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New House, Senate districts drawn

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Redistricting LogoBy Emily Banks Wooten
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Newly-drawn House and Senate districts have been signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott. The redistricting process happens every 10 years after new census data is released. The new districts will be used for the first time in next year’s primary and general elections, barring any court interventions.

Legal battles have already begun, with one early lawsuit raising various claims that the new districts unfairly and illegally discriminate against voters of color. Additional legal challenges are expected.

Previously, Polk County was in House District 19, along with Hardin, Jasper, Newton and Tyler counties. Moving forward, Polk County will no longer be aligned with Hardin, Jasper and Newton counties, but will be in House District 9, along with Tyler, Trinity, Houston, Angelina and San Augustine counties.

Regarding the Texas Senate, Polk County was previously in Senate District 3, along with Anderson, Angelina, Cherokee, Hardin, Henderson, Houston, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Newton, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity and Tyler counties and parts of Montgomery and Smith counties.

Polk County will continue to be in Senate District 3, which is losing San Jacinto, Montgomery and Smith counties, and is picking up Liberty and Orange counties and part of Jefferson County. So, the new Senate District 3 will comprise Henderson, Anderson, Cherokee, Nacogdoches, Shelby, San Augustine, Sabine, Jasper, Newton, Houston, Trinity, Polk, Tyler, Angelina, Liberty, Hardin and Orange counties and part of Jefferson County.

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DA not seeking reelection

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William Lee HonWilliam Lee HonFrom Enterprise Staff

Polk County District Attorney William Lee Hon announced Friday that he will not seek reelection.

“After much prayerful consideration and discussion with my family, I am today announcing my intention not to seek a fifth term as your criminal district attorney. At the conclusion of my current term in 2022, I will have been associated with Polk County DA’s Office for 26 years. I will have served four terms, or 16 years, in my elected position—the longest serving district attorney in the history of Polk County,” Hon said.

“As an assistant prosecutor, I was blessed to work for John S. Holleman who was the best mentor a young prosecutor could ever hope to have. As DA, I have been so fortunate to have three fantastic first assistants—Joe Martin, Kari Allen and Beverly Armstrong—who made this job a lot less stressful than it might have otherwise been. Throughout, I have been honored to work with DA staff who are among the most dedicated public servants I have ever known. Prosecutors who have worked in this office have gone on to have very successful careers in other DA’s offices or in private practice. I am glad to have had some small part in their professional development and later success. I want to thank all of them for their dedicated service to this office and the people of Polk County,” Hon said.

“For 26 years and on a daily basis, I have seen people who were living at the absolutely lowest point in their lives—both as victims and offenders. That is hard. It colors your perspective of the world and people around you and in many respects, gives you a cynical outlook on life and humanity. Because of my abiding faith in our Creator, I know there are many wonderful loving, giving and caring people in this world and especially in this community. I am ready to reengage with them in a more normal capacity and with a more optimistic perspective on life,” Hon said.

“I would be remiss if I failed to express my appreciation to a number of people who I have worked closely with over the years and whose efforts have contributed greatly to the success of this office as well as my own. Sheriffs Billy Ray Nelson, Kenneth Hammack and Byron Lyons and exceptional police chiefs like Dennis Clifton and James Riley, each contributed greatly to the interests of law enforcement in this county and the pursuit of justice. It has been an honor to work with each of you. To County Judges John Thompson and Sydney Murphy and all the county commissioners who have supported this office over the years, thank you. To all of the dedicated deputies and police officers I have worked with and who give of themselves so selflessly, I am humbled to have been entrusted to see your cases through in our efforts to obtain justice and create a safer Polk County,” Hon said.

“To State Representatives James White, Dan Ellis and the late John Otto, and U.S. Congressmen Brian Babin and Kevin Brady, thank you for helping us on so many criminal justice issues that were important to our county. To all of the other wonderful DAs, prosecutors and investigators around the state who have become lifelong friends, and to the leadership of the Texas District and County Attorney’s Association, y’all are awesome and the best of the best. To the members of the Republican Party of Polk County and the voters who supported me, please know that I am truly humbled to have been entrusted with this office and allowed to carry the banner of our party as a conservative elected official. I did my best,” Hon said.

