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Colmesneil mayor Baird resigns; Crews appointed mayor

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Don Baird and wife BarbaraDon Baird and wife Barbara

By Mollie LaSalle
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COLMESNEIL – After serving 19 years, and one year into his ninth term as mayor, Don Baird submitted his resignation to the Colmesneil city council at a special called meeting on Monday June 21.

Baird was a city council member when the late E.B. Sheffield approached him and asked him to consider running for mayor. Baird had no conceivable thoughts of running for the office, but after a lot of discussion back and forth, he changed his mind and in 2002, he ran and beat the incumbent mayor 2-1.  

Baird accomplished many things while in office. He has been a part of the many grants the city has been awarded over the years, and he is most proud of his partnership with Mike Marshall in the creation of the Emergency Service District #7, Colmesneil’s first Volunteer Fire Department. Baird explained, “Mike Marshall told me if he got elected (Commissioner Pct #3) and he ever got any money, he would help me get the Fire Department built. So, with grant money, money from Pct #3, and David Waxman, who went out on a limb for us, we got the funding. Waxman “worked his magic” and went before Commissioner’s Court to secure the rest of the money needed for the project.”

Newly appointed mayor Duane Crews offered up these words for the former mayor: “Don Baird has been the longest tenured mayor in Colmesneil’s history, and he has done a lot for the community. He has set the bar pretty high, and I don’t think any other mayor has been through what he has. We’ve had three major hurricanes, floods, and droughts on his watch. He’s been there through it all, and I want to Thank him for a job well done.” Councilmember Gene Allen added “You’ve (Baird) been my best friend and my mentor, and I want to thank you for a job well done.” 

Fellow councilmember Billy Andrus echoed similar sentiments, as did Bubba Sheffield and Virgie Sullivan.

Baird stated more than once during the meeting that he has enjoyed his time in office and feels he has accomplished many wonderful things for the city. He has devoted endless hours to the city, his church and the youth of the community. He and his wife Barbara will be remembered for the elaborate Christmas displays at their home on Sutton Drive; if you ever went out of your way to see it, you were not disappointed. The Bairds’ Christmas displays were a must-see every December, and a tradition in the area for sightseers.

Baird was honored by the Tyler County Chamber of Commerce with its prestigious “Citizen of the Year” award in 2015, and he was honored on his 90th birthday in 2018 with a proclamation from U. S. Representative Brian Babin (R-Woodville). Lucas Babin, the county’s District Attorney (then a candidate for the office) was also in attendance. 

The now-former mayor and his wife aren’t leaving Tyler County, they are just moving closer to family. Upon tendering his resignation, Baird offered up these words: “It’s been a good journey, we’ve accomplished a lot and I have enjoyed every minute of it. But the time has come to move on, step aside, and let the younger people take over. I want to thank the council members and the employees for their dedication and loyalty. I also want to extend my gratitude to friends and foe alike for the courtesies and the willingness to follow under my leadership.” 

 City Secretary Wendy Bendy summed it up with these words: “tonight was a very sad night for me. Mayor Don Baird resigned from the City of Colmesneil. He has been the best boss, mentor, and leader I have ever had the pleasure of working for. I will miss our conversation, but I will only be a phone call away. I love you and I will miss you tremendously.”

With the former mayor stepping aside, Crews presided over a short meeting. After the first two items on the agenda (resignation of the mayor, and appointment of new mayor) the last two items on the agenda were the appointment of a new mayor pro-tem and removing and adding signees to the city’s accounts with Citizens Bank. After some discussion around the table, council unanimously appointed Andrus to be the new mayor pro-tem and added Crews’ and Andrus’s names to the signee list, and also removed Baird’s name. 

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Multi-county chase leads in Tyler County arrest

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By Chris Edwards

WARREN – A parole violator from Colorado was arrested in Tyler County, right near the Tyler/Hardin county boundary. The arrest came after a pursuit that spanned four counties.

Gregory A. Sawin, a 45-year-old Denver, Colo., resident, was arrested on Tuesday afternoon at approximately 2 p.m., according to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford. Weatherford’s office was made aware of the pursuit of Sawin at 10:30 a.m. that morning when Hardin County deputies were in pursuit of a BMW passenger car on US Highway 69.

Gregory A. SawinGregory A. SawinWeatherford said the pursuit began in Orange County, and proceded through neighboring Jefferson and Hardin counties. The vehicle stopped on a private road just inside of Tyler County, and Sawin fled, on foot, into a wooded area, just south of Warren. 

Reportedly, the chase reached speeds in excess of 120 MPH, and began when law enforcement in Orange were conducting a welfare check on an allegedly suicidal person. 

Weatherford said that several agencies, including TCSO, the Hardin County Sheriff’s Office, the Orange Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety as well as agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were quickly able to secure a perimeter around the wooded area.

In the end, it was K-9 units from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice out of Livingston and Dayton that were sucessful in tracking Sawin down and leading to his apprehension.

Once he was taken into custody and identified, it was discovered that he was wanted in his home state for a Parole Violation. He was transported to the Orange County Jail, where he will face additional charges. 

A public records search of Sawin also turned up past convictions in the state of Oklahoma for a litany of charges, including forgery, driving under the influence and several assault/battery on a peace officer convictions dating back to 1996.

The mugshot used in this story is provided courtesy of the Colorado Dept. of Corrections.

