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2022: Tyler County newsmakers in the rearview

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New Years Graphic

Compiled by Chris Edwards
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TYLER COUNTY – A new face at the helm of county government and a breath of positivity from our corner of the pines broadcast to the rest of the world in the form of a talented musician were two of the big stories jumping from the pages of this newspaper in 2022.

Twenty twenty-three will be another year full of comings and goings; art, commerce and jurisprudence and all manner of happenings to grace the pages of the Booster, but before that cork is popped and the final black-eyed pea moves us into the new year, here is a recap of a few of those stories brought to you from the pages of this newspaper.

February – Hicks sentenced to life

A jury handed down a guilty verdict and life sentence to Blaze Hicks for the 2019 murder of Brandon Wood.

Hicks, 29, a Silsbee man, stood trial last week in a five-day trial before District Judge Delinda Gibbs-Walker. The verdict and sentence were both handed down on Friday, Feb. 11 in the District Courtroom inside the Tyler County Courthouse.

Tyler County’s District Attorney Lucas Babin said the conviction was a victory for law enforcement in the county and added that “East Texas is safer now that Blaze Hicks has been removed from society.”

Babin said that during the trial, evidence made a case that Hicks had a long history of violence prior to the murder of 28-year-old Wood on the afternoon of Sept. 23, 2019.

During trial, more than 20 witnesses and 45 different pieces of evidence exhibited to the jury told the story of the day that Hicks traveled from Silsbee to Warren looking for Wood. The story that unfolded in the courtroom showed that Hicks carried a loaded .22 rifle with him and began firing at Wood, who was unarmed, shortly after he saw him.

Hicks shot Wood four times in the back and fled the scene, and although he got away, he dropped his cellphone in the process. That phone was recovered by law enforcement later, and it contained a selfie of Hicks on its home-screen, according to Babin.

First Assistant DA Pat “Hawk” Hardy added that Newton County deputy Keith Franklin was also a valuable contributor to making the case against Hicks.

“This was a team effort to get a dangerous individual off the street,” Hardy said.

May – WISD bond election passes

The results of the special May 7 election came in, and the proposed $47.8 million bond for district-wide improvements at Woodville ISD passed by a 51.20% majority.

“It means the work gets started now,” Woodville ISD Superintendent Lisa Meysembourg said after the results were made public.

The bond proposal came on the recommendation of a district task force comprised of residents, business leaders and WISD staff members. The improvements to WISD on the table include the construction of a new Pre-K through fifth grade elementary school building, which would be housed under one roof, as well as additions to the Career and Technical Education Center.

Meysembourg said the district hopes to have the design process started soon, and the building completed by December.

Once construction begins, there will be no disruption in the routine of WISD elementary students, as the new elementary campus will be built close to Woodville High School and the middle school campuses.

The bond election results was challenged in court in a suit brought about by Woodville businessman Charles Rawls. A district judge later ruled in WISD’s favor in the suit.

August – Daycare facility subject of investigations

Early Birds Learning Center, A Woodville-based daycare facility was the subject of an investigation involving multiple agencies.

The facility was the subject of a weeks-long investigation by the Texas Child Care Licensing Investigative Unit and the Woodville Police Department.

While Woodville police are handling the criminal investigation aspect, the state agency responsible for licensing will determine whether or not the facility stays open or if fines are levied, according to Woodville Police Captain Jathan Borel.

Kelly Bass, the director of the facility, denied the allegations aimed at the facility and its employees, and alleged that a former employee has made the claims.

The owner and director of the facility later received a no-bill in October from the Grand Jury.

October – ‘A pivotal moment’: Woodville singer/songwriter rises to national attention

Woodville native Kim Cruse managed to capture the nation’s attention with a run on NBC’s The Voice in the popular show’s 22nd season.

Cruse reached the semi-final rounds, and drew a great deal of praise from around the world with her soulful performances.

Cruse, who played hostess to a full house of family and friends at a watch party at the Emporium in Woodville on the night of her debut on the show, said the show could prove to be a pivotal moment in her life.

In her first appearance on the popular show, Cruse sang “The Best Part”, originally recorded by Daniel Caesar and H.E.R., and got the attention of all four celebrity judges, all of whom turned their chairs around and vied for her to choose them as her coach for the season. Cruse ultimately chose R&B/pop singer-songwriter John Legend as her coach.

