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Tyler County News - Breakout

Midterm results: County turnout bucks statewide low

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By Chris Edwards
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Editor’s note: This story reflects the final unofficial vote totals from Election Day (Tuesday, Nov. 8). The version that went to press in the last edition reflected the available totals at press time, which were the tabulations from the precinct boxes.

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.

Statewide, Republicans continued to dominate elections, with Gov. Greg Abbott winning a third term over Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.

Tyler County voters overwhelmingly re-elected Abbott, with 87% of the county’s voters filling in the bubble for the governor to O’Rourke’s 13% showing, or 813 votes.

County voters also decided to send its own congressional representative Brian Babin (R-Woodville) back to Washington, D.C., with 6,357 votes over Democratic challenger Jon Haire’s 809.

In city elections, Woodville named a new mayor, with Amy Bythewood winning 35% of the vote over incumbent Paula Jones’s 33%. Other challengers Michael G. Maness won 21% and Sarah Stephens 12%.

Kelly Dillard won re-election to the Woodville City Council, with 313 votes to Lori Benthall’s 187. Mike Cabaniss won the seat of Alderman Place 4 on the council with 275 votes to Elizabeth Grammer’s 214.

Warren ISD voters voted for unchallenged incumbents Billie Read and Steve Moore with 1,859 and 1,830 votes, respectively. Kimen Johnson, incumbent in Position 6 on the Warren ISD board, won with 42% of the vote over challengers Calvin Wallet and Marianne Pate, and Blake Burkett earned 1,671 votes to Position 7.

The City of Ivanhoe elected a new mayor, with Skip Blackstone earning 51% of the vote over incumbent Cathy Bennett’s 40% and challenger Bob Stoneman’s 9%.

For the at-large seat on the Ivanhoe City Council, incumbents Will Warren earned 34% of the vote, along with John Craven’s 31% and challenger Carolyn Williams won 35%.

Spurger ISD voters elected incumbent Forrest Anderson over challenger Jessica Hensarling, with Anderson netting 63% of the votes over Hensarling’s 38%. Brent Marcum and Paul Bingham each ran unopposed for Positions 6 and 7 on the Spurger board, respectively.

The Colmesneil ISD Board of Trustees elected Bo Bendy and Jacob Adaway to a three-year term on the board in the at-large position with 31% of the vote each over challengers Brandon Martin (22%) and Eric Lee (17%).

Chester ISD’s school board election saw Sam Handley earn 226 votes; Josh Clarke 211; Jesse Gay 189 and Ray McKnight 149.

Woodville ISD’s school board election saw incumbent John Wilson win another term to Place No. 6 with 51% over challengers Kevin McQueen’s 26% and Ben Shepherd’s 23%. Josh McClure also won another term to Place No. 7 with 67% of the vote over Eleanor Holderman’s 33%.

Voters also approved the local adoption of a stock law on the ballot with 72% for it and 28% against.

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Mann sworn-in to Woodville council

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City Secretary Terri Bible swears-in Lee Mann. Mann was appointed to fill longtime councilmember Herb Branch’s seat. MOLLIE LASALLE | TCBCity Secretary Terri Bible swears-in Lee Mann. Mann was appointed to fill longtime councilmember Herb Branch’s seat. MOLLIE LASALLE | TCB

By Mollie LaSalle

WOODVILLE – Woodville City Council met Monday evening and breezed through the meeting in record time.

Prior to the meeting, Lee Mann was sworn in by City Secretary Terri Bible to fill Herb Branch’s unexpired term as Alderman, place 5. Mann took his place on council, and Mayor Paula Jones called the meeting to order.

Council approved all Woodville holidays for 2023, adding June 19 to the list. Woodville first observed the new holiday in 2022.

City Manager Mandy Risinger updated council on the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 16, 2023) activities, starting with a parade, and then a ceremony at the Kirby Gym.

Council agreed to meet on Thursday, Nov. 17 to canvass the votes from the Nov. 8 election.

