26th annual biker toy run roars into Truman Smith

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By Suzanne Bardwell

Christmas sounds usually include bells and carols, but over 100 motorcycles roaring into Truman Smith’s Children’s Care Center is the sound that kicks off the week before Christmas for that facility’s residents.

The bikers, accompanied by decorated vehicles and even a toy-filled sleigh wagon, filled the parking lot of the Gladewater children’s care center Saturday afternoon. The growing crowd toting toys and bringing lots of smiles are a tradition, one that began 26 years ago at Mom’s Biker Bar in Longview.

Saturday, Graham Orr was there honoring the tradition his grandmother Nell Higginbotham known as “Mom”,  began with toy runs all those years ago.

“It brings all of us a lot of happiness,” Orr said. “To see the kids’ smiles keeps the tradition going.”

The event may be unique to Gladewater, but throughout the state biker runs are a staple of Christmas cheer. But the one started by “Mom” is the oldest in East Texas.

“Mom knew people who had disabled children including folks who worked for her.” rider ‘Big Shane’ said. “These kids look forward to this every year and we don’t want to let them down.”

What makes the toy run to Gladewater special is that it includes riders from every walk of life, including those who belong to established edgier motorcycle clubs, to Bikers for Christ, as well as Brothers’ Keepers which is made up of area firefighters. There were also individuals who simply supported the run’s cause of bringing cheer to Truman Smith patients.

‘Big Shane’ said that he had made all but one of the toy runs and would be back next year.

Before the long trail of over 90 bikes came roaring down Highway 80, race car driver Chase Hatton brought his modified race car in a trailer. When he rolled it out the sound of the engine brought Truman Smith residents Bryan Carroll and Jordan Gafford wheeling out for a look and pictures with the car and driver.

The next group to appear came in a big yellow school bus and had numbers on their backs. The Spring Hill High School Panther boys’ and girls’ soccer teams were on site to bring their cheer. They ended up helping the bikers unload and hand out all the toys playing the part of cheery elves as they moved throughout the crowded parking lot and health care center.

Bikers from Unique Riders group, a social motorcycle group had Santa riding along with them in their convoy of 15 motorcycles. Santa put safety first wearing his helmet, and as soon as he parked donned his hat and made a beeline for the porch where Truman Smith ‘kids’ anxiously awaited the toy run visitors.

“This just makes you smile,” Santa said. “This is what Christmas is supposed to be about.”

Race car driver Chase Hatton of DeBerry brought his car to share with residents of Truman Smith Children’s Care Center at Saturday’s Biker Toy Run. The car was a favorite with Jordan Gafford and Bryan Carroll who have been friends since 1998 and share a love of cars.  Photo By Suzanne Bardwell

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Toyota ShareLunker Program Announces 2018 Season Changes

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More ways to participate and be recognized highlight Toyota ShareLunker program changes

AUSTIN – For more than 30 years, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) Toyota ShareLunker Program has partnered with anglers to enhance bass fishing in Texas. This year, the program is launching Jan. 1, 2018, with a new year-round participation season and more opportunities for anglers to participate and be recognized for contributions. The program also has a new logo and look that conveys the excitement of catching a lunker bass.

“Angler recognition continues to be a primary goal of the Toyota ShareLunker program,” said Kyle Brookshear, Toyota ShareLunker program coordinator. “This year for the first time ever anglers who catch a largemouth bass 8 pounds or larger can participate simply by providing important catch information for us to use to improve bass fisheries science. We will be recognizing and rewarding these anglers as well as those anglers who loan their lunker bass weighing 13 pound or greater to our breeding program during the spawning season.”

