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By Phillip Williams/Correspondent

GILMER--Upshur County Tax Assessor-Collector Sherron Laminack, who had said that creating the office of county election administrator could cause her to close her office’s Gladewater substation, said last week she will try to keep the branch office open “as long as we can.”

She said on Sept. 8 she would assign one of her deputies, Mary Anne Farrow, to the substation and that its fate is subject to how much business the main tax office in Gilmer has during its peak season from October to January, when patrons are paying property taxes.

In voting 3-1 Aug. 31 to create the EA post, the Upshur County Commissoners Court moved Deputy Voter Registrar Pam Dean’s position and her $24,000 salary from the tax office into the new EA office. The $24,000 will now be applied toward the $40,000 annual salary for the EA, who has not yet been named.

Dean had been manning the Gladewater substation, and Laminack had said that the branch office would close if a worker in her office moved to the EA office. (The Gladewater office of Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Rhonda Welch will remain open.)

The commissioners court created the EA position effective Oct. 1. But the Upshur County Election Commission--a separate body from the court--can wait up to a year to fill the position if it decides not to do so by Oct. 1, said County Judge Dean Fowler, who chairs the commission.

The 5-member election commission met Sept. 8  to begin the process for filling the newly-created EA post.

At that meeting, Fowler said the commission could hire the EA as soon as Oct. 12, when its next meeting is scheduled. However, the commission’s vice-chairman, County Clerk Terri Ross, said the body was not planning on the new administrator holding the Nov. 3 elections.

The commission’s membership is set out by state law. Besides Fowler and Ross, members are Laminack, who is secretary; Upshur County Republican Party Chairman Cynthia Ridgeway and county Democratic Party Chairman Dan Miles Jr. All five attended the Sept. 8 meeting.

The commission decided to post the job opening for the new EA post on the Internet and advertise it in a local newspaper. Applications must be filed in Fowler’s office on the county courthouse’s third floor by noon Oct. 9, and qualifications for the post may be obtained from Ross’s office on the second floor.

Fowler said he already had two applicants for the new job.

State law establishes that being a “qualified voter” in Texas is a requirement for the post. The new EA may also be required to post a bond not exceeding $20,000 in an amount set by the commissioners court, and Fowler said he would put that matter on the court’s next meeting agenda. (On the agenda for the court’s Sept. 15 meeting, the only item pertaining to the EA was to consider extending the tax assessor-collector’s deputy voter registrar position until an election administrator is appointed.)

Fowler also noted at the Sept. 8 meeting an EA cannot engage in any political activity, such as holding office, running for office, or “contributing in any way” to a campaign.

Laminack pointed out that in several counties, an EA is additionally required to be able to physically lift election machinery. The commission decided to let the tax assessor-collector assist Ross in formulating the job description for the position.

Commission members will individually review the applications for the post and notify Fowler which applicants they want present at the Oct. 12 meeting to be interviewed. Until the post is filled, Fowler said, Laminack remains the county’s voter registrar.

Fowler also warned the commission that the new post is “tenuous at best,” and that “this position could be abolished (by the commissoners court) before it even got filled.” He said that could occur if the court believed the commission will not hire the type of applicant the court wants.

“The (court’s) vote (to establish the office) could change,” the judge warned.

Noting state law allows the court to abolish the office “at any time,” Fowler said commissioners have told him the new EA must be able to program election machinery “because we’re not going to spend the money on Hart (Intercivic),” a firm which has performed that task for the county.

But when Fowler said the court would “expect someone that can (already) program the machines,” Ross disagreed, saying the new EA should be able to “be taught to program the machines” by being “trainable.”

Said Ridgeway, “We need to emphasize the technology.”

As for whether the new EA office would include more than one person, Fowler said, “I thought we would hire the administrator and let them hire their own deputy.”

Ridgeway said the commissioners court sets the number of deputies.

Fowler meantime said that if an EA is appointed before the Nov. 3 elections, he would like for her/him to be present election night to observe the county’s process since “it’s going to be a transition” eventually.

