding growth,” he told The News.
Gesturing and counting off on his fingers, he counts the reasons.

“We have an airport with room to grow, a loop with tremendous development potential – how many cities our size have a loop? We have the beautiful regional lakes nearby and close proximity to Dallas, Tyler, Houston, Central and East Texas is a plus. There is also Texas Freshwater Fisheries and the East Texas Arboretum.”

One meeting with Rathe made it obvious why he was chosen by the Athens Chamber board to be its leader. The man brings a passion to his position with a clear vision and road map to get there. According to Rathe, the best way to get moving in the right direction is for everybody to be on the same page and working together. It shouldn’t be surprising that he explains this vision though imagery.
“You ever see a picture of Amish farmers working a field?” He asks. “There are many oxen working together to pull the farm equipment. With just one, that yoke isn’t going anywhere, but when they all work together, the job gets done.”

One of the things that attracted Rathe to the Athens Chamber post after he came here for an interview was the close proximity the chamber office is to other city organizations. The chamber shares an office in the Athens Partnership Center with the Athens Economic Development Corporation, the Small Business Development Center, Keep Athens Beautiful and the Department of Tourism.
“Just being so close to each other lends to collaboration,” he said.

Before taking the job in Athens, Rathe lived and worked in Tulsa, Okla. running the state Chamber of Commerce regional office for nine years. He met his wife, Alice, a native Texan while they both attended Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. They raised two boys, Andrew and Tyler, who are both attending the University of Oklahoma.

Now with parents aging, he and Alice decided relocation was important to be closer to family. His father lives in Houston and mother-in-law lives in Waco.

“I made it to Houston for Father’s Day for the first time since my college years,” he said. “Living in Athens makes the trip possible. I also made it to Waco for the wheat harvest at the farm a few weeks ago.”

“Athens is extremely convenient and central to Waco, Houston and Tulsa,” he said.

You can find Rathe hard at work in the Chamber office every day. The number is 903-675-5181.



Posted by : admin | On : June 21, 2013

Special to The News

The annual Fourth of July fireworks show at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) is coming up on Thursday, July 4. The show will last approximately one-half hour and is one of the biggest in East Texas.
The fireworks show is directed and produced by Alpha-Lee Enterprises, Inc., of Liverpool, Texas. The show is a Keep Athens Beautiful event.

TFFC will be open for regular paid visitation from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free admission for the fireworks show will start at 4 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to fish in the stocked casting pond while waiting for the fireworks, which will begin at dark. No license is required to fish, and bait and tackle are furnished for free. Fishing ends at 8:30 p.m., and the fireworks will begin approximately one-half hour later.

Food and beverages will be available for purchase, and people are encouraged to bring picnics. KCKL (FM 95.9) will broadcast patriotic music during the show.

Pets, alcohol and private fireworks, including “snap caps” and sparklers, are not allowed. TFFC is a tobacco-free facility, and smoking or the use of tobacco products are not allowed on the premises. The public’s cooperation will be appreciated.
The fireworks show is sponsored and paid for by the City of Athens, local businesses and individuals.

Contributors include: City of Athens, The Cain Foundation, Charlie and Cindy Akins, First State Bank, Steve Sparkman, Athens Steel Building Corp., Lance and Kathryn Etcheverry, Carol and Pat Wallace, Dan and Kathleen Chaney, Stephen and Karen Jones, Ellen Key, Lake Athens Property Owners Association, Athens Marina LTD and other public-spirited individuals and organizations.
The event has become an area tradition, with many people dressing in red, white and blue in keeping with the holiday theme. Parking is available in the main TFFC parking lot and in an overflow parking area on Peninsula Point Road. Persons using the overflow parking area may enter through Gate C, which is across the street from the parking area.

For more information or directions call (903) 676-2277.



Posted by : admin | On : June 20, 2013

June 17 Athens fire

By Tracy Martin
The News Correspondent

ATHENS-Athens firefighters responded quickly to a house fire at 911 Cayuga Drive Monday afternoon. A passerby called in the fire after seeing thick, black smoke billowing from the home just after 4 p.m.

Athens Fire Chief John McQuery says flames were coming from the back of the structure and his men had to break down the locked front door. It took about 20 minutes to put out the blaze and clear the smoke.

Nine firefighters were involved, in full gear, using both the ladder truck and the pumper truck to extinguish the blaze.
McQuery reports the fire started in the back of the home, near the bedroom. The home sustained major smoke and water damage and the roof is completely destroyed.

The owner was away at the time and didn’t learn about it until the following day.
Athens Fire Marshall Ronnie Denton is conducting the official fire investigation. The home is not insured, the Athens Fire Department provided Red Cross contact information to the homeowner to help with any emergency needs.