The four new levels of achievement are:

Lunker Legacy Class: Every angler who loans a 13 pound or larger bass to the Toyota ShareLunker program during the spawning period Jan. 1 to March 31 will join the prestigious Lunker Legacy Class. These valuable fish are an integral piece of the Toyota ShareLunker selective breeding and stocking program and anglers will be eligible for an exciting prize package commensurate with the importance of sharing their lunker. Each Lunker Legacy Class angler will receive a Toyota ShareLunker Catch Kit containing branded merchandise and fishing tackle items, a 13lb+ Legacy decal, VIP access to awards programing at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest, a replica of their fish, and an entry into the year-end ShareLunker Prize Drawing to win a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license. These anglers will also be entered into the Legacy Class Prize Drawing for a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license at the end of the spawning period March 31. Additional prizes may be included in both of these prize drawings prior to their entry deadlines.

Lunker Legend Class: Anglers who enter a 13 pound or larger largemouth bass Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 will become a part of the Lunker Legend Class. These anglers will receive a Toyota ShareLunker Catch Kit containing branded merchandise and fishing tackle items, a 13lb+ decal to display their achievement, a replica of their fish, and an entry into the year-end ShareLunker Prize Drawing for a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license. Additional prizes may be included in the prize drawing prior to its entry deadline.

Lunker Elite Class: Anglers catching double-digit largemouth bass 10 to 12.99 pounds Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 will become a part of the Lunker Elite Class. These anglers will receive a Toyota ShareLunker Catch Kit containing branded merchandise and fishing tackle items, a 10lb+ decal to display their achievement, and an entry into the year-end ShareLunker Prize Drawing for a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license. Additional prizes may be included in the prize drawing prior to its entry deadline.

Lunker Class: Anglers entering largemouth bass at least 8 pounds or 24 inches Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 will be recognized at the Lunker Class level. These anglers will receive a Toyota ShareLunker Catch Kit containing branded merchandise and fishing tackle items, an 8lb+ decal to display their achievement, and an entry into the year-end ShareLunker Prize Drawing for a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license. Additional prizes may be included in the prize drawing prior to its entry deadline.

A new logo and new tagline, “Bigger Better Bass” highlight the branding changes to the program, which also includes new Toyota ShareLunker branded merchandise for prizes, updated marketing materials and a new website and mobile application to make it easy to enter your catch in the program and keep up with the latest ShareLunker news

Starting Jan. 1, anglers will now be able to quickly enter their catch on their smartphone using the new Toyota ShareLunker mobile application, which will be available for free download in the iTunes app store and on Google play or online on the new Toyota ShareLunker website, texassharelunker.com. The digital entry forms will allow anglers to easily submit photos of the fish being properly measured, weighed and held. Other entry criteria will be detailed on the website and mobile application Jan. 1, the official start of the new yearlong season.

In addition to providing information and photos of their fish, anglers will also be able to provide a genetic sample of their largemouth bass by collecting and sending fish scales to TPWD using simple instructions from the app and website. These data will help fisheries biologists evaluate the impact of the ShareLunker breeding and stocking program in the gene pool.

“Monitoring the impact of ShareLunker stockings is critical to evaluating the success of the program,” Brookshear said. “That’s why the citizen scientist piece is so important – we need anglers to help us better understand the populations of our biggest bass in Texas and we are excited to offer exciting prizes in exchange for providing us with the information and genetic material from their lunker catches.”

Hatcheries staff will also attempt to spawn all eligible ShareLunkers 13 pounds or larger donated between Jan. 1 and March 31. Offspring of female genetic intergrades will be combined and stocked back to the source locations for all ShareLunker entries for the year, and genetically pure offspring will be maintained at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens and eventually distributed to all TPWD production hatcheries to be used as brood stock for statewide largemouth bass stockings.

“Our goal is for all hatchery-held Florida largemouth bass brood stock to eventually be the descendants of ShareLunkers,” Brookshear said. “Increasing the percentage of ShareLunker offspring being introduced into Texas waters is an important part of increasing the lunker genetic potential in the state. We are incredibly grateful for anglers who choose to loan us these valuable fish and we are looking forward to continuing our efforts to make Texas fishing bigger and better with the selective breeding program.”

