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Enterprise seeks city records

The Pecos Enterprise has filed two open records requests to the Town of Pecos City regarding the recent abuse of official capacity accusations against city employees. The first, filed with the Interim City Manager-Police Chief Clay McKinney on Jan. 15, requested the time cards from the accused individuals from Jan. 8, any areas of the employee handbook concerning the use of city vehicles and any written communication concerning the incident.

To this point, the city has produced the sections of the handbook that deal with the use of city vehicles. The passages state that employees may use the vehicles for personal business with the consent of the city manager.

The second request, filed on Jan. 20 with McKinney, requests any memos, letters, etc. regarding the investigation of Octavio Garcia with in the past two years, the same for any investigation into Roy Pena within the past four years, and the same for any employee in general that has been investigated for misusing city property within the past five years.

The legal basis for the request is the Open Records Act, or Public Information Act as it is now called.

The law is expressed in chapter 552 of the Texas Government Code, and is there to allow citizens access to public records, i.e. “any information collected, assembled, or maintained by or for a government agency,” according to the attorney general of Texas’ website.

The law does give 26 areas of exemption, but states that within ten days of the receipt of the request, the reasons for withholding the documents must be sent to the attorney general’s office for approval.

Council delays action on city’s manager’s job

Staff Writer

The Town of Pecos City Council met in executive session Thursday night, but ended up taking no action on filling the vacant city manager’s position.

Council members also had a long debate in open session over the renewal of the city’s contract with Cebridge Connections, the city’s cable operator, and discussed council’s appointment to the Pecos Economic Development Corp., as well as a contract between the Pecos Police Department and Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD for the service of summons to students at the high school.

The executive session took up the first hour and a half of last night’s meeting, and involved both the discussion on the three finalists for the city manager’s job, along with an employee review off Police Chief Clay McKinney.

The council thanked the chief for the job he has done for the city when they came out of the session, awarded him his three percent annual raise, but took no action on the city manager position.

The council narrowed their choices down over a series of executive sessions earlier this month, and decided upon three candidates, Jimmy Dutchover, Joseph Torres, and Georgina Vines prior to Thursday’s meeting. Torres and Dutchover are both from the Pecos area, and Vines hales from Devine, south of San Antonio.

The position became vacant in November, when Carlos Yerena resigned the job to take a similar position with the city of Kingsville. McKinney has been serving as interim city manager since that time.

An agenda for a special meeting with another executive session is scheduled for Monday at 7 a.m. However the agenda, that was posted late last night, only states that the council will discuss the position, not necessarily appoint anyone at that time. The council then met with Cebridge representative Manuel Gonzales, to discuss concerns that citizens had brought to the council’s attention over the cable service in Pecos.

Council members were especially concerned with the reception on the area’s Fox and ABC station, KPEJ- Ch. 8 and KMID-Ch. 12. According to Councilman Frank Sanchez, the reception on those two channels fades, and has an overall poor reception most of the time.

“What is being done to improve the reception on those two channels?” Sanchez asked.

“There is really little that can be done to improve the reception, short of running a fiber optic cable to Monahans and sending the signal from there,” Gonzales said.

“Currently channel 8 is picked up at Gomez Peak and retransmitted back to Pecos, but the station broadcasting the signal is a low power station. The engineers are looking into using the older microwave technology to boost the reception.”

“What do you mean ‘looking into’?” Mayor Dot Stafford asked.

“I mean that the engineers are trying to find the most economical way to improve the quality of the reception,” Gonzales said. “There is also the problem that in 2006 the signals will have to be broadcast digitally, which the engineers are looking into at the same time as they are trying to fix the current problems.”

KPEJ has been beamed into the Pecos area for the past decade, and signal problems have been common on the Pecos system. KIMD is transmitted to Pecos by microwave, and the signal of the ABC affiliate has deteriorated sharply over the last year.

Council members also discussed the price of cable service in Pecos with Gonzales.

