Three well-known men are the top finalists for Person of the Year in the Empire-Tribune’s Best of Erath competition.

Sheriff Matt Coates, local insurance agent Clayton Iley and Tarleton Athletic Director Lonn Reisman were nominated by their peers and neighbors during the competition’s voting round, which ended on Friday.

More than 127,900 votes were cast in 178 categories.

Sheriff Coates, 45, moved to Stephenville in 2013 and said “community involvement” is what makes the city unique. Coates was also nominated as Person of the Year in 2018.

“Everybody works together for the greater good, and that’s not something you always see in other places,” Coates said.

When asked about his nomination, Coates said, “Win it or not, it’s an honor just to be nominated.”

Iley, 33, is a local insurance agent who was born and raised in Stephenville.

“It’s the people that make Stephenville special,” Iley said. “Any time there is a need, our community rushes to help.”

Iley called the nomination “humbling.”

“It’s cool to know that Jenny (his wife) and I are doing things right,” he said. 

Reisman, 64, said he is “honored” to be a finalist. 

 “I’ve been fortunate enough to call Stephenville home for over 30 years,” Reisman said. “Stephenville and Erath County are great supporters of Tarleton State University and this is a special community to be a part of. There’s a lot of influential and outstanding citizens in Erath County and it’s an honor to be a finalist.”

Other top three finalists include:

Best Firefighter:

Chris Hoffman - Huckabay Volunteer Fire Department

Albert Ray - Lingleville Volunteer Fire Department

Cody Wells - Stephenville Fire Department

Best Law Enforcement Officer:

Chili Alexander - TSU Police Department

Matt Coates - Erath County Sheriff’s Office

Kent Howell - Erath County Sheriff’s Office

Best Teacher:

Becky Bray - White Horse Christian Academy

Jessica Cowan - Central Elementary

Brittany Magin - Chamberlin Elementary  

Best Nurse:

Jody Fain - Central Elementary

Monica Goodnight - Dr. Shane Gilliam

Sheila Lambert - Texas Health Stephenville

One of this year’s new categories is Best Surgeon. The top three finalists in that category include Dr. Stephen Erck, Dr. Bill Evans and Dr. Kevin Vanden Berge.

The winners will be announced at a red carpet gala on Saturday, June 22, at Twisted J Live. Tickets go on sale May 20.