For program updates, photos and to keep up with Texas lunker catches, join the ShareLunker community online at www.facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram/. Tune in at 4 p.m. Dec. 18 for a Facebook Live Q & A with Toyota ShareLunker program staff and management.

More details on the shopping spree and other prizes for ShareLunker entries will be finalized and shared in the near future.

The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible by a grant to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation from Gulf States Toyota. Toyota is a longtime supporter of the Foundation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, providing major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.

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Man sentenced to 75 years in Gilmer robbery

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On Dec. 12 in the 115th District Court, an Upshur County Jury in the 115th District Court returned a 75 year verdict in the Aggravated Robbery trial against 30 year old Gerald Michaul Hiam, Jr., of Dallas, Texas. Additionally, the jury assessed a $10,000.00 fine.  The defendant pled guilty to the crime last week before jury selection, and the punishment trial began yesterday morning following opening statements.

On April 17, 2017, prior to 6:00 a.m., Mr. Hiam entered the Texaco West store on Highway 154. He ran to the counter in a ski mask, holding a handgun and pointing in the face of the clerk, all while demanding money from the register.  Before running out, he took the victims cellphone and threw it against the wall, causing it to shatter.  After using the proceeds to purchase a large quantity of heroin, he drove to the Dallas areas where he continued his crime spree. At Coppell High School in Dallas, he found a 15 year old male student waiting for his mom after the end of the school day.  He approached the child, displayed a handgun, and demanded his wallet and cell phone.  Then, on April 19, 2017, he circled the Target parking lot in Dallas until he found a young mother removing her child and stroller from her car.  He drove up, pointed the gun at her, and demanded her phone and wallet.  He was later found and taken into custody by the Dallas Police Department.

The jury heard evidence that in 2009, Mr. Hiam presented himself at an apartment as a repair man.  When the door was opened, he ran inside and put a knife against the victim’s throat and stole jewelry and property.  The defendant was sentenced to seven (7) years in prison for that Aggravated Robbery offense.  The jury heard evidence that this defendant had five (5) prior felony convictions along with multiple misdemeanor convictions.

The victim from Texaco recognized Mr. Hiam and picked him out of a photo line-up.  He had been in the store two days before, when she offered him a hamburger at her local church for Easter.  The defendant testified in his defense and admitted under cross examination there were multiple crimes he had committed in which he had not been caught.

Judge Lauren Parish presided.  Criminal District Attorney Billy W. Byrd and First Assistant Sarah Lyn Cooper prosecuted the case for the State.  Longview attorney Scott Novy represented the defendant.

We are thankful for the jury’s sentence.  Without strong juries justice could never be obtained.  They served this community and state very well.  The Gilmer Police Department handled the investigation and Investigator Casey Driggers was the lead officer.

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Game Warden Field Notes …

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The following items are compiled from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.

Crossing the Line

On opening weekend of mule deer season, game wardens were patrolling an isolated stretch of backroad near the Texas/New Mexico border in Cochran County when they observed suspicious activity in the distance; a red pickup truck had suddenly turned around on the two-lane highway to go southbound, and then came to a stop in the bar ditch. The wardens quickly turned into the nearest county road to observe. Using binoculars, the wardens detected a rifle sticking out the window of the truck. They quickly moved in and made contact with the occupants in the red truck, which was still in the ditch. The occupants, from New Mexico, admitted to shooting at feral hogs, but claimed that because they were in New Mexico, the Texas wardens were out of their jurisdiction. Asked how they had determined their location, the individuals pointed to the yellow centerline in the highway, believing that was the state line separating Texas from New Mexico. Charges for hunting on a public roadway, in Texas, and discharging a firearm on a Texas public roadway are pending.