“Is it correct that the price of the basic service will be going up from $23-$25 soon?” Councilwoman Valenzuela asked, which Gonzales affirmed. “Then my question is, why are we seeing a rise in price without a increase in quality?”

“The lineup for the basic service has increased by 10 channels,” Gonzales said.

“I think that the customers would rather see an improvement in the quality in those key channels, rather than more channels,” Sanchez said.

“Two years ago Classic Cable, now Cebridge Connections, installed a fiber optic system for the town of Pecos, that reduced the loss of the signal over the distance from the original broadcasting station,” Gonzales said. “The newly installed system also gives the town the flexibility for one section of town to go out and the rest will keep working, where previously, if one section went out then they all went out.”

“I had a citizen come to me to ask why his total number of movie channels was cut by around 40 percent when the new channels came online,” Councilman Gerald Tellez said.

“It sounds like a problem with the mapping in the cable box itself,” Gonzales said. “He should just contact a customer service rep. and the problem should get straitened out.”

“Can you come back in February, to give us an update?” Councilman Benavides asked.

“I can take your concerns to corporate and hopefully have a corporate representative here for your next meeting,” Gonzales said.

“I would just like to add that the cable company have helped us put up Christmas decorations for years and continues to do so,” said Chamber of Commerce Director Linda Gholson, who was in attendance at the meeting.

In other business, the council filled its appointment to the Pecos Economic Development Corporation board of directors. Former Councilman Johnny Terrazas was appointed to the position while he was on the council, but the current members said that the position was there for the benefit of the council. The council appointed

Councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela to the position.

The council also looked into possibly entering into a contract between the Pecos Police Department and the PBT-ISD for summons service. According to Police Chief Clay McKinney, the contract would bring in $4,000 per year, and on average the officers would be responsible for serving approximately 130 summonses per year. Previously the school district had paid the county $10,000 per year for the stationing of a deputy at the school who served the summonses to the truant students.

City Attorney Scott Johnson added the fee of around $33 per service was about right. The council approved the contract, but added that it would like to have the agreement in writing. The chief added that he would like some of the money earmarked for equipment for the patrolmen who will be serving the summonses.

Also the council heard from Main Street Program Director, Tom Rivera, on a proposed series of municipal ordinances that would affect the historical downtown district. According to his presentation, Rivera said that there was a need to protect the area from “beer joints” moving into the area that has already been looked into for “family loft living.”

Rivera added that an ordinance is needed to restrict and correct the blight in the downtown area. He added, “We need some kind control over these buildings that are falling down.”

The council instructed the Main Street Board members to get with city attorney Scott Johnson and Code Enforcement Officer Oscar Ornelas, draw up some prospective ordinances and the council would look at them during the next meeting.

The council also reviewed the city health inspector’s report of the agency’s activities for the month of December. Council members still had questions as to the quality of the refrigeration units at the local grocery stores. According to the council’s statements last night, many members had received inquires from concerned citizens as to the quality of the cooling units.

Council votes 3-2 for Torres as new city manager

Staff Writer
Town of Pecos City Council on a split vote this morning decided to select Joseph Torres as the new city manager of Pecos.

Council members met at 7 a.m. in executive session at City Hall, and according to City Secretary Connie Levario, the council deliberated for approximately 20 minutes before voting 3-2 in favor of hiring Torres over two other finalists. Councilman Frank Sanchez, Councilwoman Angelica Valenzuela and Councilman Gerald Tellez voting for Torres and Councilman Michael Benavides and Councilman Danny Rodriguez dissenting.

Torres was selected as one of three finalists for the position two weeks ago, along with Jimmy Dutchover and Georgia Vines.

Torres is the program manager for the Texas Workforce Commission’s Youth Employment Training Program, a federally funded program under the Workforce Investment Act. Torres has held the position for the past year, but all that will change in two weeks when he assumes the role of city manager for Pecos.

Torres replaces Carlos Yerena, who resigned in November after three years on the job to take a similar position with the city of Kingsville. The council agreed to a $55,000 per year salary for Torres, a city vehicle as well as the normal benefits that other city employees enjoy.