“Finally, to my wife Nancy and my family, my children Caroline, Will, Carson and Matthew, thank you for sharing me with the people of this county and those who I have served. On some level, I hope that you understand that your sacrifice of my family time influenced the lives of others in a positive way and perhaps, in some small way, made this community a better place to live,” Hon said.

“It is my intention to serve out the balance of my current term in the same manner and with the same commitment that I have approached every other day of my job as a prosecutor representing the State of Texas and the people of Polk County. I do not know for sure what my future holds in store. In the days, weeks and months to come, I will prayerfully consider what professional and personal options are best for my family and myself. In my judgment, there are very few professional callings and responsibilities greater than to be a ‘public servant.’ In my career, I have had a lot of success. I have also had some failures along the way. I know I have helped many people to the best of my ability. In other circumstances, I know I fell short. Nevertheless, I have always taken my oath and my responsibility as district attorney very seriously and did my best to do what is right and ‘see that justice is done. It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve you,” Hon said.

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Onalaska Mayor Chip Choate has died after a battle with cancer

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Onalaska Mayor Chip ChoateOnalaska Mayor Chip Choate

The Enterprise has learned that Onalaska Mayor Chip Choate has died
after a battle with cancer.

The City of Onalaska received word of Choate’s passing Tuesday
afternoon. The mayor had announced to the council previously that he
was in treatment for cancer of the salivary glands. He had been in the
hospital for around a month.

The city announced the news in a Facebook message around noon on Wednesday.

“It is with great sadness we announce the passing of our Mayor, Chip
Choate. Mayor Choate was officially sworn in as Mayor of Onalaska in
2018 and was elected to a second term in 2020. Councilwoman, Shirley
Gilmore who as Mayor Pro Tem, will assume the duties of Mayor to
complete Mayor Choate’s existing term through 2022. Memorial Service
details will be announced when available.”

Choate was said to have been in treatment for around eight weeks. He
had been placed in rehabilitation, then later transferred to a hospice
facility.

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Bringing home the bacon

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Halle IMG 4468 2 main 1000

By Brian Besch

Many children raising livestock in Texas dream of winning an award in Dallas at the state fair. Livingston High School’s Halle Hawkins enjoyed the experience just a few weeks ago — with three different animals. 

Vontae Mack, a Hampshire was reserve champion at the Youth Market Barrow Show that held over 1,000 competitors. Kodak, a crossbred gilt, was reserve champion. The big winner was Halle’s duroc, Missy, that was awarded supreme champion of the Youth Breeding Gilt Show. 

Halle has been showing pigs since she was in the third grade at 8 years of age. She spends an average of 27 hours per week with the pigs, making sure each are washed, exercised and stalls are cleaned. Each pig — she currently has seven — is walked a half-mile every day.

Missy, Kodak and Vontae Mack, were purchased in May, approximately six weeks after they were born and weighing around 20-25 pounds. 

She and her father, Livingston Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins, have traveled thousands of miles to find just the right animals. There are some who purchase pigs for up to $50,000, but Halle and her father instead travel across several states to find the one right for them at a cheaper rate.

“Some of these pigs, we have to work extra hard for them, because we don’t spend the money some people spend,” Dr. Hawkins said. “Some of the ones that she beat in the breed were $20,000.”

Just taking care of a pig can get pricey, as they eat a $40 bag of feed about once a week. Some pigs at shows have more extravagant ways of reaching the fairs than others, arriving in $100,000 trailers.

Halle has been showing pigs since she was in the third grade at 8 years of age.  Courtesy photosHalle has been showing pigs since she was in the third grade at 8 years of age. Courtesy photosHowever, the Hawkins clan paid a relative bargain price at $500 for the supreme champion, while the other two came at costs of $500 and $1,700. Dr. Hawkins said Halle is attempting to raise champions, not buy them. 

There are many features to finding the right pig that include the animal being structurally sound with feet and legs hitting the ground correctly when they walk, good skin and hair with long necks, big legs and a wide, flat back.

