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Chamber 2020 award winners recognized at banquet (GALLERY)

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IMG 8027ALTON PORTER | HCC Chamber Board Chairperson Carey Minter and Executive Director Liza Clark presented a Chairman’s Award of Excellence certificate to a representative of each member organization of the chamber.

By Alton Porter

Members of the Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce held their 2021 Membership Awards Banquet, themed “A Starry Night,” Tuesday, March 23, at which several chamber members, ambassadors, sponsors and volunteers were recognized for their support and service to the organization last year.

2020 chamber awards presented at the banquet included Volunteer of the Year to William Clark; Ambassador of the Year to Carolyn McKnight, Crockett Economic & Industrial Development Corporation executive assistant; and Director of the Year to Carey Minter, who is chairperson of the chamber’s board of directors and Houston County Appraisal District chief appraiser.

In addition, the chamber’s Citizen of the Year award went to Pastor Audice Leon Wallace, of Good Shepherd Fellowship Church and the Business of the Year award was presented to Good Shepherd Fellowship Church.

New chamber members Tiffany Wiggins-Blackmon of Crockett Printing, Chip Miles of Styles by Miles and Joshua Hamelinck of Hamelinck Guns each were presented a Rising Star award, a new chamber award that recognizes outstanding businesses that joined the chamber in 2020.

These award winners were also presented certificates of recognition Congressman Trent Ashby (R-Dist. 8) of the Texas House of Representatives.

A Chairman’s Award of Excellence, another new chamber recognition certificate honoring chamber members for their outstanding service and contributions to the chamber, was presented to representatives of each member organization of the chamber.

Minter also recognized former chamber board member and former Houston County Courier Managing Editor Toni Browning for the superb service and support she contributed to the chamber for many years before recently resigning from the chamber and Courier to relocate to Italy.

The banquet also featured chamber fundraising auctions, raffle drawings, dinner prepared by chef Margaret Broughton and her staff, a video presentation about the Covid-19 pandemic and Governor Greg Abbott’s response to it, a moment of silence for persons who were impacted by the virus, an invocational prayer by Pastor Darryl Bennett of Eastgate Family Church and live music performed by East Texas artist Levi Kitchen.

Crockett Medical Center was the event’s sponsor and the Piney Woods Leo youth organization, with advisor Ellen Brooks, served as event volunteers.

ALTON PORTER | HCC Chamber Executive Director Liza Clark presented the Volunteer of the Year award to William Clark.
ALTON PORTER | HCC Chamber Executive Director Liza Clark presented the Volunteer of the Year award to William Clark.
ALTON PORTER | HCC Chamber board member Leanne Henson presented the Ambassador of the Year award to Carolyn McKnight.
ALTON PORTER | HCC Chamber board member Leanne Henson presented the Ambassador of the Year award to Carolyn McKnight.
ALTON PORTER | HCC Chamber Executive Director Liza Clark presented the Director of the Year award to board of directors Chairperson Carey Minter.
ALTON PORTER | HCC Chamber Executive Director Liza Clark presented the Director of the Year award to board of directors Chairperson Carey Minter.
ALTON PORTER | HCC Chamber board member Greg Beaver presented a Rising Star award to Joshua Hamelinck.
ALTON PORTER | HCC Chamber board member Greg Beaver presented a Rising Star award to Joshua Hamelinck.
ALTON PORTER | HCC Chamber board member Greg Beaver presented a Rising Star award to Chip Miles.
ALTON PORTER | HCC Chamber board member Greg Beaver presented a Rising Star award to Chip Miles.
ALTON PORTER | HCC Chamber board member Andrea Hill presented the Citizen of the Year award to Pastor Audice Leon Wallace.
ALTON PORTER | HCC Chamber board member Andrea Hill presented the Citizen of the Year award to Pastor Audice Leon Wallace.
ALTON PORTER | HCC Chamber Board Chairperson Carey Minter and Executive Director Liza Clark presented a Chairman’s Award of Excellence certificate to a representative of each member organization of the chamber.