Legend remarked about her voice that her “tone immediately got me,” and said “I can’t wait to work with her.”

No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani, who is one of the four judges, called Cruse’s voice “so unbelievably pretty,” and added that she did not even think she could talk after hearing her sing.

The charismatic 30-year-old artist has already achieved viral video stardom prior to her star turn on television, and has toured the country, both as a solo act, as well as part of other artists’ shows. She has also proven herself as a songwriter and recording artist, with the 2021 release of an eponymously titled five-song EP.

Before all of that, Cruse grew up in her father’s church, Little Baptist Church, in Woodville, where she sang as often as she could from an early age.

She credits her parents, the beloved Rev. Bobby Cruse and Ramona Cruse, as her biggest inspirations to sing and perform.

“They’ve worked so hard to help make everything happen for me. I want to be able to give them the world and more,” she said.

Through her career, Cruse has already earned comparisons to classic women of song, such as Nina Simone and Etta James, and since her appearance on The Voice, some critics have stated that her vocals give the same type of emotional conveyance as the great Billie Holiday.

November – Powers wins county judge seat

TYLER COUNTY – When all was said and done after a long midterm election season in Tyler County, the county elected a new county judge by a decisive margin, and several other races, ranging from mayoral to school boards, were decided by voters across the county.

Republican nominee Milton Powers won the office of County Judge, with 4,699 votes, of 66% of the election. Powers’s Democratic challenger Wesley Whitman earned 11% of the vote, or 747 votes and write-in Republican Neil Alderman earned 23%, or 1,651 votes.

Alderman was not the only write-in candidate to earn a good number of votes in this midterm. Amanda Radke Hastings challenged incumbent Buck Hudson for the office of Pct. 4 Commissioner and earned 169 votes to Hudson’s 958.

According to statewide totals, voter turnout dropped, with a little more than 45% of the state’s registered voters turning out to the polls. Figures from Secretary of State John Scott’s office show Tyler County voters doing better than that, with 50.1% of the county’s registered voters making their voices heard at the polls.

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GOP Women’s group to install officers

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Install Officers Stock

WOODVILLE The Tyler County Republican Women would like to invite residents of Tyler County to join the organization as it installs its new officers for the year 2023-24.

The installation will take place, along with a dinner, on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2013, beginning at 6 p.m., at the at the Nutrition Center, located at 201 Veterans Way in Woodville.

A silent auction will begin at 5:30 P. M. Complimentary dinner will be served. Reserved seating only. Seating is limited and must be reserved by Jan. 1, 2023.  Attendees can RSVP  by text or phone to 940-597-9433 or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Blackstone sworn-in as Ivanhoe mayor

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City of IvanhoeBy Chris Edwards
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IVANHOEBefore getting to the regular agenda, the City of Ivanhoe welcomed its new mayor, one new councilmember and one returning councilmember, to its leadership at the regular meeting of the City Council last Thursday.

Before a large crowd, Municipal Judge Cathy Rader swore-in newly elected Skip Blackstone to begin his first term as Mayor of Ivanhoe. Newly elected councilmember Carolyn Williams and returning councilmember Will Warren were also sworn-in along with Blackstone.

Next, Rader swore-in the city’s Marshal’s Office officers, including City Marshal Terry Riley and deputy marshals Robert Krausman; Steve Drumm and Jim Zachary.

“I’m very humbled and honored to be your mayor,” Blackstone said, after the swearing-in and invocation was delivered.

Blackstone thanked his predecessor Cathy Bennett for all the years of service and “wonderful” things she has done for the city. He added that he is “drinking from a fire hydrant” in preparing to fill the role as mayor of the city.

After a few candid remarks, Blackstone updated the council on some grant-funded projects. Blackstone said city officials had met with the city’s grant administrator and talked a great deal about things that are coming along regarding various projects.

For the projects funded through the $11.4 million GLO grant, which was awarded last year, including the rebuilding of the Lake Ivanhoe and Camelot dams, Blackstone said that all of the properties the city needs to purchase have been identified for the Lake Ivanhoe Dam project.

As a result of the environmental study on the Camelot Dam, wetlands were discovered on the dam’s downhill slide. Blackstone said the city has two options – to go to the wetlands bank to buy comparable property for around $20,000, or it can purchase wetland property from IPIOA and trade that property.

