News Staff Reports
HENDERSON COUNTY–Henderson County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Jannell Dunnington retired July 15 after serving the department for more than 21 years. She began her career with the department as a detention officer.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office said, “She has been an outstanding deputy and helped and touched many people throughout her career here. She will be missed by so many. Once again, thank you Deputy Jannell Dunnington for your outstanding and dedicated service to Henderson County.”
Posted by : July 21, 2016| On :
Posted by : April 28, 2016| On :
Rick Hirsch, 1965-2016, Texas A&M Extension Agent
By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff Writer
HENDERSON COUNTY–A beautiful spring day for Henderson County, Sunday was the day County Extension Agent Rick Hirsch died at his residence. All who heard of the longtime extension agent’s death expressed shock and grief. Hircsh, 51, is well-known in East Texas and elsewhere as he dispensed advice and information via a newspaper column, radio show and agricultural clinics, tours and seminars in his 28-year career.
A funeral service is to be held at 10 a.m. Thursday (today) at the First Baptist Church in Athens. located at 1055 S. Carroll Street.
Most recently, he organized a pasture tour, including a location on the shores of Cedar Creek Lake in late March. He served Henderson County from 1992 as its Extension Office Agent on behalf of AgriLife of Texas A & M University.
He is well-known for his support of youth agricultural projects (FFA & 4-H) and its students. The Athens FFA has opened a gofundme page to raise funds for his family. In its first seven hours, nearly $2,000 had been raised. The goal is to raise $25,000.
Terrie Echols writes: “So sorry for your loss. Rick was a great teacher, I learned a lot from taking his class. May God bless and comfort his family and friends.”
The Carroll-Lehr Funeral Home in Athens is overseeing the funeral arrangements. Members of the community are invited to share their stories, photos and remembrances of Rick to comfort the family on its website.
Rick Hirsch is survived by his wife, Bronte, a teacher in the Athens ISD, and three children.
Lorri and Harold Hawkins of Brownsboro state of Hirsch: “He was always there to help the community and especially the young people of Henderson County. Rick will be greatly missed.”
The Henderson County Master Gardeners extend their condolences, adding: “Rick was a respected and wise leader. We will miss his guidance and counsel.”
Chad Coburn, who judged many bovine exhibits with Rick writes: “I’ve had the privilege to judge cattle shows with Rick and serve with him on the Animal Industries Committee. I was shocked to hear the news.”
Gregg County Extension Agent Randy Reeves describes Hirsch as a great mentor. “We will all miss Rick. He was a great mentor to all of us and will be sorrowfully missed. Extension will never be the same with a great friend and co-worker called home.”
Co-worker Jo Petty Smith writes: “From the time I was a kid on the end of a show halter, to the time I was able to call him a co-worker, mentor and more importantly, a friend, I will cherish those memories and the laughs that he was surrounded by. I felt it a great honor to work with him and know him. Extension lost one of its finest agents.”
Among the many accolades and recognitions Hirsch garnered through his successful career, is the County Agent of the Year award bestowed by the Texas & Southwestern Cattlemen’s Association in 2012.
Athens ISD agricultural teacher Jeff Jones summed up best what many recognize on this sad occasion: “Mr. Rick Hirsch was a great friend and an outstanding person. Rick was an iconic figure in Henderson County, a truly good man and someone who helped thousands and thousands of people in our community and across the state of Texas.”
Posted by : December 23, 2015| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff Writer
ATHENS–With the closing of the election filing period for the March 1, 2016 Party Primary, a few key races have taken shape in Henderson County. The most prominent is that Republican Lance Gooden of Terrell is challenging incumbent Dr. Stuart Spitzer of Kaufman in a bid to regain a seat in the Legislature as Representative of District 4.
Judge Carter Tarrance announced in September he was not seeking reelection to the bench of the 392nd District Court. Two have filed for the seat: longtime family law practitioner Marianne Warren of Athens with 23 years experience and two-term D.A. Scott McKee are both seeking the Republican nomination. No Democrats have filed for the office. Mark Hall is the sole candidate for District Attorney.
In addition, County Attorney Clint Davis faces a challenger in the Primary from former officeholder James H. Owen.
Both County Commissioners have said they will not seek re-election. Keith Pryor and Ken Hayes have filed for Precinct 1, now held by Scotty Thomas, who has held the office for one term.
Commissioner Ronny Lawrence is stepping down after four terms in office. Four contenders have filed to take his place. They are Mark Tillison, Sammy Scott and Kevin Head of Murchison and Charles “Chuck” McHam of Chandler.The winner will face Democrat challenger Aleciah Joyce Sims in the fall.