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White not seeking reelection

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Rep. James White (File Photo)Rep. James White (File Photo)

By Chris Edwards

Tyler County’s own James White (R-Hillister), who has represented House District 19 in the state legislator, announced last week that he will not seek reelection.

White made the announcement in an interview with a television news station. His current two-year term ends next year, and in comments to the Texas Tribune, he said he is considering a run for a statewide office, just as long as “the people want me to pursue that.”

White has served in the House since 2010, when he was first elected. Prior to that, he was an educator in Woodville ISD. In his time as a state representative, redistricting has shifted the landscape of his district, and while he lost three of the four counties in his original district, he gained four new counties to represent. District 19 comprises Tyler, Jasper, Newton, Hardin and Polk counties.

White said that he will “definitely consider joining the statewide field,” and cited his qualifications and competitiveness.

He currently serves as the chairman of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee. Throughout his tenure, he has served on the Corrections and Redistricting committees, the former of which, he said he is most proud of having served on.

Following the 86th legislative session in 2019, White was named to the Texas Monthly list of the state’s best legislators. He has also earned accolades from organizations such as the Texas Eagle Forum and the National Federation of Independent Business in Texas.

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Honoring a local hero - Ivanhoe park renamed in Marshall’s memory

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Ivanhoe City Marshal Terry Riley spoke about his late Deputy Marshal Chuck Marshall and helped to dedicate the Charmaine South Park to him. EMILY EDDINS | TCBIvanhoe City Marshal Terry Riley spoke about his late Deputy Marshal Chuck Marshall and helped to dedicate the Charmaine South Park to him. EMILY EDDINS | TCB

By Emily Eddins

IVANHOE – When Ivanhoe Deputy Marshal Chuck Marshall died last year, his passing left a huge hole in the community.

Last Wednesday, June 10, dozens of Ivanhoe residents and well-wishers gathered to honor Marshall’s memory with the renaming of the city park in his honor.

Marshall was a vital member of the Tyler County community. He loved his job and worked diligently to ensure the safety of the population. When he was not protecting and enforcing, he had a passion for making people smile.

Marshall especially loved young children, the future of the community that he cherished so much.  which is why it is so fitting that the city decided to name the Charmaine South Park after him. City Marshal Terry Riley presented Marshall’s family with a letter from Gov. Greg Abbott officially renaming the park to Chuck Marshall Park.

Riley said “You never knew if Chuck had a bad day because he always had a smile on his face.”

The event was held on Marshall’s birthday this year and had even more significant meaning for his loved ones.

With the dedicated park open to the public and bearing his name and badge number on a plaque, Marshall will still serve his community and produce the same type of smiles everyone remembers him for.

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Presentation outlines possible infrastructure projects

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Architect SpeaksArchitect Ben Miller made a presentation before the Woodville City Council on a series of proposed pedestrian infrastructure projects. CHRIS EDWARDS | TCB

By Chris Edwards

WOODVILLE – The Woodville City Council, at its regular monthly meeting on Monday evening, received a presentation on some possible future projects.

Ben Miller, who works as a landscape architect with Goodwin-Lasiter-Strong, spoke about a series of three proposed pedestrian traffic improvement projects for the city. The funding for the projects, if awarded, will come through the Texas Department of Transportation from federal funding earmarked for building any kind of non-vehicular transportation infrastructure. 

“Luckily this year, in this particular call for projects, towns of under 5,000 have a special pot of money set aside for them, so I think you are all well-suited to get these funds,” Miller said.

The three projects Miller outlined in his presentation include improvements along North Beech Street and two projects involving segments of US 69.

The North Beech project will provide continuous, six-foot sidewalks along the west side of the street from US 190 to Bluebonnet Street and will continue along the south side of Bluebonnet up to existing sidewalk near Woodville High School.

The second project, labelled “US 69 Segment A Pedestrian Improvements,” will provide continuous sidewalks along both sides of US 69 from 190 south to an existing, signalized crossing at Barclay Street. The third project, labelled “Segment B” of the US 69 Pedestrian Improvements, will provide sidewalks along the west side of 69, from 190 north to Dogwood Street, and end at existing sidewalk on the north side of Dogwood.

Miller said he has been in communication with City Administrator Mandy Risinger since March to discuss the funding possibility and needed projects. He said they looked at six possible projects, which were narrowed down to three, which they deemed the ones having the best chance at funding. TxDOT caps funding allocation for the projects at three per entity.

If funded, the projects would possibly have no local match from the city, as it has applied for funding to pay the matches out of funds taken from the profits from toll road usage. The estimated costs for each project, according to Miller, are $1 million for the North Beech Street project; $900K for Segment A and $300K for Segement B. The council passed three resolutions in support of the projects. “Some of these projects will lead us into future projects,” Risinger said.

Willis Motel update given

Right before the council’s short meeting was adjourned, the city’s health inspector Colin Bishop gave an update on the ongoing work at the Willis Motel.

The structure had been affected by fire in 2019 and had since fallen into disrepair, and the city has held hearings to get its owners to bring it up to code. Bishop said the motel’s owners have completed the health portion of the cleanup work on schedule. 

The city is still awaiting building reports, and reports from a fire inspector. Bishop said the building is “a very old structure in very rough shape,” and said that all of the problematic materials that were in the rooms have been removed. The motel is not open for business while the owners move through the city-mandated process of cleanup.

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