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This look back at the top Polk County stories in 2022 is the first of a three-part series. Look for subsequent parts in the next two editions of the Enterprise.
Scenic Loop Fire Departmentvehicle stolen
Scenic Loop Fire Chief Donald Marlow has nearly four decades dedicated to fighting fires, but the events from January are likely to be burned into his memory.
Around 2:30 p.m., the Scenic Loop Fire Department reported its 1996 Ford Super Duty Rescue 15 stolen.
Scenic Loop Fire Department also broadcast via social media that the truck was stolen. Around 45 minutes later, dispatch contacted Marlow to inform him that a Union Pacific Railroad employee had located the truck in Dayton.
Marlow was then told that the truck had been unloaded under the overpass on FM 321 and thrown onto the ground. The doors of the vehicle were left open.
After a few firemen arrived on the scene and performed inventory, Marlow said that a cervical collar bag was taken, as well as a pet oxygen mask.
Wires had been cut in the truck and many fuses were cut out. Marlow said the police department surmised it was done because someone wanted to come back later that night to go through the truck and scrap it for parts. He was told that the drivetrain on the truck is an expensive part and could have been the motive.
Chamber president resignsamid award controversy
The Board of Directors of the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce accepted the resignation of President/CEO Janet Wiggins following “an exceptionally long and arduous special called meeting” according to an email that went out to all chamber members, notifying them of the resignation.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff, I would like to express our appreciation to Janet for her many contributions to the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce. Please join me in wishing her well with her future endeavors,” the email said.
The brouhaha stemmed from the presentation of the Polk Countian of the Year Award to Lee Hon, Wiggins’ first cousin, at the culmination of the chamber’s 86th annual awards banquet. It came as a surprise to many in attendance, as the chamber has always had a strict policy of not presenting awards to individuals seeking office during election years. Hon, the Polk County district attorney, was running for 258th District judge in a contentious race against Incumbent 258th District Judge Travis Kitchens.
VFW Post 8568 operationssuspended
State Commander Norman J. Macey suspended the operations of VFW Post 8568 of Livingston — effective Feb. 15, for a period of up to 90 days — due to violations of the laws and usage of the organization, specifically, the failure to have all required elected and appointed positions filled.
In conjunction with the suspension, Macey assigned an administrative committee to supervise and assist the post. The committee comprises Immediate Past State Commander Richard “Dick” Shawver who will serve as chairperson, District 19 Commander Joel Pipes and District 19 Trustee Max C. Montgomery.
“If a quorum of five members is established, an election will be held to fill all post officer vacancies and a discussion will be held on what VFW Post 8568 must do to rectify any problems. If a quorum is not met, I will have no choice but to recommend to the VFW National Commander in Chief that the charter of VFW Post 8568 be cancelled in accordance with Section 212 of the National Bylaws and Manual of Procedure,” Macey said in a letter mailed to all 217 members of the post. “If you want to save your post, then again, I urge you to attend this meeting.”
Sitton wins DA race
Only 18.6% — or 7,669 — of the 41,214 registered voters in Polk County cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary elections and it appears that two races are headed for the May 24 runoff election – those of criminal district attorney and Precinct 4 county commissioner.
After 16 years serving as criminal district attorney, William Lee Hon chose not to seek reelection but instead opted to run for judge of the 258th Judicial District.
Shelly Bush Sitton defeated Tommy Coleman in the May 24 runoff election in the race for criminal district attorney. To win outright, a candidate must have 50% plus one vote. Sitton received 3,305 votes, which was 50.86% of the votes cast in this race. Coleman received 2,099 votes, or 32.30%, and a third candidate, Julie Mayes Hamrick, received 1,094 votes, or 16.84%.
Incumbent Judge Travis Kitchens prevailed 7,473 to 6,135 in the contested race for judge of the 258th Judicial District in which he was being challenged by Hon. The 258th comprises Polk, San Jacinto and Trinity counties. Kitchens received 3,510 votes in Polk County and Hon received 2,988 votes. In San Jacinto County, Kitchens received 2,576 votes to Hon’s 1,571 votes. In Trinity County, Kitchens received 1,387 votes and Hon received 1,576 votes.
Man jailed after shooting threat at Corrigan-Camden
A Crockett man was taken into custody at the Polk County Jail after a terroristic threat in Corrigan.
Randy Dewayne Jones Jr., 19, turned himself in after threatening to “shoot up” Corrigan-Camden High School, according to a Corrigan Police Department press release.
Corrigan police said Jones turned himself in at the Houston County Sheriff’s Office. He was in custody and being transported to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, charged with terroristic threat of a public servant, a third degree felony.
“He was associated with some students at the high school and it was basically like a lover’s spat,” Corporal Terry Valka of the Corrigan PD said. “They ended up blocking him on social media and then he started mentioning on Snapchat that he was coming with seven carloads deep with his gang members and going to shoot them and whoever else was in the path at the school. He sent it via text message, and they (students) showed it to them at the school. He is supposedly affiliated with some gang members in the Crockett area.”