Harris County game wardens monitoring a development property for illegal hunting activity encountered two individuals emerging from the woods riding a UTV. It was readily apparent to the wardens that the suspects had been hunting, as both carried rifles and blood was visible on their clothes and the utility vehicle. During initial questioning, wardens determined neither suspect had written consent to hunt on the property, and both claimed the blood stains were from a feral hog they had shot earlier. As is common during law enforcement interrogations, the duo was questioned separately to establish consistency in their story. While pressing one of the subjects to clarify the time of day the hog was killed, the individual opened his cell phone to display a text message string with the other suspect. While thumbing through texts looking for the time of day his buddy had notified him about the kill, he unfortunately scrolled upon a photo of a large 8-point buck his friend had sent at the time he claimed the “hog” had been killed. At that point, both confessed to poaching the deer, and taking it home for processing without tagging or logging it on the shooter’s license. The deer head and meat were seized at a nearby home. Multiple citations were issued and civil restitution is pending.

Just Doin’ My Job

A Webb County game warden was investigating a deer carcass that had been dumped on the side of an easement road. During his investigation, he came in contact with a landowner who said he had allowed some unidentified friends to come out onto his property some months prior. The landowner suspected these individuals could have returned to his ranch without his permission and might be responsible for the dumping of the deer carcass, as they had a history of poaching. The landowner refused to provide contact information on these so-called friends of his, and instead told the warden to “go do his job and figure it out.” Because of the landowner’s suspicious behavior and refusal to cooperate in the investigation, the warden now considered him to be a person of interest. While looking deeper into the landowner’s hunting activities, the warden discovered that the landowner had illegally harvested a 10-point buck in 2016, as had his mother, as neither possessed a valid hunting license. The warden subsequently seized both deer and issued both the landowner and his mother separate citations for hunting white-tailed deer without a license. Civil restitution on the deer is pending. As the landowner was being issued the citation he exclaimed, “When I told you to do your job, I didn’t mean for you to investigate us.” The warden then took the time to educate and explain to the landowner that no one is exempt from any game law. The dumped deer carcass is still under investigation.

CSI Don’t Lie

A Red River County game warden received DNA results stemming from a road hunting case during the 2016 deer season. The warden was on a stakeout of a popular road hunting location when he heard a shot fired less than 100 yards from his position. The warden made contact with two subjects, who informed him they had shot a coyote. The warden discovered blood, but no animal was retrieved. He collected blood and tissue samples from the scene and submitted them to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s forensic lab for testing. The test results came back positive for white-tailed deer. The cases are pending for hunting deer at night, hunting from a vehicle, and hunting deer with artificial light.

All in a Day’s Work

During the second weekend of deer season and the opening weekend for duck season, Trinity County game wardens had their hands full. Among nearly two dozen citations issued included game law violations on four illegal bucks, untagged/improperly tagged deer, and illegal possession of lead shot, no migratory game bird stamp, no hunter education, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Trinity County wardens also located a heavily baited area, an abandoned ATV, and a substantial number of violations in the Davy Crockett National Forest.

Impulse Purchase

Whether from a guilty conscience or simply feeling he may have pushed his luck, an East Texas man recently tried to avoid getting busted for hunting deer without a license by purchasing a permit after the fact. When game wardens got wind of a big buck with an impressive 19-inch antler spread possibly being harvested illegally near Gilmer, they started looking into it. It didn’t take long to find the hunter responsible, and wardens learned he harvested the trophy at 7:40 a.m. on Nov. 12. Problem was, according to dispatch, the guy didn’t purchase his license until three hours later. When wardens confronted the man later that evening, he confessed to hunting without a license. He was also found in possession of another deer he admitted to taking the previous week. Numerous charges and civil restitution are pending.

A Crappie Thing to Do

Game wardens were patrolling for duck hunters on Lake O’ the Pines opening weekend when they noticed a large group of bank fishermen nearby. When the wardens pulled up, they witnessed one of the subjects kick a fish back into the water. Further investigation resulted in several undersized crappie in their possession as well as crappie hidden in the woods behind the fishermen. Several charges are pending including no fishing license, possession of undersized crappie and failure to allow inspection.