ALTON PORTER | HCC Chamber Board Chairperson Carey Minter and Executive Director Liza Clark presented a Chairman’s Award of Excellence certificate to a representative of each member organization of…

ALTON PORTER | HCC Chamber board member Carole Martin, right, presented the Business of the Year award to representatives of Good Shepherd Fellowship Church. Pictured, from left to right, are Najah Forehand, GSF Associate Pastor Ron Forehand, GSF Pastor Audice Leon Wallace and Martin.

ALTON PORTER | HCC Chamber board member Carole Martin, right, presented the Business of the Year award to representatives of Good Shepherd Fellowship Church. Pictured, from left to right, are Najah…

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Houston Countians urged to take broadband survey

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Broadband Graphic PixabayCOURTESY OF PIXABAY Broadband Graphic

By Alton Porter

An online survey is being conducted to determine the broadband internet needs of Houston County residents.

The survey is being put forth by Connected Nation Texas, a localized division of a national nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding access to broadband. It was launched in January and will continue into May.

County residents are encouraged to take the broadband survey.

Involved in the Houston County Broadband Initiative is the county’s broadband committee, which is comprised of local community leaders from various sectors with a common mission of enhancing broadband access, adoption and use throughout the county for the benefit of local residents and businesses.

With that goal, the committee is partnering with Connected Nation Texas and its “Connected Community” program to assess the present state of broadband in the county, establish a broadband planning process and address the county’s current and future broadband needs.

According to survey coordinators, in order to perform an assessment of Houston County’s current broadband environment, the committee members are surveying local residents, businesses and other organizations across the county.

Responses to the surveys will help them better understand the existing resources and capabilities available to support the access, adoption and use of broadband technology in residents’ homes and businesses.

After a structured evaluation of this assessment is completed, the committee and other survey coordinators will be in a position to develop appropriate action plans and projects to effectively improve the county’s broadband environment.

The results of the community broadband assessment and related surveys are planned to be shared with the public this summer, followed by additional work to develop a countywide action plan to address identified areas of need.

County residents’ participation in the appropriate broadband survey and overall support of the committee’s efforts are seen as very important in developing an accurate assessment of broadband availability and related needs in the county.

To take the survey as a resident, business owner or designated representative of some other organization, go online to https://www.myconnectedcommunity.org/houston-county/ and select the appropriate option.

Readers of this article are asked to share this information with peers and to encourage others to take the appropriate broadband survey.

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Houston County commissioners oppose being silenced

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IMG 7952ALTON PORTER | HCC Houston County Judge Jim Lovell and county commissioners court members met in person and remotely via Zoom Tuesday, March 23. Above, from left to right, are Gary Lovell, Willie Kitchen, Judge Lovell, Gene Stokes and Jimmy Henderson.

By Alton Porter

Houston County’s commissioners, like other local government officials across the state, have taken a stand opposing being silenced by state officials.

The county officials adopted a resolution in opposition to Texas Senate Bills 10 and 234 and Texas House Bill 749, which they say introduce efforts to silence county officials. They took the action at a Houston County Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday morning, March 23.

“SB 10 is a bill that’s being introduced (in the Texas Senate),” said County Judge Jim Lovell in presenting the resolution to the commissioners—as are SB 234 and HB 749. “They (state lawmakers) word it as taxpayer-funded lobbying.

“But what it really is is we can’t join an association, such as Texas Association of Counties or County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, if they hire on their staff a lobbyist.”

Judge Lovell added, “Not only that. We can’t go to Austin as commissioners court or sheriff or any other elected official to (voice our positions) if a bill comes up that concerns county government and we want to go and testify before a committee or talk to our legislator and the county pay for it.

“So, this resolution is just a resolution saying that we oppose that bill.”

County Auditor Melissa Jeter pointed out that SB 234 and HB 749 are Senate and House bills related to SB 10.

The bills would “take your voice away from any unfunded mandates…,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Gene Stokes said.

“They forgot about the First Amendment, didn’t they,” added Sheriff Randy Hargrove.

