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Lovelady Celebrates 150 years of history

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080422 lovelady celebrates 150

By Jan White
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LOVELADY – The City of Lovelady began as a fuel stop on the railway line of the Houston & Great Northern Railway.

The town was named after Cyrus Lovelady, an early settler in the area, from whom the land was acquired. In those days, cities became ‘official’ when the U.S. Postal Service established a post office.

On November 8, 1872, the United States opened its doors, officially proclaiming Lovelady as a certified town.

This is why, on August 13, the City of Lovelady will celebrate 150 years of small-town Texas history. The city plans to open its city hall to allow residents and visitors to view artifacts, pictures, books, and other memorabilia commemorating the municipality’s sesquicentennial.

Although Lovelady has the reputation of being a little one-traffic-light “if you blink, you’ll miss it’ town, it also has a notable historic significance. The Porter Place Ranch, founded in 1912 by V.H. ‘Hoyt’ Porter, was the setting for many of the outstanding photos taken by his son in law, the late Guy Gillette.

Gillette, a local historian, spent many summers at the ranch with his wife Doris Porter Gillette and their two sons.

Gillette’s historic pictorial chronicled all the aspects of small-town life – activities such as church socials, homecomings, dinners on the ground, barbershops, Bible school, and other pursuits enjoyed by family and friends. A Family of the Land: The Texas Photography of Guy Gillette was a coffee-table book by Andy Wilkinson, showcasing some of Gillette’s outstanding photos.

Native Lovelady resident, Howard A. Wooten, went to Prairie View College on a football scholarship, but aviation was his passion. In 1940, Wooten dropped out of college to enlist in the U.S. Army and rose swiftly through the ranks, becoming a Staff Sergeant in the 46th Field Artillery Brigade by January 1942. Wooten applied to the Army Flight School at Tuskegee, Alabama. Wooten was assigned to several fighter pilot groups and was one of a select group of pilots who trained to fly North American B-25 Mitchell bombers, but the war ended before he and the rest of his group were sent overseas.

Wooten lost his life, not during combat, but several years later when he fell from a scaffold while painting the 12th Avenue Bridge in Seattle. It was decades later that Wooten was memorialized by the U.S. Air Force when they used his pilot’s photograph to represent the famed Tuskegee Airman and later adopted as the official image of the Tuskegee Airmen Foundation.

Lovelady is also known as a popular country music venue in East Texas. It wasn’t unusual for locals to hear music rocking the rafters at the old school gymnasium on weekends. Notable country music singers like Carl Acuff, jr., Hank Thompson, Johnny Rodriguez and Moe Bandy have played at the gym. “It’s a wonderful place to play,” Bandy said. “The folks are enthusiastic and you always leave with a wonderful feeling in your heart.” Lovelady is also proud to boast that Cody Johnson performed at the gym on his way to stardom.

When the old gymnasium began deteriorating, the 1952 valedictorian of Lovelady High School, Norma Dell Jones, led the charge to put together a restoration effort to save the gym. Thanks to their efforts, the venue is still used for local events like weddings, church gatherings, and family reunions.

One of the newest editions giving Lovelady bragging rights is the Stesti Brewing Company. The family-owned and operated Czech-style brewery offers a variety of craft beers, and delicious food and frequently offers a venue for local and regional musicians to perform.

And who could forget Lovelady’s most popular event – the city’s annual Lovelday Lovefest. The Lovelady Lovefest got its roots (pardon the pun) from an idea conceived by the Lovelady Civic Club, formerly the Lovelady Garden Club. The Garden Club was formed by a group of ladies interested in beautifying their beloved town. For several years the Garden Club’s main goal was to plant sustainable landscape plants and maintain the property next to the railroad tracks. After losing some of its founding members, the Lovelady Garden Club changed its name to the Lovelady Civic Club and shifted its focus to finding ways to promote the community and draw more visitors to the area. Thus the creation of the Lovefest.

The festival features the crowing of the Lovefest Queen along with several days of carnival-style rides, games, and vendor and food booths designed to entertain the entire family. The Lovelady Lovefest is held annually in February.
The City of Lovelady invites you to help them celebrate at the reception held on August 12, at the Lovelady City Hall, from 2-5 p.m. Refreshments will be served, and visitors will have the opportunity to view historical photos and documents.

The city is also looking for the history of Lovelady’s founding families to display at the reception. If you have any photos or documents you would like to loan for the event, please contact Debbie Wells at the Lovelady City Office 936-636-7313.