But “in reality, the (county) clerk’s office is going to be handling the election in November, whether we have an EA or not,” Fowler said.

The commission will hire the new administrator by majority vote, and the commissioners court’s approval for the selection is not needed, Ridgeway told this newspaper. The county GOP chairman added that she believed the EA’s office will be in the central vote counting station room at the east end of the county courthouse’s second floor in Gilmer.




Comptroller’s Office Now Accepting Applications for Match the Promise Tuition Grants, Matching Scholarships

(AUSTIN) — Comptroller Glenn Hegar today reminded Texans applications are now being accepted for 2015-2016 Texas Match the Promise Foundation℠ awards. 

The foundation, in cooperation with the Comptroller’s office, encourages Texas families to save for college by offering competitive matching scholarships and tuition grants to Texas students who are beneficiaries of a Texas Tuition Promise Fund® (TTPF) account — the state’s prepaid college tuition plan.

“Match the Promise scholarships help children all over our great state realize their dreams of a college education while also encouraging families to take steps now to prepare for their children’s futures,” Hegar said. “During the 2014-15 school year, 75 Texas students were approved for Match the Promise scholarships. These young people represent the future of the Lone Star State, and we’re excited about awarding a new batch of scholarships this year.”

Fifth through ninth graders whose families have an annual income of $100,000 or less and who have a TTPF account may apply for the matching scholarships and tuition grants through Dec. 31, 2015. To be considered for a scholarship, students must write a career essay and meet other requirements. Complete details can be found at or by calling 1-800-531-5441, ext. 3-1696.

Families also can enroll in TTPF during this time if they have not already done so. Get more information at

Match the Promise is funded by individuals who have donated the cash value of property held in the state’s unclaimed property program, as well as by donations from individuals, businesses and organizations and through the State Employee Charitable Campaign. The foundation is a 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt public charity and is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.


53 Delicious Days of Food, Wine and Fun To Celebrate Festival’s 20-year Run at Walt Disney World Resort

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Walt Disney World Resort guests will join the 20-year celebration of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival presented by Chase from Sept. 25-Nov. 16, 2015, as they taste global and specialty cuisine, sip new beverages and eat to the beat of live entertainment.

The 53-day festival at Disney’s Epcot theme park will expand with new Future World marketplaces featuring fresh culinary concepts to pair with select wines, beers, cocktails and other beverages. ABC’s Emmy Award-winning lifestyle series, “The Chew,” will broadcast from the festival for the first time and will participate in two of the new Future World festival marketplaces: Sustainable Chew and Chew Lab. The festival is believed to be the largest food and wine event of its kind in the world.

Here are 20 fun facts about the 20th festival celebration.

