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Houston County News - Breakout

A look back at 2022

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A tornado in March ripped through the area and caused destruction to many homes and businesses. Jan White | HCCA tornado in March ripped through the area and caused destruction to many homes and businesses. Jan White | HCC

By Jan White
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The start of a new year always seems like a good time to look back at the previous year and reminisce on what took place. These were just a few of the highlights from 2022, from the pages of the Courier. We look forward to what 2023 has in store.


January saw Crockett’s Martin Luther King Day parade and celebration. The parade had a great participation turnout, and organizers predict that this year’s parade will be even better.

Carolyn Harrison, who worked for the Kennard School District for 43 years, retired. Another long-time community member, C.R. “Chili” Hodges, was also recognized for his fifty-year service to Houston County as its County Surveyor.

A local historic site, Caddo Mounds, began reconstruction of the site, which was razed by a tornado that swept through the area in April 2019. Plans were developed to rebuild the grass hut and the museum, both of which were destroyed during the devastating weather event.


Love was in the air in February when Lovelady held its 40th annual Lovefest celebration and crowned its newest Lovefest Queen.

Crocket Independent School District also celebrated its employees during School Board Appreciation Week, and they also unveiled their new ‘bus barn’ location on the site that formerly housed Ulrich Motors on the corner of Loop 304 and Hwy 19.

During the Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon, members got a glimpse of some improvements coming to downtown Crockett. Wade Thomas with the Planning and Zoning committee spoke to the group about a proposal, initiated by local business owners to make changes to the zoning of downtown Crockett to help revitalize the local economy.

The Mary Allen Museum held a Founder’s Day Celebration in February.

And “the little kid with the big personality” - “10-year old Devarjaye “DJ” Daniel, was deputized by Houston County Law Enforcement officials, helping to fulfill his dream to be sworn in by a hundred law enforcement agencies as a way to bring awareness to childhood cancer.


Houston County suffered a big blow when a tornado ripped through the area, demolishing the businesses in the strip mall just off Loop 304 and South Fourth Street. The devasting event not only brought Governor Greg Abbott to the area, but more importantly, brought the community together as neighbors helped neighbors recover in the aftermath.


April 9 was the opening day for Crockett Merchants Youth Baseball, replete with a parade, bake sale, and the season’s first game. Lovelady Youth Baseball and Grapeland Youth Baseball also held their opening days with great support from the communities.

The Family Crisis Center held its Spark a Conversation event to bring awareness to sexual assault.

On April 22-23, the Davy Crockett Classic bicycle race held its fourth annual event in downtown Crockett.

The Houston County Courier, in association with Standing with Crockett and Sam and Ginger Gregg, held a fundraiser for victims of the March tornado. The event “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” took place at Davy Crockett Park.


A welcome relief to Crockett residents was the announcement that the city was seeking financing for much-needed street improvements.

May also saw the results of the special election that gave voters the opportunity to vote on some proposed state constitutional amendments and several city council and school board positions that were up for election.

The community gathered for a National Day of Prayer on May 5, led by Rev. Charlana Kelly of the Houston County Ministerial Alliance and other local pastors and church leaders.

Hilliard and Ruth McKnight held their Third Annual Fun Day at Davy Crockett Park. This fun day for kids is a much-anticipated annual event supported by local individuals and organizations.

Houston County and surrounding areas were warned about a fugitive on the loose. Gonzalo Lope, a 46-year-old inmate serving a life sentence escaped during transport. Lope was eventually caught but for a while Houston County residents were on high-alert to stay safe.

Salmon Lake celebrated the 25th anniversary of its annual Gospel Bluegrass Festival on Memorial Day.

Readers were inspired by the story of Lexi Mayo, a rodeo rider who suffered a broken back and was told she’d never ride again. On May 14, Mayo and her horse, Whiskey, made their run at the Crockett Lions Club 60th Annual PRCA Rodeo.


June saw some exciting baseball action as the Kennard Tigers clinched the regional championship and advanced to the state tournament. Although the team was bested by the Nazareth Swifts, this was the second straight appearance at state for the Tigers, who finished as state runner-up in 2021.

Crockett celebrated Juneteenth with pageants, parades, programs, and picnics. A’Kedria Delane was crowned Miss Juneteenth 2022.

Davy Crockett Park was also the site for the annual Davy Crockett Music and Arts Festival.

Local teen anglers Boots Burlison and Brady Mikes, the duo known as Boots and Brady, represented Houston County in the National Youth Fishing League tournament held in South Carolina.

Houston County S.H.A.R.E. got a facelift when volunteers from Memorial Drive United Methodist Church in Houston added a porch cover, some needed shelving inside, and a decorative mural to give the building a much-needed renovation.