“We start taming them down in the pen, getting them used to us,” Halle said of the work once she has the next potential winner. “At 75-100 pounds, I start working with them. There are some that take a little more work than usual.”

Halle competes against hundreds and sometimes thousands of contestants in shows. She is also judged on how well the animal is presented.

She had a good feeling about the three recent champions and their chances.

“I wouldn’t say special, but they were on up there. I had a special bond with Vontae and Missy. Vontae and Kodak come from Dalhart, Texas, and Missy came from Oklahoma City.”

Kodak and Missy were both leased and have been returned to their owners to breed. Vontae was purchased and later sold after winning.

Scholarship money is the big reward for her accolades at the state fair. Though she is not sure how much it will be, hard work over the years has allowed the sophomore to accumulate around $10,000 in school funds already.

It is believed that no one has ever won three such awards that Halle did at the state fair. She is also thought to be the first winner of a Texas livestock major in the district.

The next show in a few weeks will be in Louisville, Kentucky, where Halle and a new group of four-legged friends will compete at the national level.

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Agency hired to staff, train substitutes

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Livingston ISD LogoThe Livingston school board entered into a contract with a staffing company for substitute teachers, heard an update on a junior high afterschool program and approved a plan for funds in the monthly gathering for October.

Fred Bentsen with management and staffing company Education Support Services ESS presented a plan to take over substitute teacher operations for the district. The company provides solutions to education staffing and currently offers the service to Denton, East Central, and Lufkin ISDs among their 23 in Texas. They currently serve over 800 districts in 30 states, which support over 4 million students daily.  

As part of the service, they pay their employees weekly and give more support to substitutes by offering affordable health insurance and handle the recruiting process, background checks, training, liability, and payroll services for districts.  The Livingston board approved a contract with ESS, scheduled through June 2022.F. Sunnie Frazier, junior high campus coordinator of the Boys and Girls Club afterschool program, gave a progress report to the board. The afterschool program serves primarily 35 sixth-grade students at Livingston Junior High from 3-6 p.m., Monday through Friday. 

The program has a capacity of 150 students, and they are beginning to reach out to parents of seventh graders about joining. The program targets “bubble” students who are one standard deviation above or below the STAAR test passing rate. They began with sixth graders, so that they may benefit from attending the program all three years while enrolled at the junior high. 

The afterschool program helps students focus on fine-tuning academic skills. Recently, they have worked on dictionary skills and journaling to improve creative writing. Sixth grade world history teachers are collaborating with the afterschool program and a “traveling around the world” activity, where students have their own “passports” and receive stamps when successfully completing tasks. The goal is to visit Asian countries in the fall term and European countries in the spring, coinciding with the sixth-grade world history curriculum. 

Students also participated in a cooking activity Friday as they completed their segment on Germany by making German Pfeffernüsse cookies. Sixth grade math teachers have applauded the recent achievements by students engaging in afterschool activities.  The afterschool staff incorporated math facts in all daily activities and found that students were making improvements in their classroom          performance.  Students engage in enrichment activities every day, which include soccer and basketball. The afterschool program is funded through a five-year grant from Texas Education Agency, but Frazier emphasized, “The program doesn’t have to end in five years.  If additional funding can be found, the program can continue. The Texas Education Agency measures factors of student improvement by evaluating ELA test scores and attendance.”  

The goal for the spring semester is to double the enrollment to 60 students taking advantage of the program. During the summer, the Boys and Girls Club will allow attendance of 150 students that continues for six weeks, from late June through July, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday through Friday. In addition to academic support, the summer program also includes field trips and sports clinics.

LISD Chief Academic Officer Janan Moore presented information on Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER II) funds during the public hearing. The board approved the ESSER II budget, which includes a 4% retention stipend along with other salary costs. Money will be allocated to technology devices and software programs to increase student learning. ESSER II funds also include indirect costs associated with district operations. 

Also approved was the consent agenda, comprised of the financial statement, payment of bills, overnight trips, and the 2021-2022 district improvement plan. 

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