All five constable offices are on the ballot. In Precinct 1 Kay Langford, an Investigator with the Sheriff’s office, is unopposed in the Republican Primary but will challenge incumbent Daryl Graham in November 2016.
In Precinct 2, Interim officeholder Mitch Baker, with his office in Seven Points, will face Danny Howard.
Precinct 3 incumbent David Grubbs of Brownsboro is unopposed.
Precinct 4 incumbent Rick Stewart is not seeking re-election. Former Constable John Floyd has filed along with Wilford “Wick” Gabbard for the Republican ballot.
Precinct 5 Constable Brad Miers is challenged by Eric Adair.
Tax Assessor Collector Peggy Goodall is running for her first full term in office after filling an unexpired term of Milburn Chaney in January. She is unopposed.
Statewide offices appearing on the ballot include eight Republican contenders and three Democrats for their party nomination for Railroad Commissioner. Places 3, 5 and 9 have drawn two challengers each for the Supreme Court on the Republican ballot. The winner will each face a Democrat opponent in November. Republicans are also competing for places 2, 5 and 6 on the Court of Criminal Appeals. Each winner will then face a Democrat candidate in the fall
Voters in Henderson and Van Zandt counties will see two filers for the 12th Court of Appeal, both unopposed for Place 2 and 3, on the Republican ballot.
Locally, District 9 of the State Board of Education has put up four Republican contenders, the winner of which faces a Democrat in the fall.
Posted by : December 9, 2015| On :
Rules for use of medicinal marijuana, body cameras, Internet publishing reviewed
By Russell Slaton
The News Correspondent
ATHENS–Henderson County Bar Association members were briefed about federal and state law changes at Athens Country Club Dec. 4. Some changes are already in effect, with others, soon to follow.
The legislative and legal overview was presented by Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee along with Assistant District Attorney and felony prosecutor Justin Weiner.
The DA and his assistant also brought Henderson County peace officers up-to-date during a four-hour seminar late last summer at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens.
McKee said concealed carry permits for handguns automatically convert to allow open carry Jan. 1, 2016. The majority of American states already allow open carry, Weiner said.
But along with the law are rules that need to be followed: besides a permit, the handgun must be carried in a belt or shoulder holster in plain view. Openly carrying handguns will be allowed in all places where concealed carry is currently condoned. A handgun can be exposed in a vehicle as long as it’s holstered, Weiner added.
“It will be interesting to see how this all (open carry) fleshes out,” Weiner said.
Carrying weapons at dormitories, classrooms and campus buildings at public colleges is allowed by the State of Texas as of Sept. 1, 2016, Weiner said.
Colleges are in the process of establishing rules about where exactly open carry is allowed, as well as where guns can be stored. “A lot of universities are scrambling to see what they can do,” Weiner said.
Another legal issue is synthetic marijuana. The prohibition is now based on specific chemicals instead of the previous legal standard of proving “mimics the pharmacological effect of real marijuana.” Vaping now has the same rules as cigarette sales which includes banning e-cigarette use in public places.
Legally prescribed medicinal marijuana is now legal in Texas for the first time, Weiner said, and has been since June 1. It’s available only for epilepsy patients, he said, and the prescription must come from two licensed doctors and be filled at a state-approved pharmacy.
The medicinal marijuana derivative must contain low amounts of THC, which is the psychoactive element of marijuana.
Another issue addressed by state legislators is body cameras for police officers. A Senate bill provides law enforcement $10 million in grant money to obtain the equipment, with each law-enforcement agency matching 25 percent of the grant. The provision kicks in Jan. 1.
McKee said Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt has already applied for grant money from the governor’s office. District Attorney McKee advised law enforcement to adopt body camera policies before allowing use.
So-called “revenge porn” became a criminal offense and can include civil penalties as of Sept. 1 of this year. The offense deals with using explicit images or videos online without consent. That is now a Class A misdemeanor, one step below a felony.
“Doxing,” or the Internet-based practice of researching and broadcasting personally identifiable information gleaned from private (as opposed to public) records without consent, also is a state no-no, as of Sept. 1.
McKee and Weiner also discussed a United States Supreme Court decision. Riley v. California, decided in summer 2014, ruled that cellphone searches were just as invasive as home searches and should be held to similar legal standards. Consent to search along with exigent circumstances, along with felony warrants, are exceptions to the rule. “Get a cellphone, get a warrant,” McKee said.