Gregory nominated to council

Following Blackstone’s report to council, Warren made a motion to nominate Justin Gregory, a longtime Ivanhoe resident and entrepreneur to fill the empty seat on the council, which was vacated by Blackstone when he assumed the office of mayor.

Councilmember Tommy Morris also suggested Johnny Craven, who previously served on the council, to fill the position. Gregory was approved to fill the position, and Rader swore him in following the agenda item.

In addition to Gregory’s appointment, councilmember David Herrington put forth a nomination for Warren to serve as the city’s Mayor Pro-Tem.


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Kingsmen sought for upcoming Dogwood Festival

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Recommendations are currently being accepted for Kingsmen for the 2022 Tyler County Dogwood Festival.  Pictured are the Kingsmen in 2020. TCB FILE PHOTORecommendations are currently being accepted for Kingsmen for the 2022 Tyler County Dogwood Festival.  Pictured are the Kingsmen in 2020. TCB FILE PHOTO

Courtesy of the Dogwood Publicity Committee

Christmas is in the air all across Tyler County, but the directors of the Tyler County Dogwood Committee have springtime on their minds as they begin planning for what they hope will be the best festival to date.   

The 80th Annual Dogwood Festival will get kicked off with the Festival of the Arts March 17-18.  Western Weekend will follow on March 24-25.

The three week-long festival will conclude with the Queen’s Weekend, with the Dogwood Parade and Coronation scheduled for April 1.

Dogwood activities begin in January with the process of selecting local royalty. Senior girls from the five school districts in Tyler County will participate in a series of judgings to determine which ladies will serve as Princesses and Ladies in Waiting. Kingsmen, which are a group of businessmen from Tyler County, will carefully make selections based on poise, personality, and beauty.  The judging dates for the festival have been set, and recommendations are currently being accepted for Kingsmen. 

In order to be eligible, each candidate would need to obtain two letters of recommendation from current Kingsmen. There are yearly dues of $50, and each Kingsman is required to sell at least $150 in advertisements for the Dogwood Book.  If you, or anyone you know, is interested in becoming a Kingsman, the letters of recommendation and dues need to be received by the Dogwood Festival Committee no later than Monday, Jan. 9. 

The judging dates for this year are Jan. 26; Feb. 2 and Feb. 9.  All Kingsmen are required to dress appropriately (Sunday best) for all judgings.  For more information, including a list of current Kingsmen, please go to www.tylercountydogwoodfestival.orgor go to the Tyler County Dogwood Festival Facebook page. Interested individuals may also reach out to Sarah Russell at 409-937-6959.


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Colmesneil Elementary student launches canned goods drive

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Miles Food pantryMiles Settlocker is celebrated by the volunteers of Heavenly Blessings Food Pantry in Colmesneil, as well as his teacher Shelley Rhodes (second from left). Settlocker’s gathered donations of close to 1,300 canned goods will go toward addressing food scarcity in the area. CHRIS EDWARDS | TCB

By Chris Edwards
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COLMESNEIL – On the morning of Thursday, Dec. 8, a truck from Colmesneil ISD made its way up US 69 to drop off a packed bed of canned goods at the Heavenly Blessings Food Pantry, at Tejas Road Baptist Church.

The person responsible for this large donation, which amounted to nearly 1,300 cans, was Colmesneil Elementary fourth-grade student Miles Settlocker.

Settlocker, the nine-year-old son of John and Dena Settlocker, was touched and inspired when he read about displaced people in war-torn Ukraine. He wondered about what he could do to help people in his own area who might be experiencing food shortages, according to his teacher Shelley Rhodes.

Rhodes said that Settlocker developed the idea for a canned food drive, for all of the elementary grades to participate. He made a flyer and passed it out to all of his fellow students two weeks ago, she said, and with each daily count of the donated goods, he would comment about how many more people the donations could help.

The classes made it competitive, as well, with the class that drew the most donations (Pre-K) earning a reward of a picnic.

When Settlocker, who came over in the truck with Rhodes, arrived at the food pantry on Thursday morning, they hauled with them close to 1,300 individual canned goods. Volunteers were amazed at the number of donations and spent a good portion of the morning unloading the boxes full of non-perishables into their storeroom to be ready for donating.

“It was a very selfless act on his part,” Rhodes said. “The whole focus was helping others. I was very proud of him.”


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