Got Brass, In Pocket

Trinity County game wardens responded to a tip about possible deer hunting violations in the Davey Crockett National Forest. While scouting, a hunter heard two shots close to his area, and located the carcass of a buck that didn’t meet the 13-inch minimum antler spread requirements. The deer had been shot twice, once in the back and again in the neck. The hunter also found a spent .308 cartridge casing nearby. Wardens arrived on the scene and determined the initial shot likely incapacitated the deer, and a second shot to the neck dispatched the animal. The wardens were able to locate a brushed blind and multiple fresh boot tracks nearby along the Neches River bank, as well as boat skid marks. The wardens knew several hunters using boats to hunt this area, and decided to conduct a routine check of the camps. During a casual conversation, a hunter at one of the camps told the wardens he had seen an 8-point buck earlier in the day that was illegal and shortly thereafter heard two shots close by. He also told them he shoots a .308 with Remington Core-Lokt ammo. One investigator was curious what Core-Lokt ammo looked like, so the hunter brought out a box and, lo and behold, it matched the spent cartridge recovered near the dead deer. After a brief interview, the warden advised the hunter of the evidence they had found, including the .308 brass, boot track pictures, and boat marks on the river, not to mention the fact he was in the area that morning. The subject then admitted to shooting the illegal buck. Multiple cases are pending for illegal buck less than 13-inch inside spread, untagged deer, waste of game/failure to keep in edible condition and multiple warnings. Restitution has been filed.

Running a Head

During the Thanksgiving holiday, wardens in Jasper County responded to a call about trespassing where the landowner was able to capture an image of the suspect with his cell phone. The wardens recognized the individual as a Jasper resident and went to the violator’s house to confront him about the trespass claim. When they pulled into the driveway, the wardens noticed several men at the corner of the property. When the men noticed the wardens, two guys took off into the woods with the head of a buck. A brief pursuit ensued and both individuals were placed into custody. It was confirmed they had just taken the white-tailed buck, which also did not meet the 13-inch minimum antler width restrictions, without landowner permission. The cases are pending.

Should’ve Passed the Buck

Game wardens responded to a call about a possible case on a subject exceeding his annual bag limit on buck white-tailed deer. For the season in Brazos County, hunters are allowed only one buck with an inside antler spread of 13 inches or greater. The wardens went to the subject’s residence and during the interview discovered he had harvested an 8-point buck earlier in the week, and a big 10-point buck that evening. Citation was issued for exceeding the bag limit on white-tailed deer and multiple tagging warnings were given. Civil restitution is pending.

Have We Met Before?

A Montgomery County game warden checked a man on Lake Conroe who was fishing without a fishing license. While issuing the citation, the warden discovered that the man also had two active TPWD arrest warrants. He was arrested and transported to the Montgomery County Jail.

Prison Property Poachers Pinched

It seems no property is off-limits to poachers, including prison grounds belonging to the Luther Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections. Game wardens acting on reports of night hunting by trespassers received earlier in the week initiated a stakeout and soon observed a vehicle shining a spotlight out of the passenger’s window. The wardens watched the vehicle for about 15 minutes and then initiated a stop. Five individuals were in the vehicle, along with two loaded rifles and two spotlights. The guns and the spotlights were seized and the driver and passenger were placed under arrest for hunting without landowner consent. The other three passengers were released without incident. The cases are pending.

