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TxDOT hosting US 69 corridor hearing

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US 69 Corridor Overall Location MapUS 69 Corridor Overall Location Map

By Caleb Fortenberry

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has issued a notice for the US 69 corridor project and study. The project, which is dubbed “Gateway to the Big Thicket,” is the subject of a virtual public hearing next week.

The virtual hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 19. A video with information about the project will be attached to the following website https://www.txdot.gov, by 4 p.m. next Thursday. The video will be posted near the bottom of the web page, according to a TxDOT news release.

The corridor covers approximately 345 miles of highway from Port Aurthur to Denison. The part of the project projected to reach Tyler County would stretch to FM 1943 near Warren. Involvement with the public began in 2017 and is still an ongoing part of the process.

The proposal for the project is to:

  • widen portions of the highway to four lanes,

  • add 12-foot travel lanes in both directions,

  • include 4-foot inside shoulders,

  • 10-foot outside shoulder on the southbound lane,

  • a 12-foot shoulder on the northbound lane that serves as hurricane lanes,

  • and extend  10-foot trails for biking and hiking.

According to the notice of the hearing, the additional right-of-way width in the project proposal, which would increase the typical 100-120 feet width to 300 feet, would potentially displace five residences and two other non-residential structures.

The in-person version of the hearing, available by appointment, will be on Tuesday, December 1, 2020 at the TxDOT Beaumont District office, 8350 Eastex Freeway, Beaumont, TX 77708. It will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Individuals must call to make an appointment at (512) 560-5108 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. To leave a recorded voicemail of concerns, call (409) 402-0151 between Nov. 19 at 5 p.m. and Friday Dec. 18 at 11:59 p.m.

Written comments can also be received at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., through the TxDOT website, or through mail addressed to TxDOT Project Manager, 8350 Eastex Freeway, Beaumont, TX 77708 before 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 18.

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Unofficial Tyler County results favor incumbents

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Voters in Tyler County turned out to polling places on Election Day in smaller numbers than those who chose to vote early. (CHRIS EDWARDS | EASTTEXASNEWS.COM PHOTO)Voters in Tyler County turned out to polling places on Election Day in smaller numbers than those who chose to vote early. (CHRIS EDWARDS | EASTTEXASNEWS.COM PHOTO) 
 
BY CHRIS EDWARDS
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

TYLER COUNTY – With Election Day on Tuesday, the end came to a contentious presidential campaign, and records were shattered, both locally and nationwide.

At this time, former Vice President Joe Biden (D) led incumbent President Donald Trump in electoral votes, with Biden’s 223 over Trump’s 174, but neither candidate had received the necessary 270 to win.

Trump was favored to win Texas with 52% to 46.8% of the vote based on returns. He won Tyler County with 5,581 votes tallied from early voting totals. The other boxes were not available at press time for the presidential race, but that early figure was a sizable lead in the county over Biden’s 1,094.

In the 2016 race, Trump won Tyler County 6,601 votes. The total number in this, and other contested national races will be available on our Facebook page as soon as they are available.

In countywide races, the contest between incumbent sheriff Bryan Weatherford, who ran as a Republican, and his challenger Michael “Mike” King, who ran as an independent candidate, ended with Weatherford maintaining his office. Weatherford received 6,379 votes to King’s 2,961.

In Tyler County, the early voting turnout broke records, with 5,889 early votes counted as of last Friday, according to county clerk Donece Gregory. That total comprised 40.4% of the county’s 14,557 registered voters. 

That turnout mirrored the nationwide trend, with close to 100 million voters opting to cast their ballots prior to Tuesday. 

In statewide races, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Woodville) easily maintained his seat in the 36th Congressional District. He received 5,695 votes over Democratic challenger Rashad Lewis’s 899 votes, by early voting numbers. 

The closely watched Senate race between incumbent John Cornyn, a Republican, and Democratic opponent MJ Hegar ended with Cornyn’s re-election. Early voting totals for that race in Tyler County had Cornyn at 5,390 votes and Hegar at 1,077.

The final determination for the presidential race comes on Dec. 14 when Electoral College electors are due to cast their ballots.

Other contested races in the county, which had unofficial totals at press time included mayoral and city council races for Woodville and Ivanhoe, as well as school board races in Colmesneil, Spurger and Woodville. 

Ivanhoe Mayor Cathy Bennett defeated challenger Ray McGlaun, with 330 votes to 321. In the Ivanhoe City Council race, John Craven received 376 votes, Will Warren 312 and Karen Fidler 267.

Woodville Mayor Paula Jones won with 392 votes over Michael G. Maness’s 278 and Kenneth A. Engler’s 69.

In the Woodville ISD Board of Trustees, place 2, John David Risinger received 1,732 votes over Kris Fowler’s 1,450.

For the Colmesneil ISD board’s race for three spots, Kelly Eddins had 633 votes; Kenneth Adaway 590; Clay Bendy 526; Kris Lindsey 470 and Robert Lawson 347. 

For the Spurger school board position, Brad Hatton had 351 votes and Juli Golden 186.

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Meth dealer receives 20-year sentence

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RobertHolcombMug102920MUGSHOT: Robert L. Holcomb, Jr. Courtesy of the TYLER COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

By Chris Edwards

WOODVILLE – After a long hiatus from jury trials due to the pandemic, Tyler County District Attorney Lucas Babin is back in action.

On Monday, Babin and first assistant DA Pat “Hawk” Hardy successfully brought a conviction for the state in the case of Texas v. Robert Lloyd Holcomb, Jr. District Judge Earl Stover handed Holcomb a sentence of 20 years in state jail on the charge of Possession of Meth with Intent to Deliver.

“I appreciate Judge Stover for his attentiveness to the evidence and his sense of justice,” Babin said.