July began on a happy note when residents turned out to celebrate the July 4 holiday with a parade, a cook-out, and a pie-baking contest, and other community activities.

Caddo Mounds began constructing the thatched hut destroyed in the 2019 tornado.

Because of the oppressive summer heat and lack of rain, Houston County Judge Jim Lovell extended the burn ban, which would eventually last well into fall.


Lovelady celebrated their sesquicentennial in August with a reception at the Lovelady City Hall. The building was packed with photos and other memorabilia commemorating the town’s history.

Tax rate talks took center stage in August as local city and council boards contemplated their budgets for the upcoming year and debated on whether to reduce, raise, or keep tax rates the same.

And, of course, Back-to-School events were the highlight of community activities as families prepared to send their kids for another year of education.


Chili Hodges, Houston County’s Surveyor for more than 50 years was honored by the Texas Historical Commission with a plaque presented by Judge Jim Lovell.

The City of Crockett celebrated it’s first Hispanic Heritage Day with a colorful and food-filled event in the city hall park. The city hall park was also the location of the National Night Out, sponsored by the Crockett Chamber of Commerce.

September also saw the Myrtis Dightman annual rodeo, the 86th Annual Fiddler’s Festival, the reopening of the Mary Allen Museum, and Kennard ISD’s A+ rating in State Accountability for 2021-2022


Grapeland celebrated its annual peanut festival, and Emily Hanna was crowned the 2022 Peanut Queen, while the Grapeland Sandies crowned their homecoming queen. Lovelady and Crockett also crowned their homecoming queens in October.

Participants joined in the City of Crockett’s “A Walk for a Cause.” The event was a reminder to everyone that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

While kids celebrated Halloween at the trunk-or-treat at the City Hall Park sponsored by local businesses, adults geared up for the upcoming mid-term elections with the 2022 Voter’s Guide.


November began with early voting as residents turned out for the mid-term political race. Mike McCreight won the only contested race in Houston County for the Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace.

The annual Old Mill Fest was held in Kennard off Hwy 7 and featured workshops, stage performances and plenty of opportunities for jam sessions.

On November 11, the community again took the opportunity to honor our veterans. Several restaurants offered free meals to veterans, schools conducted programs honoring those who served.

The annual holiday season started off in Crockett’s first community Christmas celebration held at the courthouse, followed by the annual Christmas parade sponsored by the Houston County Career Women and Christmas in Crockett held on Saturday on the square.

The Eugene Lockhart Foundation held its annual turkey giveaway at the Porth Ag Arena.

Sports highlights included five Crockett volleyball players who received District 23-3A All-District recognition, while the Lovelady Lions clinched their state playoff game with the Maud Cardinals.


During the holiday season, the community showed its generosity of spirit by helping those less fortunate. The community joined together with KIVY radio host Joanne Warner to raise food donations for Houston County SHARE and Quest Academy raked in the pajamas with their annual pajama drive. Two local companies, Nucor and Darling Industries, challenged each other to make matching donations to Houston County SHARE’s Christmas Toy Store, and Ansel Bradshaw and Kathi Calvert hosted the annual Stuff the Bus event to raise monetary and toy donations for the SHARE Christmas Toy Store.

The Bethel Baptist Church provided meals, while Police Chief Clayton Smith and the Crockett Police Department helped distribute the food to homebound residents.

Lonnie Hunt was honored with the “Texas Broadband Hero Award” for advocating for rural broadband. December 17 was declared by the Houston County Commissioners Court as “Eunice Kitchen Day” for her inspiration to the community. Judge Elijah Gossett was honored in a graveside service by the Texas Rangers.

But it wasn’t all good news. The Texas Workforce Commission reported that unemployment was up slightly for the county. And according to a report by the Kaufman Hall health management consulting firm, Texas hospitals are at serious risk for closure – disconcerting news to hear when the Houston County Hospital District was in negotiations with their tenant Dr. Kelly Tjelmeland. Offsetting that, however, was news that the hospital board approved paying off their loan to Prosperity Bank.

The year saw many new businesses open, like Scooter’s Coffee Drive-Thru, Filthy Gringos, High Five Horses, the reopening of Bear Hall, Heavenly Aesthetics, and the Old Crockett Wine Emporium. The Family Life Crisis Center held a ribbon cutting for its new location at 1512 E. Loop 304 in Crockett.

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No action taken after HCHD called meeting

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Houston County Hospital District LogoBy Jan White
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CROCKETT – The handful of the hospital staff and employees who waited patiently for the board to return from the executive session were left scratching their heads after hearing “no action would be taken” following the called meeting held at noon last Friday, by the Houston County Hospital District board of directors.

It was anticipated that the board would be voting on whether or not to accept the terms of the contract with Dr. Kelly Tjelmeland, the current tenant of the Crockett Medical Center.