Not Going Down that Rabbit Trail

On Nov. 14, a Duval County game warden received a call from the Freer Police Department stating someone had reported a man shooting at deer off the road. He arrived with two Freer PD officers and discovered a man with the hood of his vehicle up and trunk popped open. The warden interviewed the individual while the officers searched the vehicle. A .22 caliber rifle with a discharged casing in the chamber and a .223 rifle, along with marijuana and suspected narcotics were discovered. As the warden was talking with the man, he noticed movement coming from the brush directly across from where the man’s car was parked. A wounded white-tailed buck was discovered thrashing in the brush. The man denied any knowledge of this, and stated he just had car trouble and pulled over. The man claimed he had been hunting rabbits on a ranch in Freer earlier that day, which was corroborated later by the landowner, and must have forgotten to eject the round after his last shot from the .22. Because the vehicle didn’t match the description given for the suspected shooter, the man was arrested only on possession of controlled substance charges and transported to the Duval County Jail. Suspecting miscommunication between the witness and dispatcher, the warden interviewed the witness, who confirmed that was the right vehicle and the arrested driver was responsible for shooting the deer. She stated she was watching deer with her son when she saw that vehicle pull over and shoot at the deer, and then flee. She stated the same vehicle returned shortly. A second witness, who pursued the vehicle after the driver shot and fled, corroborated the first witness’ statement in a separate interview. The warden interviewed the suspect a second time in the jail and he admitted to shooting the buck from his vehicle, on the public roadway, with a rimfire rifle and without a hunting license. Class A and Class C misdemeanor charges along with civil restitution are pending. The buck was donated to a needy family in Freer.

You Can Run, but You Cannot Hide

In addition to enforcing game and fish laws, wardens are certified state police and routinely assist other law enforcement. At about 2 a.m. on Nov. 25, a Frio County game warden was patrolling the county in search of illegal road hunting activity when a call came through about a high speed chase involving a DPS state trooper. The trooper advised dispatch that the suspect was headed south on I-35 from Medina County into Frio County, and the trooper was unable to catch up to the evading vehicle. Coincidentally, the game warden was working on the northern end of the county about four miles east of I-35, responded and headed in that direction. The warden soon came upon an abandoned BMW sports car, and called it in. As other law enforcement arrived on the scene, the warden began searching the area and soon discovered an extremely intoxicated individual hiding near the fence line in a brushy area. The subject was placed under arrest for felony evading arrest.

Don’t Make Me Chase You

On Nov. 22, a game warden received a tip that a man, or men, had just shot a mule deer buck from a Crosby County property and the caller knew no one had permission to hunt there. Armed with the license plate of the suspect vehicle and the names of two possible culprits, the warden located a cell phone number for one of the men and called him. The warden had heard enough information to tell the man not to make him search for him in Crosby County, but suggested that he and his friend drive to Lubbock to meet with him and to bring the rifle used and the mule deer buck with them. The men later arrived in Lubbock and gave confessions as to having hunted the deer without landowner consent. The deer and rifle were both seized. The charges are pending.

Dropping a Dime on a Buck

On Thanksgiving, game wardens met with a man who had been reported as having killed a large white-tailed buck under suspicious circumstances earlier in the week. Although the man had told a local law enforcement officer that the deer had been killed lawfully, the warden was able to gain a confession from the man that he had trespassed and shot the buck from the roadway. The warden seized the man’s rifle, deer head and antlers, and the carcass. While gaining that confession, the man mentioned a mule deer buck his friend had shot on the previous Sunday and had also been killed on the same unauthorized property. The warden then met with that friend and questioned him as to the legality of his deer. The man confessed that he had shot from a public roadway and into the same property illegally, killing a large mule deer buck. The warden also seized that man’s rifle, mule deer head with antlers attached, and already-processed deer meat. The charges and civil restitution are pending.


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I-20 and Toll 49 closures

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I-20 has been closed and traffic moved to the ramps at FM 849 at Hideaway. Crews are currently working to remove the structure over the westbound lanes. Then they will move to the eastbound side.

After assessing conditions with the closure of I-20, it has been determined that to assist with traffic flow, northbound Toll 49 is being closed between SH 64 and  I-20. Toll 49 southbound traffic will still be able to pass through the area.

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Kilgore College Golden Z Club will be chartered Dec. 7

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Kilgore College will hold a ceremony 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, to charter a new college service club, the KC Golden Z Club.

The ceremony will be held in the Devall Room of the Devall Student Center on the Kilgore campus.

The club – the first and only Golden Z Club in East Texas – will be chartered as one of the youth groups of Zonta International, a leading global organization of professionals empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy.

