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Tyler County News - Breakout

Powers wins county judge race; Abbott stays

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Large turnout for midterm

By Chris Edwards
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TYLER COUNTY – The 2022 midterm election in Tyler County was marked for the history books in several ways.

The election drew two write-in candidates, including one who aspired to the office of County Judge. The election also featured a high turnout for early voting, and up on the ballot, at the statewide level, was a nationally watched showdown between a former congressman and an incumbent governor.

The hotly watched race for Tyler County Judge saw Republican nominee Milton Powers earn 70%, or 2,202 of the votes and Democratic Party nominee Wesley Whitman ended up with 10% votes (322 votes). Neil Alderman, who entered the race in August as a write-in Republican, ended up winning the seat with 20%, or 624 of the votes.

At press time, the tabulations for the early voting numbers for these candidates were not available. All numbers represented here are unofficial results. These results are from the 18 precinct boxes reporting.

Another write-in candidate, Amanda Radke Hastings, managed to get 12% of the votes to incumbent Buck Hudson’s 88% for the office of Commissioner Pct. 4.

At press time, the gubernatorial race between Gov. Greg Abbott and Democrat challenger Beto O’Rourke was being called for Abbott. Abbott received 2,169 votes to O’Rourke’s 301 in Tyler County, not counting early voting results.

The turnout was high for voters who took advantage of the two-week early voting period. In total, 3,699 Tyler County voters turned out to the polls. In the last midterm, in 2018, early voting turnout was 3,265, or 24% of the county’s electorate at the time.

At the statewide level, early voting numbers dropped when compared to the 2018 midterm. According to unofficial totals by the Secretary of State’s office, the turnout is about 31%, while 2018 results indicated that the early voting tally was nearly 40%.

Tyler Countians overwhelmingly re-elected Rep. Brian Babin to another term in Congress. Babin notched 88% of the votes, or 2,189 votes, to Democratic challenger Jon Haire’s 292 votes. Other statewide races showed Republicans keeping their offices, with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton both earning re-election.

Spurger ISD candidates Forrest Anderson received 235 votes; Jessica Hensarling 179; Brent Marcum 357 and Paul Bingham 360.

Woodville ISD candidates John M. Wilson received 352 votes; Kevin McQueen 237 and Ben Shepherd 147 for Place No. 6. For Place No. 7, Josh McClure received 522 votes to Eleanor Holderman’s 240.

The Woodville mayoral race saw Amy Bythewood receive 39% of the votes over Sarah Stephens’s 10%; incumbent Paula Jones’s 29% and Michael G. Maness’s 22%.

The Woodville City Council races saw Kelly Cordes Dillard receive 59% to challenger Lori Benthall’s 41% and Mike Cabaniss got 51% to Elizabeth Grammer’s 49%.

Incumbent Ivanhoe mayor Cathy Bennett received 38% of the vote to challenger Skip Blackstone’s 53% and Robert Stoneman’s 9%.

These results are what were available at press time.

For an up-to-date slate of results, counting the early voting totals, please visit the Booster’s Facebook page.

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Art League Fall show winners announced

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“Gala,” an acrylic painting by Janet Clements won the “Best in Show” nod in the Tyler County Art League’s Fall show.“Gala,” an acrylic painting by Janet Clements won the “Best in Show” nod in the Tyler County Art League’s Fall show.

WOODVILLE – The winners in Tyler County Art League’s Fall Show are: Best in Show: “Gala”, Acrylic by Janet Clements; First Place: “Hubby’s Trophy”, Oil by Nyla Rebbe; Second Place: “Ordinary Beauty”, Pastel by Lisa Richardson; Third Place: “Copper 7”, Acrylic/Copper by Danny Clements; and Honorable Mentions: “Canvas Back Drake”, Acrylic by Greg Broussard, “Rescue Donkeys”, Oil by Carolyn Guzman, “Whirlpool”, Mixed Media by Wanda Blankenship.

The Judge’s Choice Award went to Carolyn Guzman for “Summer Days”. Patti Barras of Colmesneil judged the show.

The show will be on view through Dec. 31 at the Gallery, 210 W. Bluff in Woodville. Hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, or by appointment at 409-242-7851.

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Residents file claims against auditor’s bond

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By Chris Edwards
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TYLER COUNTY – Several Tyler County residents have served a notice of intent to file against the county auditor’s surety bond.

At present time, 12 residents have filed against Jackie Skinner’s surety bond. Surety bonds are required, by statute, of all public officials.

The bonds provide financial guarantee against loss that the official’s duties of his/her office will be performed according to the law during the term the official is sworn-in for.

According to information on the website tycoarparemedy.com, the notices have been sent in the claim amount of $3,500 each, which is the amount of money officials and county employees were awarded from the county’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) fund allotment.

The notices of intent, which have all been published to the aforementioned website, outline each resident’s claim, alleging that Skinner, in her role of disbursing the ARPA funds to elected officials, “willfully violated multiple laws relating Bondholder’s employment and misused $392,000 of government property.”

The claims cite “multiple official acts undertaken” by Skinner “without constitutional, statutory or regulatory authority” and goes on to cite a dereliction of duty.