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Workforce Solutions connects education, business

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072822 workforce solutionsTessa Easley, CTE teacher at Latexo ISD, participated in the Workforce Solutions Deep East Texas Teacher Externship program offered by Vulcraft Texas in Grapeland.

Special to the Courier

The second annual Workforce Solutions Deep East Texas Teacher Externship was held June 13-17, 2022, to highlight the skills necessary for success and the career opportunities across the 12 counties of Deep East Texas. Twenty-five businesses and 27 teachers from 11 Independent School Districts collaborated to better prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s workforce.

The focus was on high-demand occupations in Deep East Texas industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, professional and technical services and information technology.

“Currently there is a shortage of workers, and a skills gap has been identified by our region’s employers,” said Mark Durand, Executive Director of Workforce Solutions Deep East Texas. “The Teacher Externship was developed based on employer feedback to better connect the qualifications of students entering the workforce with the expectations of the workplace.”

The 27 career and technical education teachers were matched with 25 businesses for a week of learning, observing and job-shadowing. The teachers gained industry strategies for the classroom to help them inform, educate, guide and connect students to high demand occupations that match their skill sets.

The project is funded 100% with federal funds through a $58,112 grant from the Texas Workforce Commission.
State Representative Trent Ashby said, “This is really a model that should be replicated across the state of Texas. This is a true win-win when you can bring educators and employers from the private sector into a week-long environment where they are collaborating, working together and sharing information.

On the education side, for our teachers to be the best they can be in the classroom, they need to know what the expectations of the employers in their communities are. On the employer side, it’s very helpful for them to be able to provide that input to these educators about the type of skills needed in the workforce and to continue to align education with workforce.”

Ashby attended the debriefing session at the end of the week. He noted, “It’s very relevant to both parties that are involved. This is such an exciting program and I’m really delighted to see the legislature provide the funding to allow this type of collaboration and partnership to continue.”

Among the immediate positive outcomes from the experiences were: skill-specific lessons for the classroom, internships, job opportunities, mock interviews, employers speaking at schools, and student tours during the upcoming school year. Teachers also heard employers talk about the need for soft skills such as reliability, accountability, communication, empathy, attendance, professional behavior, listening, decision-making, productivity, and problem-solving. Soft skills, the key to workplace success, were also referred to as employability skills, work-readiness skills and job-readiness skills.

“As a result, the teachers have a better understanding of the high demand industries and the types of technical and soft skills needed for success in the Deep East Texas economy. The employers and local schools have strengthened their relationships,” said Mr. Durand. “On behalf of the local workforce development board, I want to express our appreciation to the employers who spent considerable time and resources to plan meaningful experiences for the teachers. We are equally grateful to the teachers who embraced the learning opportunity and devoted a week of their summer to the program.”

Participating Business Partners

Axley & Rode
Burns Forestry
Crockett Florist and Gifts
Crockett Medical Center
Crockett Veterinary Hospital
Lee Trans
Lincoln Lumber
Lockheed Martin
Louisiana Pacific Jasper OSB
Lufkin Gears
Marshall’s Tax and Business
McWilliams & Son
Polk County Sheriff’s Office
Sabine County Hospital
Spirit Outfitters
St. Luke’s Health Memorial
STI Group
Third Day Farm and Ranch
Timberidge Nursing and Rehab
Vulcraft Texas
Woodland Heights Medical Center

Participating School Districts and Teachers
Corrigan-Camden ISD – Tammy Farr, Phyllis Ortiz, Rayford Sweats
Crockett ISD – Chris Wilder, Rhett Wilson
Diboll ISD – Melinda Brasuell, Melissa Kaemmerling, Brenda Palomino, Clint Walker
Grapeland ISD – Shellee Goolsby
Huntington ISD – Michael Lantz
Jasper ISD – Allen Hadnot, Jimell Powell, Rachel Vickers
Latexo ISD – Tessa Easley, Larry Langford, Heather Mooneyham, Krystal Patterson
Lufkin ISD – Jennifer Free, Sonja Stephens
Nacogdoches ISD – Mary Sharp, Travis Squyres
Newton ISD – Andy Kibodeaux, Daniel Odom, Susie Osment, Sarah Trammell
West Sabine ISD – Tommy Jenkins

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Burn Ban continues during oppressive heatwave

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072822 burn ban

By Jan White
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CROCKETT – Houston County Judge Jim Lovell extended his disaster declaration and burn ban for Houston County at the regularly scheduled Commissioners Court meeting held on Tuesday, July 26. The current ban continues through August 9.