“I am excited about the opportunity that I have been presented with,” Torres said. “I feel a sense of urgency to pick up quickly where the previous city manager left off.”

Torres had previously been the superintendent of shipping and logistics at the Pennzoil Plant before its closing. He then took a job in Chicago for four years, but said he returned home to Pecos to find work due to the draw the area holds for him and a desire to spend more time with his family.

“I came back to Pecos to share some of the experiences and knowledge that I have gained with the community,” he said. “It is just nice to be back home.”

“I am really excited about working on a new team,” he said, “I am looking forward to bringing in some economic development to the area. I see the city manager’s position as a crucial one, from building relations within the community, to developing a more skilled local workforce, but the biggest need the area has is economic development. If we can get the economic infrastructure that can support new businesses, then the higher paying jobs will follow and people will have the extra money to spend locally boosting the economy further.”

When asked what obstacles Torres could see on the horizon as city manager he said, “ I wouldn’t call them obstacles, more like just part of starting a new job, is the learning of the job itself, deciding on what issues are most pressing, finding out what was left undone and finding out what the council needs from me. I think I have an opportunity here to build the community itself and build the community’s trust in our government at the same time.”

“My vision for Pecos is the development of our youth. Give the youth the positive reinforcement, leadership skills and job training that will give the area the skilled workforce it needs to grow,” Torres said.

Dutchover, the other local candidate for the city manager’s position, has served for four years as the Chief Executive Officer for the Reeves County Teachers Credit Union, and as the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah Independent School District’s Administrator for Alternative Education Programs for the past 10 years.

Vines has been the City Administrator for the city of Devine, located southwest of San Antonio, for the past three year. Previously she worked for the city of Granjeno, as the City Administrator and Chief Financial Officer.

Until Torres officially begins work in two weeks, Town of Pecos City Police Chief Clay McKinney will continue to serve as the acting city manager for Pecos.

Company and county having trouble filling cells after 960-bed expansion

If anything has changed lately at Reeves County Detention Center, Samuel Urias can't tell.

Urias, a guard for three years at the prison, said he has yet to notice any changes after management of the facility was transferred Dec. 1 from the county to a corporation, which signed a 10-year lease making the facility the largest privately run prison in the nation.

"It's running as normal as it's always been," he said.

In November 2003, with a $400,000 payment on the prison looming and the newest wing of the prison remaining largely empty, Reeves County officials reached an agreement with GEO Group, a private company that runs prisons for profit. The county paid GEO Group, formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections, to manage the prison, and the corporation paid the county to continue to try to fill the more than 900 empty beds in the prison.

Because the 960 beds of the newest unit of the prison, R-3, were empty, the county was not generating enough revenue from the prison and was on track to default on its bond payment. As part of the agreement, GEO group fronted the money for the payment, allowing the county to retain the prison.

The county also saw benefits that helped stimulate the local economy. Reeves County Commissioner Felipe Arredondo said although the beds remain empty, building R-3 was a good idea and, at its peak, brought about 150 jobs to the area.

Jobs, he said, have been precious in Reeves County in the last few years. Two years ago, Anchor Foods closed down its onion ring factory and eliminated 720 jobs, which Arredondo said was about 15 to 20 percent of the job market in this town located about 100 miles west of Midland.

"Most of those people went somewhere else," he said of the laid-off workers.

With an approximate population of 9,500, Pecos isn't getting any bigger, he said. In fact, with the loss of so many jobs in the last few years, the town has seen its high school shrink from Class 4A status down to 3A. This loss of jobs contributed to the decision to build the prison expansion, he said.

"We were just trying to pick up where they left off," he said.

The vast majority of the prisoners in the minimum security prison are illegal immigrants awaiting deportation, sent there by the Bureau of Prisons.

With about 344 employees, the detention center is the county's largest employer and at one point had nearly 500 employees, Arredondo said.

Any changes to the operation of the prison are a long way off, Arredondo said.