KC has seven charter members under the direction of the club’s president, KC sophomore Raven Wiley.

The KC Golden Z Club will provide career guidance, promote leadership skills, promote international fellowship and participate in service projects benefiting the school, community and the world.

Terry McJilton, president of the Zonta Club of Greater East Texas, will present the charter Thursday to the new club.

Members are planning activities for Zonta Rose Day/International Women’s Day next March and will assist the Zonta Club of Greater East Texas with their annual antique show at Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Complex in Longview.

The Zonta Club of Greater East Texas will act in an advisory capacity for the KC Golden Z Club.

 Sponsors of the club are KC employees Schlunda Hall, Doris Johnson, Rene’ Wiley and Charleen Worsham.


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ETCOG Partners with Governor’s Office to Provide Grant Funding for East Texas Police Academy Driving Track Repairs

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 ETCOG, and the Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division are proud to announce the award of $200,000 in grant funding to Kilgore College (KC).  These grant funds will be used to resurface and repair KC’s East Texas Police Academy (ETPA) Driving Track used by regional peace officers, fire fighters and ambulance drivers for emergency vehicle operations training.
As one of only four driving tracks for police training in the state, the track, located at the Winfred J. Spear Training Center in Rusk County, is used by the ETPA to equip first responders in the surrounding 24-county area with the safe driving tactics needed to serve the public. In addition, nearly every jurisdiction within the 24 counties uses the track for supplemental driving skills training, as needs dictate.
The ETPA is the premiere training center for law enforcement students in East Texas and has been administered by KC, through contract with ETCOG, since 1970. The driving track has been in service for almost 30 years and needs major repairs. Local officials recently requested ETCOG’s assistance with this project.  ETCOG staff subsequently contacted the Governor’s Office to request assistance to help address this important need on behalf of our law enforcement community, and the Governor graciously agreed to help.
“I am extremely grateful for Governor Abbott’s willingness to help accomplish this important project,” said ETCOG Executive Director David Cleveland.  “Our peace officers deserve to receive the very best training and support we can possibly give them and this repair project certainly demonstrates his ongoing commitment to that objective.”
“This project will allow East Texas to continue to offer top-notch training for our peace officers,” said Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt. “As Chairman of the East Texas Council of Governments’ Board of Directors, I am grateful for the Governor’s generous contribution to our region and I am pleased that it will directly benefit both our first responders and the public.”
Total estimated cost for repairs to the driving track is $200,000. ETCOG will contribute $125,000 in regional public safety funds and the Governor’s Office will contribute $75,000. KC will manage the repair project.
I am very excited about the opportunities this funding will allow us to pursue in expanding our training capabilities, all while increasing the safety of our students,” said Joe Cassin, ETPA director. “This grant funding will help us continue to provide the highest quality Police Emergency Driver Improvement training to the region’s law enforcement officers for decades to come.”

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Summary of Ransomware Attack Incident and Recommended Action

On October 26, 2017, a Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) employee’s state-issued laptop computer was compromised through a
. As a result, students in school districts throughout Texas may have been potentially impacted by the breach. The information exposed on the employee’s laptop included names, social security numbers, home addresses, birthdates, and personal phone numbers of the affected students and their families. To date, TDA’s Information Security Officer (ISO) has identified more than 700 students whose sensitive personal information was, or is reasonably believed to have been, exposed to acquisition by an unauthorized person.

It is important to note that, to date, TDA’s ISO has not discovered any evidence to suggest misuse of the information that was compromised by the ransomware exploit.

To mitigate this potential exposure, TDA’s ISO recommends that the affected students, or parents of the affected students, if minors, contact the three major credit bureaus and activate a fraud alert on behalf of the students impacted by ransomware attack.

Guidance is available on TDA’s Square Meals website for individuals that are impacted by the ransomware attack. (Section 521.053(f) of the Texas Business and Commerce Code).