Firefighters respond to fire at Corrigan plant
Firefighters from 14 area departments responded to a fire at the Roy O Martin OSB Plant in Corrigan.
“We received a call at 5:30 a.m. Thursday stating that Roy O Martin had a fire,” Corrigan Volunteer Fire Chief Jimmy McDonald said. “I believe it started in the dry bins, then went into the blenders.
“The majority of the fire was under control probably around 9:30 or 10, but we stood around putting out hot spots,” McDonald said, adding that firefighters left the scene around 12:30 p.m.
“I don’t have any idea what started it and will probably never know,” McDonald said, adding that there were no injuries to firefighters or plant personnel.
Firefighters from Corrigan, Livingston, Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation, Holiday Lake Estates, Scenic Loop, Woodville, Shepherd, Diboll, Cleveland, Tarkington, South Polk County, Trinity, Groveton and Onalaska responded to the fire.
Chamber names new CEO
The Board of Directors of the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce named Yvonne King as CEO of the organization. King, an administrative assistant with the chamber for the past 22 years, has been serving as interim CEO since the Jan. 31 resignation of Janet Wiggins, the previous CEO.
Asked what’s first on her agenda, King said, “I want to get out there and get with the county and the cities, see what their interests are and promote our area.
“I want to let the people know we’re small, but we have a big heart. We may not have everything, but we have a lot. We’re good. This board is ready to work.”
King said she’d like for the chamber to have more of a presence in the community. She said she also wants to help people understand the purpose of the chamber and bring more awareness to the role of the chamber in the community.
“A lot of what we do is still through word of mouth. We want to be in the know too. We want to help our businesses grow. It’s OK to want more businesses here, but we have to help the ones we have,” King said.
“We’re ready to move forward and get back to the business of what a chamber is supposed to do, and that’s bring new business to the local communities and promote tourism in our area,” Chamber Board Chairman Craig Jones said.
“It’s been interesting. I’ve made a lot of good friends,” King said of her 22 years with the chamber. During that time, she’s worked with six different executive directors.
Two Polk County educators win at Houston Rodeo
Grady Tinker needed a good score at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Competing in ranch sorting, there were 100 other teams looking to better him. But they weren’t the main competition — that would be in his home.
His wife, Krystal, who is a nurse at Leggett ISD, and son, a graduate of Livingston High, also competes with and against him. Successful on his seventh try in Houston, it was mandatory Tinker achieve this goal or face plenty of razzing at home.
Krystal won a buckle in Houston three years ago, and he has been chasing her ever since. In the past, Tinker has won National Finals Champion of the Ranch Sorting National Championships, so he may hold bragging rights for now.
“We’ve been doing this about 10 years — my wife and me. It’s taken me 10 years to get that,” Tinker said pointing at his shiny, new belt buckle. “It is hard. The cows are always tough at Houston.”
With 10 heads of calves and three rounds, Tinker and his partner, Raymond Martinez, registered a perfect 30 score and beat the field by a five-second interval.
Jana Lowe is president of the American Cutting Horse Association and a world champion on the weekends, but during the week, Lowe disguises herself as the superintendent at Leggett ISD.
For over a decade now, Lowe has turned a weekend hobby into travel with friends and family, prizes and championships. Her latest feat was winning first place in cutting horses at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
There were about 50 contestants in Lowe’s class and she was happy just to make the finals. Lowe said this was her third time competing as a cutter in Houston, but had a little extra experience to draw on from the past. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that she was successful in Houston. Lowe has won five or six saddles, as well as the American Cutting Horse Association World Championship a few times.
Her horse, Sweet Lil Billie, allowed Lowe to win with a score of 223. Second place tallied 218.5 and fourth was just 1.5 points under that score.
Tribe breaks ground for education center
History was made when representatives of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas broke ground at the site where its new education center will be located. The Alabama-Coushatta Education Center will be a 49,000-square-foot building that will house the tribe’s education department, Head Start Program, tribal library and youth programs. The building will include classrooms, offices, common areas, kitchens for several of the programs, a courtyard, two play yards and a multi-purpose gym. The site will have a general parking lot, as well as a secure area for bus parking. It will be located behind the Chief Kina Clinic.
“Five hundred forty-eight days. We anticipate being done with the construction process by the end of September 2024 and will rejoin here for a ribbon cutting,” general manager Cheryl Downing said.
LHS robotics wins state, second time in four years
The Livingston High School robotics team won the UIL State Championship Robotics Competition while competing at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. The competition consisted of bracket-style play between 30 teams. The scores were totaled from the team and individual players and the bracket was narrowed to four teams. One point separated the first- and second-place teams entering the final competition of the day.
This was the second UIL state championship in four years for the LHS robotics team, along with two regional back-to-back championships in 2021 and 2022. The team were invited to compete in the Robotics Worlds Tournament April 20-23 in Houston. There will be 170 teams in attendance from all over the world. The Livingston High School students make up one of the top 10 Texas Robotics teams competing.
Robotics is offered through the Career and Technical Education Department at Livingston High School. The prerequisite is principals of information technology, where students learn basic programming, hardware and software troubleshooting. Thirty students are admitted into robotics each year.