The prison is now run in a public-private partnership, with only the "upper echelon" of management on GEO Group's payroll and the guards remaining as county employees. The transition, though, has made Reeves County Detention Center America's largest privately run prison, drawing attention from anti-private prison activists.

Bob Libal, an organizer with Grassroots Leadership, said the situation last year in Reeves County epitomized the dangers of what he called "speculative building."

"When you build a prison before you have prisoners to put in it, you're not always going to be able to fill it," Libal said.

Speculative building often puts the county at risk of defaulting on loans or having its credit rating lowered, as was the case in Reeves County, he said.

Empty prison beds, like those in Reeves County, create a demand for incarceration, which can lead to unnecessarily stern laws, and "terrible public policy," Libal said.

With private prisons -- Libal said -- comes lower pay, higher turnover, less training for guards, fewer benefits and less money spent on programs like rehabilitation and education in the prisons.

The ill effects on the employees, however, will most likely not be seen at the Reeves County Detention Center, as the vast majority of the employees will remain on the county payroll.

The facility did see layoffs come as a result of the agreement, however. GEO Group announced it would immediately eliminate 70 jobs from the prison.

"Ultimately the problem is that Reeves County built 900 beds that they didn't know if they could fill and then turned it over to a company that has a questionable track record at best," he said.

Part of the company's history when it operated under the Wackenhut name tends to support Libal's arguments.

n In San Antonio, two guards at a Wackenhut facility were arrested in 2003 after they agreed with undercover agents to smuggle methamphetamines and heroin into the lockup.

n In April 2002, two former Wackenhut guards were convicted of civil rights violations in the 1998 beating of an inmate at the Lea County Correctional facility in Hobbs, N.M. Two other guards pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice in March of 2003 following two other beating incidents.

n In December 1999, 11 former Wackenhut guards were indicted on charges of sexually assaulting or harassing 16 female inmates in the Travis County Community Justice Center. Wackenhut was then stripped of its $12-million-a-year contract running the facility.

Pablo Paez, a spokesperson for GEO Group, defended the company.

"No prison operator, be it state-run or private, is immune to incidents and allegations of that kind," Paez said.

Since these incidents, the company has made changes in their procedures, he said.

The company has a regional office system, allowing closer supervision and direct response to the concerns of clients, he said.

"I think our structure as a company and our policies allow us to be proactive in addressing company and community concerns where we operate," Paez said.

In each incident, Paez said, Wackenhut has cooperated fully with authorities.

Paez also disputed the company's alleged lower pay, saying it was not consistently true, nor were the allegations of less training.

"We don't cut corners to make a profit," he said.

Reeves County Commissioner Felipe Arredondo said GEO Group's track record did not bother him or affect his decision making.

"It comes with the territory," he said. GEO Group employs nearly 13,000 people he said. "There's bound to be a slip up somewhere."

RCH construction going well, board told

Staff Writer
Reeves County Hospital Board members heard from chief engineer Dave Kippen, on the construction of the hospital new wing, decided to continue seeking bids for the equipment to go into the dialysis unit in the new addition, and approved the purchase of a $90,000 X-ray machine for the new wing’s trauma unit during their first meeting of the year on Tuesday.

Kippen told the board that construction was going well and under budget, but logistics involving the moving and installing services from existing facilities and problems arising with the sprinkler systems due to water pressure problems with the municipal water supply had delayed the project slightly, pushing the project two weeks behind the original schedule. However, he added that all would be ready for the 100 percent walkthrough on March 1.

Kippen said the 80 percent walkthrough went very well with inspectors making no comments, which is not the norm. “Usually they find something, but we didn’t argue with them. We are just hoping that the 100 percent inspection goes as well.”

He added that the curbs and gutters in the parking lot would be going in next week, and on the inside, crews were already painting and installing the ceiling tile and grid.

As of now the hospital has set March 11 and 12 for the dates of the new wing’s open house. Groundbreaking on the $8 million expansion project was held at the end of last February and construction officially began on March 11 last year.