The ARPA fund disbursement to the county’s elected officials in the form of premium pay was part of the $392K sum, which was split up between 144 active and retired county government employees, both appointed and elected. Fifty-nine thousand, five hundred of that went to elected officials, while the rest went to retirees, part-time employees and full-time employees of the county’s government.

The claims note how the ARPA funds were determined by the federal government to be used, including as a response to the public health emergency caused by the pandemic and its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses and non-profits, as well as investments in infrastructure.

In September, the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, issued a non-binding opinion on the use of the ARPA funds. The opinion was made in response to a request Skinner made in February.

Paxton stated that “a court could conclude that ARPA premium pay funds are not ‘salary’ for purposes” under Local Government Code 152.013, which requires advance public notice of salary increases, expenses or allowances of elected county or precinct officials.

Skinner, who presented a breakdown in a March regular meeting of the Tyler County Commissioners Court, said that in 2021, when the county became aware of the funds, there was no understanding or knowledge of how or what they could be used for, and in an interim ruling at the time, said there was no guidance stating whether or not elected officials were eligible.

“If I at any time felt I was committing a criminal act, I never would have allowed it to happen,” Skinner said during that court session in March.

The notices posted on the website state that in order to rectify the situation, Skinner must either admit error and provide a check to the claimants in the amount of $3,500 or cite statutory authority for the ARPA disbursement.

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Woodville barber says goodbye

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Claude Gulley, in August 1986, cuts a young Jeremy Nichols’s hair. Jeremy’s mother, Becky, holds him still.Claude Gulley, in August 1986, cuts a young Jeremy Nichols’s hair. Jeremy’s mother, Becky, holds him still.

By Kelli Barnes

WOODVILLE Always known for his keen sense of humor and with a joke at the ready, Claude Gulley, local barber in Tyler County is officially retiring after serving the community more than 50 years. “I had no desire to go to college,” said Gulley.

“Trade school and becoming a barber has been good to me and my family and I have Tyler County to thank for that,” he said.

Claude raised two children, Amy and Chad, with his wife Ricki of almost 51 years, right here in Tyler County. Now he has eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

“We are planning to move closer to our kids and grandkids to make a lot more good memories with whatever time God has allotted for us,” said Gulley. “May God be with us as we embark on our new journey, but our door is always welcome and open to family and friends. Thank you again Tyler County for all the wonderful friendships and memories. I would love to be remembered as a person that treated people the way I would like to be treated.”

Over the years, Gulley watched hairstyles come and go. His favorites are a regular men’s haircut and a high and tight, but he is well-known for his flat-tops. He comes from a family of barbers: dad Thurman Gulley, uncle Hunter Gulley and brother Gary Gulley.

Gulley moved to Chester at age six, began school in Woodville in seventh grade, graduating in 1969. Next, he attended barber school in Humble and began working with his dad at the Woodville motel for a few months, before they poured the slab in 1970 where the shop still sits today. “I want the public to know the shop will remain open to serve Tyler County. The current barber, Christy, is there to serve the community.”

There is no way to know the number of haircuts Gulley has done over the years, but like so many, Jacques and Leza Blanchette testify they have a son who will only let Claude cut his hair.

“All haircuts were special and memorable in their own way,” said Gulley.

How many of you can remember waiting in Gulley’s Barber Shop for his chair to “get open”?

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School district addresses hate speech posts

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By Chris Edwards
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Last week a series of posts emerged on Facebook portraying hate speech allegedly referencing Hemphill Hornet football players.

The posts, which are screenshots taken from a Snapchat group chat, feature several users allegedly commenting on the Friday, Oct. 21 Warren Warriors/Hornets game, which took place in Hemphill.

The commenters within the chat are shown commenting on the Hornets’ defensive line and certain players. Messages such as “f---k the big n-----r 61” and “Ik almost all them n-----s” appear within the screenshots.

Another message within the screenshots features a derogatory statement concerning a Hispanic athlete.

Warren ISD’s athletic director and head football coach Austin Smithey made a statement addressing the messages, after they came to light, publicly.

“Warren ISD is aware of an inappropriate social media post that was allegedly sent out by WHS students after the Hemphill football game. We are currently investigating and will make sure to take appropriate corrective action,” Smithey said. 

He added that as a coach, he is “embarrassed, disappointed and disgusted” by the posts. 

“These statements do not reflect the values taught at WISD and our athletic program. We will work hard to ensure this does not happen again,” he said.

According to Darryl Beasley, who works as the director of compliance for the University Interscholastic League, such allegations, which are violations of UIL rules, are to be investigated at the district level, starting with the coach, athletic director, principal, superintendent, or school board of trustees.

When the Booster reached out to the office of Warren ISD Superintendent Dr. Tammy Boyette, the district issued a statement addressing the messages; that it is currently investigating the report of the messages.

Due to federal and state laws regarding the confidentiality of student information, however, Warren ISD is not at liberty to further disclose more information.

“Nevertheless, rest assured, that all Warren ISD students, including our student athletes, are expected to communicate respectfully with their peers,” the statement read.

Warren ISD further stated that it “will continue reviewing the situation and issue reformative discipline per the Extracurricular Code of Conduct and Student Code of Conduct.”

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