  • Now 53 days long, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival began in 1996 with a first run of 30 days
  • At the 2015 festival, a record 30 global marketplaces will include the new Sustainable Chew, Chew Lab and Artistry of Wine & Cheese marketplaces
  • Producers of ABC’s “The Chew” will tape 5 episodes of the show before 5 festival guest audiences numbering in the hundreds for each show
  • The 20th festival will feature 32 new marketplace dishes and 75 new cocktails, beers, wines and ciders
  • In 1998, 200 domestic and international wines were poured at the festival. This year, at marketplaces and premium events, more than 300 domestic and international wines will be offered
  • More than 60 wineries and more than 40 breweries from around the world, including local craft beer operations, will be represented at festival marketplaces
  • The 20th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Cookbook by Pam Brandon and the Disney Chefs features 75 recipes from the global marketplaces that span the entire 20 years of the festival.
  • 3 Rockin’ Burger Block Parties and 5 Party for the Senses grand tastings will take place at World Showplace during the festival run. In all, the festival will feature 193 premium events ranging from Signature Dinners and Food & Wine Pairings to Beverage Boot Camps and Festival Events in World Showcase pavilions
  • Guest chefs and Disney chefs numbering 250 will present culinary demonstrations and will cook for festival events
  • Celebrity chefs and visiting culinarians from 6 countries and 26 U.S. states will participate in the festival at culinary demos, book signings, and special tasting events and dinners
  • Nearly 400 culinary demos, beverage and mixology seminars will take place during the 53-day festival
  • During the new Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak festival scavenger hunt, guests can help Remy scour the park for the ingredients to make his signature dish, ratatouille. Along the way, they’ll find 12 Remy statuettes hidden in each of 11 countries of the World Showcase and at the African Outpost location. Guests can redeem the 12 stickers they’ve collected for one of 6 special pins at Port of Entry
  • 159 Eat to the Beat concerts will be performed; 4 musical acts will appear for the first time at this year’s festival featuring entertainment ranging from rock and soul to funk and blues
  • The Marketplace Discovery Passport was introduced in 2010 for the 15th annual festival; today, the free passport will feature pages with all 30 festival marketplaces that guests can have stamped during their dine-around-the-world culinary adventure
  • More than 1,200 fireworks will explode each night over World Showcase Lagoon in IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth nightime spectacular
  • Chase is the festival’s presenting sponsor for the 4th year; its Chase Lounge at American Adventure Parlor features guest amenities that include complimentary beverages and comfy furniture where guests can chill out and recharge
  • The Ocean Spray Cranberry Bog, back for a fourth year, is filled with 900 pounds of the tart red fruit and is accessible to cast members who wear waterproof waders
  • 100,000-plus desserts, including the Chocolate Cherry Explosion and Strawberry Basil Champagne “Toast” at Desserts & Champagne Marketplace, are expected to be served
  • In 1997, during the festival’s second year, festival planners introduced the first Grand Tasting culinary extravaganzain 2002, the event was renamed and moved to World Showplace as Party for the Senses, now featuring up to 50 food and beverage stations and breathtaking entertainment by Cirque du Soleil’s “La Nouba” performers
  • At the new Artistry of Wine & Cheese, each keg of premium wine on tap will hold the equivalent of 26 wine bottles, eliminating bottle, cork, cardboard and paper waste from labels. Recycling and repurposing of glass bottles and corks from other marketplace locations will be part of the 20th-year festival story


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Tickets Go On Sale Saturday for UIL Football State Championships at NRG Stadium


AUSTIN — Tickets for the 2015 UIL Football State Championships being played at NRG Stadium will be available to purchase beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 12. All 11-man football championships will be played at NRG Stadium for the first time. Tickets to all 11-man games may be purchased online through

UIL Football State Championships

NRG Stadium, Houston

Thursday, December 17, 2015 – $15 (Ticket allows admittance to all games on Dec. 17)
Conference 2A Division I – 10:00 a.m.

Conference 2A Division II – 1:00 p.m.

Conference 3A Division I – 5:00 p.m.

Conference 3A Division II – 8:00 p.m.

*To purchase tickets for the games on Dec. 17, please go to the following link:

Friday, December 18, 2015 – $15 (Ticket allows admittance to all games on Dec.18)
Conference 4A Division I – 12:00 p.m.

Conference 4A Division II – 4:00 p.m.

Conference 5A Division I – 8:00 p.m.

*To purchase tickets for the games on Dec. 18, please go to the following link:

Saturday, December 19, 2015 – $15 (Ticket allows admittance to all games on Dec. 19)

Conference 5A Division II – 12:00 p.m.

Conference 6A Division I – 4:00 p.m.

Conference 6A Division II – 8:00 p.m.

*To purchase tickets for the games on Dec. 19, please go to the following link: 


Comptroller’s commitment to government transparency continues: Fiscal 2014 state and local debt data now available

Texas taxpayers need to be informed about the debt state and local governments are taking on. This information has long been available on the Comptroller’s Texas Transparency website, and we’ve just updated the data.

Our Debt at a Glance profiles now include fiscal 2014 debt data, with updated information for the state of Texas plus all 1,216 cities, 254 counties, 1,025 ISDs and 50 community college districts.