In connection with the project, the board also decided to continue exploring the possibility of taking the necessary steps to comply with the regulations to qualify RCH as a Federally Qualified Health Clinic. The designation would allow the hospital to be reimbursed from the federal government for the care it gives to poverty level and indigent patients, according to hospital Administrator Robert Vernor.

“We are currently looking into combining the Dialysis unit with the FQHC proposal. The FQHC requirements state that the facility must provide a new service to the area, and the Dialysis unit would accomplish that,” Vernor said.

“We are also looking into the possibility of spinning off several clinics with this program. Studies have shown that a pre-dialysis clinic to show patients how to take care of themselves before dialysis can help patients live longer, he said. “Also, we are looking into a diabetic-hypertensive clinic that would provide the same kind of educational service to our patients, but all would be reimbursable through federal grant money on a per visit basis.”

“The numbers aren’t all in yet, so tonight’s resolution only says that the board intends to approve funding to comply with FQHC regulations. We still have a lot to look at, so this step is just to keep the process going,” Vernor said.

The board also approved the opening of bids on equipment for the dialysis unit itself. The unit will comprise 15 stations with chairs, dialysis units and water purification units at each station. The board opened the bids, but assigned hospital CFO Bill Conger and hospital Administrator Robert Vernor to sort through the proposals and report back with recommendations.

“We will take these [bids] to our dialysis analyst Larry McGowan to get his input as well,” Vernor said. “We must consider not only price, but service and proximity of service reps is very important, especially on the water units.”

The board also approved the purchase of a ceiling mounted radiology unit for the new trauma center from Triple X -Ray of Stanton. According to Vernor, this machine will allow X-rays to be taken in the trauma center, digitized and sent to the radiology department for analysis.

Vernor added that the bid on the machine was from the same company that the hospital had purchased its CT scanner from, and that their track record with service calls was excellent.

Main St. architect takes tour of downtown

Staff Writer
Howard Langer was doing some sightseeing in downtown Pecos today. But what Langer was looking at and photographing was a little bit different from most out-of-town visitors.

Langer is an architect with the Texas Historical Commission’s Main Street program, and he was in town today for what he expects to be the first of several visits in connection with the city’s new Main Street program.

“He’s going to be in town all day, and is going to go down Oak Street and visit with the different (business) owners,” said Pecos Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Linda Gholson, who was one of several local officials meeting with Langer this morning.

“I will probably be here four or five times during the first year,” said Langer. “I’ll see on any given visit up to six building owners, and I anticipate meeting with the Main Street design committee or perhaps the board.”

“The first day I generally get oriented and pick a building for Mrs. Perry. When she comes here, we’ll have the drawing of the building unveiled,” he said.

The Main Street program is designed to help restore downtown areas of smaller towns across Texas. Pecos was selected to the program last year, and as part of the project, Texas First Lady Anita Perry will make a brief stop in Pecos on March 30, during which Langer’s design for the building selected will be revealed.

“As part of walking around and getting oriented, I will pick out a specific building the local Main Street board thinks is a candidate for renovation,” he said.

Langer brought two cameras with him to take photos of the buildings. But aside from photographing the front of the structures, Langer was also busy today gathering images from other angles, such as the north side wall of the old Pecos Motors building, across from the West of the Pecos Museum.

“I’m helping them discover if they have any historic materials included and how feasible for restoration their buildings are,” he said, while looking at the north side wall of the former auto dealership, sections of which are used today by Needleworks and for billboard painting.

“Some things I look for is the shell of the building to see if there are some problems it may have and if there are any irregularities in the wall,” he said, adding that while the back of the Pecos Motors building had bowed slightly in the area where a fire broke out several years ago, “It still looks in pretty good shape.”

Langer said he just conducted a similar survey of buildings in Pharr, in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and would be visiting other cities accepted last year into the Main Street program.

“I’ll be back here probably in about three months to meet with the building owners,” Langer said, while local Main Street board member Venetta Seals said downtown business owners can have preliminary design concept work done by Langer.

“Any business or building owner who wants to know what their building would look like undraped, he will do a rendering,” she said.