Posted by : February 8, 2013| On :
By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
County inmates will soon be serving the public by clearing fence rows at the Malakoff Historical Society and Museum.
Malakoff Historical Society Director Pat Issacson, is thrilled about getting the assistance.
“This is going to be so much help,” she said. “I am very excited.”
Issacson discussed the idea with The News just a few weeks ago while waiting for a “Friends of Malakoff” meeting at the Flag House to begin. Since then, Issacson made the calls and arrangements and put things into motion. Of course none of it would be possible without the help of county inmates and the approval of County Commissioners.
Issacson said no date has been assigned yet, and the workload is rather heavy, so it most likely will be taking several days to complete.
“There are a lot of fence rows to move,” she said “It’s hard to tell when it was last cleaned out. It’s been years. They are going to help move some big things in the house then do the work outside.”
The city of Malakoff also said it will assist in the effort.
“The city said if we get the fencing close to the road, they will haul it off for us,” Issacson said
After a day’s work is done, Issacson said there would be more opportunities to continue the clean up.
“If there is more that needs done (after the day is over), all I need to do is call them up and they will come out again,” she said.
Issacson expects it will take two or three days to complete all of the work.
Posted by : January 17, 2013| On :
By Erik Walsh
The News Staff
The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office will soon have quick access to its own armored vehicle.
Tuesday, County Commissioners approved the purchase of a BearCat, the same kind of vehicle borrowed from the Tyler Police Department in 2010.
The BearCat served Athens well when it was used to confront survivalist Howard Todd Granger in a four-hour police standoff, in October, 2010.
Granger fired about 100 rounds from an AK-47 at the armored vehicle before getting taken down by a well-aimed sniper round. Not a single round fired at the SWAT team penetrated the vehicle, including the windows.
Sheriff Ray Nutt argued that in an emergency situation, the three hours or more it takes to do the paperwork and get the vehicle from Tyler could cost an officer’s life.
“We have a great working relationship with Tyler,” Nutt said, “but if there is an injured officer we need the vehicle quickly to extract him before its too late.”
Nutt added that BearCats are even protected underneath from grenade explosions. The BearCat will cost $132,000.
The 2010 incident was not without financial consequence to the county. Henderson County paid a hefty bill to repair damage the vehicle.
Nutt told Commissioners the County could have its own BearCat by July, if approved now.
BearCat is an acronym, standing for Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Geeslin was vocal in his agreement.
“I think it’s a wise decision to invest in one of them,” he said.
Posted by : October 20, 2012| On :
Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace and Malakoff Municipal Judge Henry Ashford died today of an apparent heart attack, a county source confirmed.
There are no other details at this time.
Posted by : October 12, 2012| On :
By Michael V. Hannigan
The News Staff
ATHENS – Donna Johnson started out the 2013 Domestic Violence Awareness proclamation signing ceremony Tuesday afternoon with a simple request: “I want everyone here, if they themselves or a family member have been affected by family violence, to please raise your hands and keep your hands raised.”
The East Texas Crisis Center Director of Outreach then asked for anyone who had a friend, or associate at work affected by domestic violence to do the same thing. Then she asked for anyone who knew someone who had been affected by domestic violence to do the same thing.
By that time, it looked like every one of the nearly 100 gathered on the courthouse lawn had a hand raised.
“Domestic violence in Henderson County is so prevalent,” she said.
October is about becoming aware of the dangers of domestic violence and the resources available in the community for victims.
Posted by : October 11, 2012| On :
State Sen. Robert Nichols met yesterday with school superintendents from Cherokee, Anderson and Henderson counties to talk about education issues and the upcoming Legislative Session. I’m working on a story for next week, but two quick things I noticed: It looks like the meeting took place in Athens, and in the above photo distributed by the senator’s office, that’s Cross Roads ISD Superintendent Clay Tompkins (left) sitting next to Nichols.
— Michael V. Hannigan
Posted by : September 21, 2012| On :
By Michael V. Hannigan
The News Staff
ATHENS — Henderson County Commissioners’ Court approved the 2013 budget and tax rate Tuesday morning.
The tax rate remains the same at .472658 per $100 valuation.
The budget was set at about $33.7 million, which County Judge Richard Sanders said was around $1 million less than last year. These numbers do not include grants the county has received in the past, or expects to receive again in 2013.
“We did come up with a budget that did not increase taxes. I think that is very important in this day and time, with all the people who are hurting trying to make ends meet,” Sanders said.