Risinger updated everyone on upcoming events, namely Christmas in Tyler County. This year’s events begin Friday, Dec. 2 at 5 p.m. with Christmas on the Square, which will feature the lighting of the courthouse, and Santa’s arrival. The Grinch will be on hand, also.  Saturday, Dec. 3 at 11 a.m. will feature live music, a Jolly Jeep Jingle Jeep show, and food and craft vendors.

Other events include an Ugly Sweater Contest, and a Battle of the Beards during Friday night’s festivities, and there will be a Mistletoe Market both days.  Saturday is also the date for the annual Rotary pancake breakfast at St. Paul’s, and a Christmas Open House at the Venue on the Square will take place beginning at 10 a.m.


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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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Chamber planning countywide Christmas celebration

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By Chris Edwards
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TYLER COUNTY – With Halloween but a distant sight in the rearview, Thanksgiving will soon be relegated to the same, but the real fun in Tyler County will begin the Friday after those gobblers are carved.

The Tyler County Chamber of Commerce is planning its annual countywide Christmas celebration, and many of the traditions of this annual event will remain, but some exciting new features will be included, as well.

The celebration will take place during Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2-3. One highlighted event during the Christmas celebration that is new to the schedule is the Jolly Jeep Jingle, which is slated for Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Jolly Jeep Jingle is a showing of vehicles, devoted exclusively to Jeeps. The Chamber is calling all Jeeps to be a part of this inaugural event.

For participants, the entry fee is a new, unwrapped toy donation, which will go to the county’s Child Welfare Board in its efforts to deliver toys to children who are in need of a jolly Christmas.

There will be a prize to the best-decorated Christmas Jeep, and while plans are still being finalized on some of the festivities, those who take in the Jeep show on Saturday can stroll downtown shops and vendors along the Courthouse Square after enjoying the Rotary Club of Woodville’s annual Pancakes with Santa breakfast at the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church fellowship hall.

The Chamber is also planning to feature live music as part of Saturday’s event, with an open invite to pickers and singers to come and join in the fun, as sound will be provided.

The Friday festivities, which will last from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. will include the vendors, and a whole realm of fun on the courthouse grounds, including a full array of Christmas lights, an appearance by Santa Claus, a live Nativity scene, bounce house for the children and Christmas selections played by area high school band students.

There will also be contests, to see who in Tyler County has the best Santa beard and who has the ugliest Christmas sweater. More details on these contests, and more, to come.

The Chamber is actively looking for food and craft vendors for both days of the event.

Vendor spaces are available for the cost of $40 for one day or $70 for both days for food vendors and $25 for one day for craft vendors, or $40 for both days.

The spaces are 10’x10’  and a 10’x20’ can be obtained for double the price. For food vendors, they are required to get the $10 food permit from the City of Woodville, and payment and registration can be obtained through the Chamber’s website, www.tylercountycoc.com. Food vendors can choose to pay separately on the website, and the Chamber will acquire a permit on the vendor’s behalf, to be issued the day of the event.

According to the Chamber, vendors need to be aware that electricity may or may not be available, so please prepare your booth accordingly, especially if you are set up for Friday evening as it will be dark.

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‘Angels with Paws’ hosting benefit

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WOODVILLE – A new organization in Woodville dedicated to pairing trained service dogs with military veterans is hosting a fundraiser Saturday featuring live music, a tasty gumbo dinner and other fun.

Angels with Paws Foundation is a Woodville based 501(c)3 non-profit organization with a mission of training service dogs for our military veterans at no charge.

In order to keep this program free for our service veterans, the foundation relies heavily on donations, sponsors and fundraisers, as well as charging a small per training hour fee for civilians.

For more information on the organization and its goals please visit its website, located at angelswithpaws.org.

The organization is having a benefit fundraiser on Saturday Nov. 12 at Magnolia Bar & Grill in Woodville, which will take place from 1 p.m.-6 p.m.

The event will boast live entertainment by the energetic country-blues/rock duo Johnny Ray Hubbard and Chris Edwards.

There will also be silent auctions, featuring some awesome goods, and a tasty gumbo dinner. Justin Gregory, the event’s organizer, said he wants to invite everyone to come out to the Magnolia and have a great time for an even better cause.


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