Main Street program officials, along with the Chamber of Commerce, are planning a major clean-up effort for the city prior to Perry’s visit at the end of March. Officials also hope to unveil plans at that time for the design of the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame, which will be located in the former Missouri-Pacific Railroad depot building at the north end of the downtown area on Oak Street.

The Pecos Police Department has a new employee these days. Danny Leos made the move from the Reeves County Sheriff’s Office, where he worked for more than five years, to the PPD seven days ago. Leos was born and raised here in Pecos, and he is married with one daughter. On his sixth day at the PD, Leos made a discovery of a stolen Ford pick-up at the Flying J truck stop based on instinct alone.

Gholson receives top award at Chamber banquet

Staff Writer
Pecos Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Linda Gholson ended up as the recipient of the night’s top award on Thursday, as she was named Citizen of the Year for 2003 at the Reeves County Civic Center, during the Annual Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce Award Banquet.

“Citizen of the Year Award,” which was one of many awards handed out on Thursday during the banquet, and was given for the second time to Gholson, who also received the honor in 1993.

Nancy Ontiveros presented the award to Gholson, who was unaware she would be receiving the prestigious honor last evening.

“It came as a total surprise,” said Gholson.

Former Austin Mayor Kirk Watson was guest speaker for the event. He talked about his experiences as mayor from 1997 through 2003, and provided the crowd with “rules” to help make life easier and humorous anecdotes of his own experiences.

Watson told the group that he had met some citizens from Pecos, while they were in Austin for a meeting. “I became aware that there was a lot going on in Pecos,” said Watson. “I’m a believer, I believe that citizens have the ability define themselves in optimistic ways.”

Watson listed several rules to abide by that would help the individual and the community as a whole. “Don’t put any labels on one another,” said Watson. “Don’t create unnecessary enemies, because you might need that individual on the next project,” he said.

Even in families, you don’t get along all of the time, but by communicating you can work through problems, according to Watson. “Create that opportunity to hear one another, don’t assume that they know what you want to do,” said Watson. “Let the world know what’s going on, there’s a lot of good going on here.”

Recognize that you will never meet everyone’s expectations. “I tend to follow the 84 percent rule,” said Watson. “There will always be 16 percent out there that you can satisfy,” he said.

Be biased toward action. “Don’t stagnate, be always moving,” said Watson. “You’ve got to break some eggs in order to make an omelet,” he said.

Watson said, “Don’t always wait for something better to come along, always looking out for a better deal.”

Watson said that in 1972 he was a freshman in high school. He asked a girl, who was a year ahead of him in school, out for homecoming. “She said ‘no,’ I’m waiting for someone else to ask me,” said Watson. “She’s the person I’ve been married to for 24 years, so obviously nobody else did ask her,” he said.

“You need to take chances and quit waiting for something else, take what is there,” said Watson.

Watson also told the audience “there is value in failure. It means you’ve tried.” He also said to have a short-term focus and long-term goals, citing his own life after battling cancer 10 years ago as an example.

“I’m now living in short intervals of time,” he said. “Focus on the here and now, on what you can do now. Know your core values and assets and recognize your weaknesses,” he said.

He also said to avoid nitpickers and naysayers. “They just try to bring you down,” said Watson. “They try to bring things down or just know so much more than everybody,” he said.

Pick your fights very carefully. “Enjoy yourself, know the direction that you’re going and know when to quit,” said Watson.

Emcee for the event Cody West introduced Watson and others who presented the awards at Thursday’s banquet. Along with Citizen of the Year, they included Educator of the Year, which went to Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Superintendent Don Love; Student of the Year, which went to Pecos High School senior Daniel Quintana; the Ruiz Profile in Courage/Hidden Hero Award, which went to Dr. Orville Cerna; the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, which went to Felipe Villalobos; the Agricultural Award, which went to Dr. Ronald Box; the Fireman of the Year Award, which went to Noel Ybarra; and the EMT of the Year Award, which went to Kathy Cravey.