Jeter noted, the Senate’s Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, is to hold a hearing on SB 10 Thursday morning, March 25. Persons who want to comment on the bill should contact the committee before the hearing.

It is “a community censorship bill that would prohibit a city or county from spending public funds to influence the outcome of legislation,” according to an interpretation released by the Texas Municipal League (TML).

“At the most basic level, S.B. 10 would prevent a city from hiring staff, contracting with lobbyists or other professional advocates, or joining associations like TML that engage in advocacy at the state capitol.

“Specifically, the bill would provide: ‘The governing body of a county or municipality may not spend public money or provide compensation in any manner to directly or indirectly influence or attempt to influence the outcome of any legislation pending before the legislature.’”

HB 749, also dubbed community censorship legislation by TML, “would: (1) prohibit a political subdivision from spending public funds to: (a) hire an individual required to register as a lobbyist for the purpose of lobbying a member of the Texas legislature; or (b) pay a nonprofit state association or organization that: (i) primarily represents political subdivisions; and (ii) hires or contracts with an individual required to register as a lobbyist.”

In addition, TML representatives note, HB 749 would: “(2) provide that if a political subdivision engages in activity prohibited by (1), above, a taxpayer or resident of the political subdivision is entitled to injunctive relief to prevent any further prohibited activity or any further payments of public funds; and (3) provide that a taxpayer or resident who prevails in an action under (2), above, is entitled to recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs from the political subdivision.”

SB 234 is a companion bill to HB 749.

In other business, the commissioners voted to accept as information the resignation of Bobby Hutcherson from the Houston County Emergency Services District No. 2 Board of Commissioners and to appoint Greg Brooks, of Belott, to replace Hutcherson on the ESD2 board. Hutcherson had served as vice president on the board.

In another action, the commissioners approved the holding of a county event and display permit for a Houston County Welfare Board and Kalin’s Center program and the adoption of a proclamation designating April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Houston County.

The program, promoting awareness of child abuse, will be held on the county courthouse steps April 9, beginning at 11 a.m., and the annual display of pinwheels and related items, intended to focus attention on such abuse, will remain on the courthouse grounds throughout the month.

The commissioners approved participation in a right-of-way/utility project on State Highway 7 at the Trinity River with the Texas department of highways, by passing a motion authorizing the signing of an affidavit, an agreement to contribute right-of-way funds and a resolution authorizing Judge Lovell to execute an agreement to contribute funds to the state for proper development and construction of the state highway system.

They voted to pass a motion on a request to approve a $1,000 donation from an anonymous donor to the Sheriff’s Office for Drug Awareness Resistance Education (DARE) expenses.

The commissioners approved acceptance of a donation of $9,284 in road materials from an anonymous donor for Precinct 2.

In another action related to the Sheriff’s Office, the commissioners approved a budget amendment request from the office for a vehicle replacement not to exceed $17,000.

They voted to approve selecting which vehicles or departments are to be included to determine costs for a possible lease program with Enterprise Fleet Management.

A motion to grant Piney Woods Fine Arts Association $1,000 from the county’s Hotel Occupancy Tax fund to help cover expenses for a Texas Tenors Concert scheduled Saturday, April 16, at the Crockett Civic Center carried on a vote taken by the commissioners.

A proclamation, designating April as County Government Month in Houston County and setting April 29 as the date for a county employees picnic was adopted by the commissioners.

Similarly, the commissioners adopted a proclamation designating April as Fair Housing Month.

A motion declaring a 2005 Precinct 2 pickup truck as surplus and authorizing advertising for the sale of the vehicle passed on a vote by the commissioners.

They approved District Clerk Carolyn Rains’ request for $100 for a change fund.

The county’s former office of courthouse security was designated by the commissioners as additional space for Precinct 2 Constable Kenneth “Red” Smith, and they authorized the making of necessary budget amendments related to the matter.

A motion to approve a contract with a company to haul and deliver road materials for Precincts 1 and 3 carried on a vote of the commissioners.

