As we prepare to usher in a new year, we are taking a look back at some of the most memorable events that took place in Erath County in 2019.
The year began with rumors swirling about possible changes to the Stephenville City Council with Mark McClinton, Rhett Harrison and Sherry Zachery up for another term. The council members kept everyone guessing about their intentions, and in the end, only McClinton sought re-election, setting up a change to the council’s makeup in May.
RANGER COLLEGE GETS PRESTIGIOUS DISTINCTION
A ranking of the 58 community colleges in Texas revealed what many already knew: Ranger College is among the best two-year colleges in the Lone Star State.
SHS GRAD BECOMES HEAD FOOTBALL COACH
Sterling Doty, a 2001 graduate of Stephenville High School, became the new head football coach of the Yellow Jackets, replacing former head coach Greg Winder.
FORMER INSURANCE AGENT PLEADS GUILTY
After pleading guilty to insurance fraud and three counts of forgery, Cody Damron, the former owner of Cowboy Capital Insurance, turned himself in to the Erath County Jail and spent 10 days behind bars as part of his plea agreement.
DOTTAVIO STEPS DOWN
After 11 years of distinguished leadership, Dr. F. Dominic Dottavio announced his intent to step down as president of Tarleton State University. He and his wife, Dr. Lisette Dottavio, made the announcement to the university family via email and video.
FORMER YOUTH PASTOR PLEADS GUILTY
A former local youth pastor was sent to prison for 40 years after pleading guilty to seven counts of promotion of child pornography. Timothy Travis Simon, 34, was sentenced to the maximum by District Court Judge Jason Cashon.
KILLER FLASH FLOOD
A father was the only surviving member in a family of four swept up in flash floods. Gerardo Ramirez was found clinging to a tree after the car he was driving crossed into high water and was swept away three miles south of Dublin. His wife Monica Valdez and the couple’s two children all died in the accident.
REISMAN INDUCTED INTO HALL OF FAME
The legacy of Lonn Reisman will forever be a part of Tarleton Athletics after his name was added to the illustrious list of Tarleton greats. The 30-year head men's basketball coach was named the 169th member of the Tarleton Athletics Hall of Fame in front of the largest crowd in Athletics Hall of Fame history at Wisdom Gym.
HOT AIR BALLOONS TAKE TO THE SKIES
The city’s first-ever Moo-La Fest was a big hit with hot air balloon rides, a carnival, food and much more enjoyed by thousands of residents who attended the event.
HIGH WINDS FLIP PLANE
A strong line of thunderstorms that ripped through Erath County flipped an airplane parked at Clark Field Regional Airport in Stephenville. The plane was in from Round Rock and brought passengers to Stephenville to eat at Hard Eight Barbecue. No one was injured in the mishap.
COATES NAMED PERSON OF YEAR
Erath County Sheriff Matt Coates was voted Person of the Year in the Empire-Tribune’s Best of Erath contest. Winners were announced during a gala at Twisted J Live.
WOMAN DIES IN FARM ACCIDENT
A hay baling accident claimed the life of 69-year-old Sandy Steele who became trapped in a hay baler while working outside with her husband. Steele led the Basic Needs Ministry at Graham Street Church of Christ.
HOSPITAL SUSPENDS LABOR AND DELIVERY SERVICES
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville suspended its labor and delivery services because of retirements and departures of obstetricians on the hospital’s medical staff. The hospital is still trying to recruit new doctors in an effort to get services restored.
ECHS NAMES NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
The Erath County Humane Society named Serena Wright as its new executive director following the retirement of Diane McCoy. Wright grew up in Erath County and graduated from Lingleville High School.
POLICE CHIEF ANNOUNCES NEW ROLE WITH CITY
Stephenville Police Chief Jason King became the new assistant city manager, setting off the hunt for the next police chief. King will continue working in a dual role with the city until a new police chief is named in January.
ERATH COUNTY GETS NEW HUNK
Captain Bryson Kanady with the SFD was crowned as Erath County’s new hunk during a record-setting night for Handsome Hunks of Erath County when the annual event raised a whopping $60,000 for the Stephenville Police Department and Stephenville Fire Department.
HURLEY BECOMES TARLETON’S 16TH PRESIDENT
The Texas A&M University Board of Regents named Dr. James L. Hurley as Tarleton State University’s 16th president. Hurley came to Tarleton from Tusculum University in Greeneville, Tenn.
COMMUNITY SAYS GOODBYE TO JEVAN SNEAD
Jevan Snead, a former quarterback for the Yellow Jackets who was inducted into the Stephenville High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 32. The community paid their final respects to Snead and his family during his funeral when they lined up to shake football cans.
CASE AGAINST FORMER SHERIFF’S OFFICIALS ENDS
The Texas Attorney General’s Office dismissed the criminal case against two former sheriff’s officials - Jason Upshaw and Randy Fowler - after they agreed to relinquish their peace officers license. The agreement ended a more than three-year string of events that began in 2016. A civil suit against Erath County and several county officials remains ongoing.
TARLETON GOES D1
Tarleton State officials accepted an invitation to join the Western Athletic Conference, paving the way for the university to begin the transition to Division I status.
MORGAN MILL ANNOUNCES 4-DAY SCHOOL WEEK
Citing low enrollment numbers, Morgan Mill ISD made a big change to its 2020 fall schedule, announcing that it would transition to a four-day school week. The news was met with excited families and faculty embracing the change.
CHIEF DEPUTY LOSES BATTLE WITH CANCER
After a years-long battle with a rare form of cancer, Chief Deputy Cody Keith passed away at the age of 37, leaving behind a wife and two young children. Keith was a passionate supporter of law enforcement and Backpack Buddies of Erath County.