During the session, the Court approved the following motions:

•Hiring of a part-time equipment operator for Precinct 4.

•Declaration of Disaster and Order prohibiting outdoor burning issued by County Judge on June 22, 2022, and extended until August 9, 2022.

•Application request of the Hotel Occupancy Tax Fund and Interlocal Agreement with The Loft for the Jarrod Sterrett & The Hired Guns show, which takes place on Sept. 16.

•Expenditure of $3,200 from the Election Surplus Fund to purchase 4 ExpressVote printers for printing ExpressVote Activation cards and approval of Election Judge /Alternate Judges for the 2022-2023 election year.

•Accepting the certified appraisal roll from the Houston County Appraisal District and the total appraised, assessed, and taxable values as calculated by the Tax Assessor-Collector.

•Designation of Laronica Smith, Houston Co Tax Assessor/Collector, to calculate the no-new-revenue and voter-approval tax rate for Houston County for the 2022 tax year.

•Approval of a Houston County Airport hangar lease agreement with John Hudson. The court agreed to set a requirement of $5M in liability insurance and $2M for property insurance.

• Awarding a contract from received bids on the purchase of a used semi truck for hauling for Road & Bridge Precinct 3 toWoods Trucking in Huntsville.

The court also approved several road equipment purchases through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Grant Fund and accepted the donation of a desk from Daphne Session for use in the County Attorney’s office.

Meme Thomas from Perdue, Brandon, Fielder, Collins and Mott LLP gave a presentation on how the firm goes about collecting delinquent taxes and explained the breakdown of the percentage of delinquent taxes that have been collected.

In a special court meeting held on July 19, Commissioners voted on several purchases funded by American Rescue Plan Act Grant funds. These included purchasing an Emergency Management Mobile EOC diesel generator in compliance with noise interference with DPS, new utensils and cookware for the county jail kitchen and the purchase of a self-serve fueling terminal for the Houston County Airport to replace the outdated and unreliable current system.

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HCSO cadets take oath of office

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072122 HCSO New hiresPictured left to right: Chief Deputy Roger Dickey, Kasey Ballard, Gordon Denman, and Sheriff Randy Hargrove. Photo provided by Houston County Sheriff’s Office

By Jan White
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CROCKETT – On July 12, the Houston County Sheriff’s Office gave the oath of office to Kasey Ballard and Gordon Denman. These two were the first graduates from the newly created Houston County Sheriff’s Office Cadet Program.

Ballard, a dispatcher who had been with the office for over two years, and Denman, a jailer for two years and jail sergeant for one year, had expressed a desire to attend the law enforcement academy. But to do so would mean that they would resign their positions, lose their income, and upon completion, would be “up for grabs” from other agencies.

Because the Sheriff’s office had openings funded by their budget for deputies, they approached the Houston County Commissioner’s Court with the proposal to use some of their already-budgeted funds to start a Houston County Sheriff’s Office Cadet Program. The program would allow the Sheriff’s office to retain proven employees and fill the much-needed deputy positions. With the Court’s approval, Houston County will maintain a cadet program as long as there is a funded position. Candidates agree to a two-year commitment to the Houston County Sheriff’s Office to be considered for approval into the program.

The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) requires all candidates seeking to become peace officers to pass a comprehensive state licensing exam. The exam measures the candidate’s command of all the procedural and practical knowledge covered during the mandatory basic peace officer training course. Ballard and Denman had to complete and pass the Angelina College Law Enforcement Academy and the TCOLE exam.

HCSO has had other female deputies, but Ballard is the first to be explicitly hired as a patrol duty officer. Denman brings years of employee management skills to the position. Both have exhibited exemplary work ethics and dedication and have proven to be good candidates for the Cadet Program.

Houston County Sheriff, Randy Hargrove, congratulated the two in a Facebook post, stating, “Chief Deputy Roger Dickey and I are honored to have them both on our law enforcement team.”

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Financial questions addressed at CEIDC meeting

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072122 ceidc financial questions

By Jan White
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CROCKETT – The City Administrator, Crockett ISD superintendent and assistant superintendent; the Regional President of Prosperity Bank and a representative of East Texas Workforce Solutions attended the CEIDC Board Meeting held on Tuesday, July 12.

Following the usual agenda items of approving previous minutes and financial statements, James Gentry introduced Prosperity Bank President Brandon Bridges, who spoke on the CEIDC’s financial position. “In general, the Economic Development Corporation has a positive relationship with Prosperity Bank,” Bridges said in his opening remarks. The CEIDC operates out of two accounts at Prosperity – one is their general operating account, and the other is a bond-reserve account. “It [the bond-reserve account] is one that the auditors for the city and the Economic Development Corporation tend to check on when they come in, to make sure you’ve got enough sitting over there in reserve to service your debt for next year. The bank likes to see that too.”