Please view list below of affected schools and school districts with students who have been potentially impacted by the successful ransomware.

Independent School Districts Impacted by ransomware attack







































References – Applicable State Law:

Section 521.053(b) of the Texas Business and Commerce Code – requires notice to a person whose sensitive personal information was, or is reasonably believed to have been, acquired by an unauthorized person.

Section 521.053(f) of the Texas Business and Commerce Code – authorizes alternate notification via electronic mail, if the person providing notice has electronic mail addresses for the affected persons; conspicuous posting on the entity’s website; or broadcast on major statewide media.

Section 521.002(a) of the Texas Business and Commerce Code – defines PII as information that alone or in conjunction with other information identifies an individual, including an individual’s name, social security number, date of birth, government-issued identification number, mother’s maiden name, personal address, driver’s license number, etc.


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SHREVEPORT, La, November 13, 2017 – Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) is proud to stand with its fellow electric, water, and natural gas utilities and trade associations in support of Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS). UUAS is a consortium of more than 100 U.S. and Canadian utilities and will observe the second annual Utility Scam Awareness Day, Wednesday, November 15, as part of a week-long advocacy and awareness campaign, November 13 – 17.

Many electric, water, and natural gas customers throughout the country are being targeted by impostor utility scams each day. Scammers typically use phone, in-person, and online tactics to target these customers. Scammers pose as electric, water, or natural gas company employees, and they threaten that customers’ services will be disconnected or shut off if they fail to make an immediate payment – typically using a prepaid card or other non-traceable form of payment.

Scammers can be convincing and often target those who are most vulnerable, including senior citizens and low-income communities. They also aim their scams at small business owners during busy customer service hours.

“Scammers are targeting local businesses, senior citizens and customers whose native language is not English,” said Brett Mattison, SWEPCO’s director of customer services and marketing. “We’re sharing this information so customers can protect themselves from this fraudulent activity.”

“SWEPCO employees will never demand immediate payment, insist a payment be made with a prepaid credit card or ask a customer to meet us in a parking lot to make a payment,” said Mattison.


Signs of Potential Scam Activity:

  • Threat to disconnect: Scammers may aggressively tell the customer his or her utility bill is past due and service will be disconnected if a payment is not made – usually within less than an hour.
  • Request for immediate payment: Scammers may instruct the customer to purchase a prepaid card – widely available at retail stores – then call them back supposedly to make a bill payment to his or her utility company.
  • Request for prepaid card: When the customer calls back, the caller asks the customer for the prepaid card’s number, which grants the scammer instant access to the card’s funds, and the victim’s money is gone.


How Customers Can Protect Themselves:

  • Customers should never purchase a prepaid card to avoid service disconnection or shutoff. Legitimate utility companies do not specify how customers should make a bill payment and always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill, including accepting payments online, by phone, automatic bank draft, mail, or in person.
  • If someone threatens immediate disconnection or shutoff of service, customers should hang up the phone, delete the email, or shut the door. Customers with delinquent accounts receive an advance disconnection notification, typically by mail and included with their regular monthly bill. Companies never send a single notification one hour or less before disconnection.
  • If customers suspect someone is trying to scam them, they should hang up, delete the email, or shut the door. They should then call their utility company at the number on their monthly bill or the company’s website, not the phone number the scammer provides. If customers ever feel that they are in physical danger, they should call 911.
  • Customers who suspect that they have been victims of fraud, or who feel threatened during contact with one of these scammers, should contact local law enforcement authorities. The Federal Trade Commission’s website is also a good source of information about how to protect personal information.

 SWEPCO serves 532,000 customers in western Arkansas, northwest and central Louisiana, northeast Texas and the Texas Panhandle. SWEPCO’s headquarters are in Shreveport, La. News releases and other information about SWEPCO can be found at www.SWEPCO.com. SWEPCO is an American Electric Power (AEP) company. AEP is one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, delivering electricity to nearly 5.4 million customers in 11 states.

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Gladewater, Texas