During the trial, Holcomb took the stand and testified that he was only a meth user and not a dealer. He also attempted to explain why he was carrying digital scales, a loaded short-barrel shotgun, $800 in cash and close to an ounce of meth when he was arrested.

Babin and Hardy’s evidence proved that Holcomb was a dealer, and one witness testified before the jury that he had purchased meth from Holcomb at least 10 times.

After Holcomb was sentenced, Babin said “The message is that selling meth in Tyler County has consequences.”

Babin gave thanks to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford and his deputies’ efforts in apprehending Holcomb.

“Without their efforts, this offender would still be on the streets endangering our law-abiding citizens,” he said.

Holcomb is one of several convicted methamphetamine traffickers who have been tried in Tyler County and received stiff sentences. Following a full year of jury trials in 2019, Babin and his office have had to take most of this year off from the courtroom due to COVID-19.

“I’m glad to be back in the courtroom,” he said. “In addition to this case, we resolved several dozen other felonies last week and will be resolving more cases next month.”

Babin added that last year between the months of March and September there were hundreds of jury trials performed, statewide, but that number has been “barely 20” this year.

“I’m ready to get our justice system moving again, and I know other DAs across the state feel the same.”

Holcomb will be confined in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice facility.

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Former Tyler County Sheriff Jessie Wolf dies

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Jesse Wolf 1Wolf when he served as Tyler County Sheriff. PHOTO COURTESY OF KENDALL COLEMAN

 
By Chris Edwards

WOODVILLE – Former Tyler County Sheriff Jessie Wolf died on Monday at the age of 68. Wolf was a long-time lawman in the county and served one term as sheriff. He died of natural causes.

In a profile of Wolf written by the late scholar and community leader Mayme Canada Brown, and published in the Sept. 25, 2014 edition of the Booster, Wolf was described as a stand-out athlete during his high school days at Warren ISD.

Wolf was, according to Brown’s story, one of the “new generation in the time of total integration,” in 1968, and following his graduation in 1970, he and his twin brother James were scouted by Prairie View A&M University and accepted to the program in 1972.

Wolf was a collegiate star athlete, as well, and was inducted into the university’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2014. In addition to being a football star, Wolf also earned a collegiate letter in the university’s track and field division.

Following his graduation from college in 1976, he was drafted by the Miami Dolphins. He also played for the Birmingham Americans and the Canadian team the Stamp Platers.

After his semi-pro and professional football career ended, he returned to Tyler County, and worked in law enforcement. He eventually worked his way up to Chief Deputy under the late former Sheriff Gary Hennigan.

jesse wolf 2Jessie Wolf in the ‘70s as a Prairie View A&M football star. BOOSTER FILE PHOTO

In 2004, when Hennigan retired due to declining health, Wolf became acting sheriff, and was later elected to the position. He took office in 2005 and served one term.

Wolf, according to Brown’s piece, made history as the first Black sheriff in the county’s history. When he retired from his law enforcement career, aside from being a highly respected member of the law enforcement community, he was a shining example, as Brown wrote, of someone who had the courage and willingness to move forward in life.

A public celebration of Wolf’s life is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Eagle Summit on the campus of Woodville High School, which will be prefaced by a public viewing starting at 9 a.m. The services for Wolf are being handled by Kendall Coleman and Coleman’s Family Mortuary of Woodville.

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Woodville ISD approves goals; terminates remote learning

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Lisa Meysembourg 072320File Photo - Woodville ISD superintendant Lisa Meysembourg

By Chris Edwards

WOODVILLE – The Woodville ISD Board of Trustees discussed and approved a pair of agenda items relating to district-wide goals and improvement plans respective to each WISD campus at its Monday night meeting.

The first item up for discussion was the district’s revised goals, with respect to how they relate to the district’s own goals as well as meeting goals with regard to the sweeping House Bill 3 passed during the last legislative session. WISD Curriculum Director Ashley Weatherford spoke about this item, and where the district needs to be.

“We’re at the point where we need to dig deeper,” she said, and explained that data is being looked at through the federally required metric of student achievement meeting the appropriate grade levels. She cited, as an example, data that showed WISD’s third grade as performing at 67% below the level for reading and 84% for math.

Weatherford said one new goal set forth, district-wide, is the investment in technology infrastructure and professional development, and she added that in spite of the “COVID slide” throughout the second half of last school year and this year’s term, she has seen some “great wins” on each WISD campus.

WISD campus principals each spoke to their respective campus improvement plans. Woodville Middle School principal Kevin Frauenberger said that his campus’s two main goals are to improve community relations through outreach and to improve student achievement.

High school principal Rusty Minyard said his campus goals are focusing on two areas: reaching out and nurturing the student population in the low-income socioeconomic demographic for them to succeed and supporting his campus’s teachers.

“I want them to feel good about coming to work every day,” Minyard said.

Woodville Intermediate principal Bonnie Trammell said that her campus’s priority is to meet standards appropriate to grade levels and putting resources and energies into training teachers with flexible, data-driven plans.

Along with the goals and improvement plans, the board also approved a one-time incentive payment for all WISD employees for their November paychecks. Superintendent Lisa Meysembourg said the incentive, which will be a bonus of about $300 per employee, is a way to recognize the hard work and dedication of the district’s faculty and staff during this school year with all of its changes due to COVID-19.

In another measure related to the coronavirus, WISD voted to terminate remote learning. Board president Jimmy Tucker said that many of the districts in the region are dropping remote learning, and Meysembourg said “We just need our kids back in school.”

Meysembourg gave an update from the Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath about remote instruction that gives school districts the latitude to either continue or terminate remote learning, but to give the option for those who must be quarantined due to compromised immune systems.

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