When dealing with the economic development corporation, Bridges explained, “The attorney general reviews all loan documents before they’re ever executed to make sure that’s in there. That’s a state requirement.” He went on to say that the CEIDC in Crockett has met that requirement. Bridges also clarified that the loan currently at the bank was related to “… the renovations that were done to the juvenile detention center when that private prison group wanted to come in there and use it.”

Bridges continued, “There was about $600k they thought they wouldn’t use, so they paid it back in April 2016. If I remember right, Mr. Brent was here as the Executive Director at that time. And then, five months later,
in September, there was a need for additional funding of $150K, so the board approved that other $150 and added it to that original debt. So at the time, the debt grew back to $702K. And you’ve been making monthly payments ever since. So it was a million-five, paid down to a million-two with monthly payments, and then a $600K reduction that year and a hundred and fifty added back. So that’s kinda the history of that note. But every month, it’s been paid on time, and there’s no issue, no defaults, no problems like that. It’s just a monthly installment note.”

When asked about pledged security on the note, Bridges responded, “Again, we have a deposit contract with the EDC. Everybody knows about FDIC insurance, right? You’ve got $250K of FDIC insurance. Well, your economic development corporation keeps more than that on deposit. So we send them proof every month that we pledged additional securities over and above the two-fifty to secure your deposits. So you’ve basically got collateral on the money you’re loaning to the bank. So that’s how we do that. We document it with a monthly report. When your annual financial auditor comes in, they’re gonna want to see that to prove you’ve got that covered. That’s one way you hold the bank accountable that we’re doing our job.”

Board member Wade Thomas read a resolution signed by Mayor Wayne Mask on August 3, 2009, relating to questions from outside inquiries about guaranteeing the loan to the CEIDC from the USDA, authorizing the president and executive director of the CEIDC to execute the load. “The USDA loan was backed by the city and the city council at that time,” Thomas stated. “That’s a question that’s been brought up here. Once again, it was a joint effort with the city and economic development. It wasn’t something that was done just by this organization at that time.”

Gentry also read another resolution, which was a joint agreement with the city of Crockett, guaranteeing the Promissory Notes of the CEIDC to Crockett banks for the total amount of a million-and-a-half dollars, signed by Mayor Mask in 2004. “There are records of all these documents that are fully aware of the city’s blessings on all financials that we have so far. I wanted the board to be aware of this due to some of the questions that have been asked regarding on how we’ve been handling our financial business.”

Before Bridges left the meeting, Thomas asked him pointedly, “So, I want to make this clear, we’re in good standing with the bank?” “Oh, absolutely,” Bridges responded.

The meeting moved forward to hear a presentation from Mark Duran, an executive director for Workforce Solutions Deep East Texas. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has dedicated a million dollars to collaborate with local workforce boards and economic development corporations to help local trainers, such as independent school districts, to support the training of high-demand occupations. Duran stated that recently he had received notification from the TWC that they had unspent funds in reserve. The funds are set up so that local EDC’s can leverage sales tax dollars by matching funds with TWC dollar for dollar.

Duran said that CISD had applied for funding independent of the CEIDC for the Job Education Training (JET) Grant for funding to help purchase CTE [Career and Technical Education] equipment to expand or start new programs. “So we knew at the Workforce level that Crockett ISD is really looking at how they can collaborate and expand their CTE Program to prepare their youth.”

After previously speaking to both Gentry and CISD Superintendent Emerich and Assistant Superintendent Aiken, Duran indicated that the TWC grant funds could be used in tandem with funding from the CEIDC to purchase a forklift so that students could obtain an operator license. Duran stated, “We are seeing from the employer’s side that if you’ve got that [certification or credentials], then they are more apt to hire you.”

Previously, CISD students attempting to get forklift certification had to travel to Lufkin to take the test. With the cost of gas and the travel involved, many students didn’t make the trip to complete their certification. Emerich said that only five students did that last year, but he felt that the number might bring in closer to fifty with local training and certification. Emerich and Aiken researched the cost of a new versus used forklift and reported that they had located a well-maintained used forklift for slightly under $30k. After hearing additional discussion on the benefits of forklift training and its positive impact on the students and job opportunities, the board approved a motion to provide $15,000 to go towards the purchase with the understanding that TWC would provide the remainder with their matching reserve funds.

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