They discussed a completed renovation project at the Precinct 2 road and bridge office building, located at 601 Cedar St., half of it which is being offered by Precinct 2 Commissioner Willie Kitchen to be used for other county purposes. The commissioners voted to reimburse the Precinct 2 road and bridge budget with $24,210 from the county’s general fund for expenses incurred by the renovation project so that they can be used to fund road and bridge projects. The commissioners approved making necessary budget amendments for this matter.

They received as information a preservation/environmental testing report on the county courthouse presented by County Clerk Terri Meadows from G&H Environmental Consulting, LLC, and approved authorizing Judge Lovell to act on presented recommendations to make repairs to the courthouse.

The commissioners voted to authorize Judge Lovell to negotiate a possible real estate purchase.

And renewal of an insurance policy with Texas Association of Counties for property and mobile equipment was approved by the commissioners.

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Campbell wins elite bull riding event

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Boudreaux CampbellCOURTESY OF PBR Boudreaux Campbell

By Chris Edwards

KANSAS CITY, MO – For Crockett’s own Boudreaux Campbell, the hard work just keeps paying off in the form of shiny new buckles, prize monies and fame on the bull riding circuit.

Campbell, who is the reigning PBR (Professional Bull Riders) “Rookie of the Year” just won another highwater mark in his sport: the PBR’s annual “Unleash the Beast Caterpillar Classic,” which took place Sunday at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Mo., an elite event that a PBR news release referred to winning as “the bull riding equivalent to a walk-off grand slam.”

The 22-year-old Campbell has skyrocketed up in the world standings of bull riders from #53 to #14, trailing fellow East Texan Cooper Davis, from Jasper, out of a field of 45 top competitors. Davis placed second in Sunday’s event with 97 points, while Cambpell’s first place finish amounted to 143 points and a check for $27,636.74.

Since beginning his PBR career in 2018, Campbell has accumulated winnings of $541K and won three PBR events. His standings in the world-ranked bull riders last year were #3, and last year he won the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo Xtreme Bulls contest, among others.

Cambpell has been active in rodeos since the age of 4, when he started mutton bustin’, and since graduating from Lovelady High School in 2017, he has made a steady climb to the top of the professional rodeo world.

Cambpell went for a flawless three-for-three in the events that comprise the two-day “Unleash the Beast.” In round one, he had the second-best score of 88.5 when he rode Hard Shot. His results in round two put him atop the leaderboard when he made the 8 on Dr. Campbell for 86.75 points, according to the news release.

It was his ride atop the fierce bovine Woopa that gave him 95.5 points and put him where he needed to be in the overall standings for his sport.

Fans can watch all of the action from Unleash the Beast on RidePass, at RidePass.com or via the mobile app.

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Crockett burglary suspect arrested in Huntsville

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MUGSHOT CorleyMUGSHOT Castein Austin Corley

By Chris Edwards

CROCKETT – Crockett Police last week identified one of the suspects in a burglary that occurred earlier in the month.

According to a news release from CPD, a 20-year-old Crockett man, Castein Austin Corley, was arrested on March 12 by the Huntsville Police Department for warrants issued by CPD. The warrants were for Burglary of a Habitation and Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity.

The burglary Corley was named as a suspect in occurred on March 4 in the 500 block of Anson Jones and was one of several to occur at the home within the last few months.

Police say that suspects have taken in excess of $200K in cash and property.

Footage from the victim’s home DVR system allowed law enforcement to obtain videos depicting the crime as it occurred, and the videos are available on the Crockett Police Department Facebook page, as well as the Deep East Texas Crime Stoppers page. The footage shows four suspects making unlawful entry into the home through a window.

Both charges Corley faces are felonies, with the conspiracy charge a first-degree felony and the burglary a second-degree felony.

According to the investigators working the case, the investigation is still ongoing, with the arrests of the other suspects to follow.

CPD is asking the public to help with this case. Anyone with any information regarding the identity of the remaining suspects is urged to call the Crockett Police Department at 936-544-2021, or the Crime Stoppers tip line at 936-639-TIPS. Crime Stoppers tipsters can remain anonymous and can be eligible for a cash reward if information leads to an arrest.

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