Tjelmeland and Dr. Subir Chikara had approached the Houston County Hospital Board back in December 2017 with plans to provide hospital services to the Crockett Medical Center. The five-year contract was signed on January 15, 2018, which means it was up for renewal this year. The board has played it very close to the vest as to what Tjelmeland might be asking in terms of expectations from the hospital district in order to extend his contract.

Board President Barbara Crowson said previously that they had a verbal agreement with Tjelmeland back in July that he would renew his contract, but apparently, negotiations are still in progress, resulting in the ‘no action taken’ announcement at the meeting.

The next hospital district board meeting will occur on Tuesday, Jan. 17, after the designated contract renewal date. Until then, employees and staff wait anxiously to see what their future holds.      

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Commissioners back to business as usual

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Houston County Seal 1280x640By Jan White
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CROCKETT – The Houston County Commissioners Court began its first meeting of the new year on Tuesday, Jan. 10 by approving minutes from the last session, paying bills and expenses, and authorizing payment of compensatory and vacation time for county employees.

During the meeting, the court also voted to:

•fund an increase to employee life insurance with Lincoln Life.

•remove a section of the chain-link fence at Old Jail for easier access for Community Service/ Environmental Officer

•accept an allotment of reclaimed asphalt materials from the Texas Department of Transportation

•accept as information County Tax Office

Continuing Education transcripts for Laronica Smith and Tena Smith

approve BIS Consulting LLC for an online property search website for the Houston County Tax Office

approve an agreement with NCR for online and over-the-counter credit card transactions for payment of taxes and registration/titling transactions for the Houston County Tax Office at no cost to the county, with all fees to be passed to the customer, effective on May 1

approve non-exempt license plates for un-marked patrol unit #5403

update investment options for Nationwide Supplemental Retirement Plan Participants within Houston County

approve repairs to the Houston County Jail air conditioning/heating system for $6,500 and take the funding out of contingencies.

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City Council suspends CEIDC pending investigation

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Travis J. Casner presents an audit of the CEIDC to the Crockett City Council. Courtesy photoTravis J. Casner presents an audit of the CEIDC to the Crockett City Council. Courtesy photo

By Jan White
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CROCKETT – After reconvening following an executive session, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Marsh made the motion to temporarily suspend all activities of the Crockett Economic and Development Corporation (CEIDC) until an investigation can be conducted by Police Chief Clayton Smith. The motion came after the findings of a forensic audit of the CEIDC were presented during the City Council meeting held on January 9.

Pressured by constituents who questioned decisions and transactions made by the CEIDC, the council voted during its June 21 meeting to hire a forensic auditor to review financial and transaction decisions going back as far as twelve years. Weaver and Tidwell, LLP. was the firm hired to perform the audit.

During Monday’s city council meeting, Travis J. Casner, Certified Fraud Examiner of the Forensic and Litigation services branch of Weaver, presented over an hour’s worth of findings regarding topics that ranged from financial compensation to travel and credit card expenses, to operational and procedural issues, to staffing issues.

At the end of the presentation, councilman Darrell Jones asked Casner if, during the audit, he had found any money “missing, stolen, or misplaced.” Casner replied, “I don’t think there is any direct expenditure. I guess if you looked at not reporting some of the compensation. We didn’t include any findings of fraud as far as like, stolen.”

“So you’re saying that there’s no fraud?” Jones asked.

“Let me back up,” Casner replied. “The findings in here are based on the work performed as outlined in the scope of work and we’re presenting those findings. The intent of this report, or any report that I could even deliver as a certified fraud examiner, is that I cannot present any finding that says there is or is not fraud.” Casner went on to say that there were areas where they had outlined some concerns, like the bonus payment in 2020. “There isn’t any conclusive evidence that shows there was an authorization for that payment. So we can’t make any conclusion without that information being available.” Casner said that there was a potential misuse of funds going back to 2010 because there was no proper word authorization for those payments and that some of the payments may be in violation of Texas code. But as far as determining if the actions were construed as fraud, Casner replied, “Fraud is something that is determined by a jury, and I cannot, or anybody in this room cannot make a determination about fraud.”

Before retiring into executive session, Mayor Dr. Ianthia Fisher said “It was a good thing for the council that they went back for a broader scope. We debated about that, but you can see that over the years, there’ve been a lot of bad practices, for lack of a better term.” Fisher remarked that in hindsight when the CEIDC “disbanded,” it would have been a perfect time update the policies and make sure everything was done in a systematic, legal, detailed way. “But you did see that it was a series of practices that weren’t functional that were passed on... and they were never stopped.” Fisher went on to say, “There are a lot that bear responsibility for what has happened. And it’s the council’s responsibility to make sure they don’t continue to happen.”

The council adjourned into executive session.

Upon their return to open session, Councilman Mike Marsh made the following motion, “Mayor, I’d like to make the motion to temporarily suspend all activities of the Crockett EDC, and request our police chief open an investigation into each of these audit findings and determine all responsible parties for the financial and operation misconduct of this corporation. He can request outside support as needed during the investigation. The Executive Director and all his staff will be placed on paid administrative leave and comply with all investigations by providing full access to any EDC records in the office. No EDC staff or board members will conduct business or have access to any EDC offices unless the police chief is present. During this investigation, no EDC staff or board members will sign checks or use credit cards. The mayor and the mayor pro tem will be added as signers to the EDC checking account to pay all existing and approved debts or commitments after they are presented to the city council for approval.”

The motion was seconded by Gene Caldwell, and three out of the four councilmembers voted to approve – Mike Marsh, Gene Caldwell, and Marquita Beasley. Councilman Darrell Jones abstained, and councilmember Ernest Jackson was not in attendance.


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Madisonville tops Crockett for tourney title championship game

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010523 crockett basketballCrockett's Jadyn Collins (2) and Courtney Byrd (24) were named to the All-Tournament Team at the conclusion of the Houston County Holiday Classic. Photos by Larry Lamb

By Larry Lamb
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CROCKETT– The Madisonville Mustangs knocked off the Crockett Bulldogs 52-35 to capture the Gold Bracket championship in the Houston County Holiday Classic Friday afternoon.

The first quarter ended in an 11-11 tie after Crockett's Iverson Rischer drained a late trey.

Madisonville pulled away in the second quarter with a 14-5 run and led 25-16 at halftime.

After the Mustangs went up by 11 early in the third, Crockett junior Antwaain Boston drained back-to-back 3-pointers and Jadyn Collins hit a bucket-and-one to complete a 9-0 run that made it a two-point game, 27-25.

Madisonville closed out the third with an 8-0 run to pull away 35-25.

After falling behind by 15 early in the fourth, Collins swooshed in a triple and Boston knocked down two free throws to make it 10-point game with 5:00 left.

Madisonville quickly stretched its lead out to 48-32 with 2:00 left on three unanswered baskets.

Courtney Byrd closed the gap to 13 with a basket and free throw with 1:44 left, but the Bulldogs would get no closer.

Collins led the Bulldogs with 13 points and Boston followed with 8. Rischer and Byrd rounded out the scoring with 7 apiece..

Collins and Byrd garnered All-Tournament recognition, along with three Mustangs.

Madisonville's Lorenzo Johnson and Tavis York were All-Tournament honorees and sophomore Anqwan Morning received MVP honors and
In the Gold Bracket semifinals, Madisonville slipped past Da Vinci 41-40 while Crockett upended state-ranked Diboll 57-50.

The Lumberjacks, ranked No. 20 in this week's TABC state poll, found themselves in a 15-0 hole at the end of the first quarter but mounted a furious comeback to get into the game.

Crockett still had a 32-15 led at the break and took a 43-29 advantage into the final period.

The Lumberjacks whittled the gap down to four, 47-43, with 3:25 left. Three straight buckets -- one by Rischer and two by Collins -- put Crockett ahead by 10 with 1:40 to go.

Collins was the top scorer with 22 points, Byrd tossed in 11 and Boston had 10, including a pair of threes.

Tywoin Delane scored 8 and Rischer rounded out the scoring with 6.


In pool play, the Bulldogs beat Aggieland HomeSchool 57-42, Maypearl 57-54, Rusk 56-55 and Da Vinci 67-54.

In their opener against Aggieland, the Bulldogs led 32-17 at the half but saw the lead cut to 42-34 in the third. Crockett closed out the game with a 15-8 run.

Collins poured in 23 points and Jaroderick Holmes had 13.

In Wednesday's nightcap against Maypearl, the Bulldogs led 23-14 after a quarter, 30-22 at the break and 43-38 after three.

After Maypearl slipped in front 52-50 with 2:00 left, Collins scored two straight baskets and Holmes knocked down a pair of free throws to put

Crockett up by five with :18 left. Maypearl closed the gap to three points with 10 seconds left.

Byrd was the top scorer with 17 and Collins had 12. Holmes was next with 9 and Boston had 8.

Back in action Thursday, the Bulldogs nipped Rusk 56-55.

They outscored Rusk by 15 in the second for a 29-17 halftime lead. Rusk faced a 10-point deficit heading into fourth but outscored the Dogs 23-14.

Byrd led with 15 points and Boston had 10.

Crockett wrapped up pool play with a 67-54 win against Da Vinci School of El Paso.

The Bulldogs were up 35-27 at the break and 52-40 heading into the fourth.

Byrd paced the scoring with 17, Collins had 15 and Nate Ivey rounded out double figures with 10, including two treys.

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