In giving Gholson her award, Ontiveros said, “The Citizen of the Year is given to an individual who has shown significant accomplishments in the recent past. While there are several nominees for this award, only one person could be recognized,” he said.

The merits of the recipient of the 2004 Citizen of the Year Award far exceeded those of all of the nominees, according to Ontiveros.

Gholson began her career with the chamber in the spring of 2002 taking on the position of Interim Executive Director. A few months later she was selected as the Executive Director of the Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce, based on her merits and her accomplishments during her term as interim executive director.

She was a volunteer and served in the Austin Elementary School PTA, from 1973-1981 and was an officer for several years; Girl Scout Leader, 1973-1982; 4-H Leader 1974-1990, foods and nutrition, clothing, bee keeping, beef cattle, swine, rabbits, horse, record books, method demonstrations; helped organize Reeves-Loving Counties 4-H Adult Leaders Association and District 6 4H Adult Leaders Association-District Secretary 1987, State Delegate 1988-89 and 1991-92 and is an active member of the 4th and Bois D’Arc Church of Christ - ladies committee chair for April 1985-present.

Ontiveros said that Gholson has applied leadership skills and works in every aspect of working with the community, local businesses, government entities and civic organizations. “This person has a way of creating excitement and generating participation in many events to ensure success,” she said.

Ontiveros said that this person rarely takes credit for her personal accomplishments, rather says that her accomplishments are only as good as the people she works with. “She has a tendency of saying that others make her work look good and she also says that rarely does anything ever get by her,” said Ontiveros.

“This person has a vision for the future of Pecos, which is to continue to build strong working relations with businesses, government, the community and the chamber,” said Ontiveros.

Gholson is a member of Mount Evergreen Cemetery board 1974 to present, secretary and president for various years during 29-year tenure; a member of the Pecos Industrial Foundation Board/Pecos Economic Development Board; Leadership Pecos Inaugural Class 1990-91; Reeves County Appraisal District Board Secretary 1998-present; Reeves County Health Fair Co-Chair 1988-present; Business and Professional Women Association; Pecos Valley Crime Stoppers Board; PBT-ISD Board of Trustees 1989-1998, secretary, 1989-91, president 1991-97; Pecos Main Street Program Board, 2002 to present; Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce, serving as president in 1992 and 1999 and the Reeves County Hospital District Board 2001- until present.

“While participating in all that I have mentioned, she was also busy serving as a partner and manager of the Style Shop from 1995 until 2001, serving as a partner in family businesses of farming, ranching and real estate from 1973 until now, and also served as a part-time Legislative Aide for (former area State Rep.) Troy Frazier,” said Ontiveros.

A teary-eyed Gholson received the award last evening and said that all her work could not be accomplished without the help of all her volunteers. “I couldn’t do anything without the support I receive and even when I receive opposition, it just makes me work harder,” she said.

Vernon moved from EMT work to law enforcement

Staff Writer
Helen Vernon got into law enforcement to help people. While not the most original reason, it is one of the most admirable.

Vernon began her career working dispatch for the Sam Houston University Police Department, while she was attending the university working on her B.S. in Law Enforcement/Police Science. Also while at the university she worked as a jailer for the Walker County (Huntsville) Sheriff’s Department. After graduation, she took a job working as an EMT in Taylor. Though obviously not her first choice, the EMT position was a helpful step in her law enforcement career.

The situation arose due to difficulties Vernor had getting hired in law enforcement. “In those days women had a lot of trouble getting hired as police officers. I finally had to go to Carrolton to find a department progressive enough to be hired as a police officer,” Vernon said.

Vernon graduated in the top third of her class in high school, in a graduating class of 600. She went on to graduate second in her class from the police academy, and through her excellent shooting skills earned the name “Jane Wayne.”

Vernon was born in Batesville, Ark., and moved to Little Rock before finding a home here in Texas. She did much of her growing up in the Houston area.

Vernon describes her time on the Carrolton PD, located just outside Dallas, as an interesting one. “They were very strict and demanded a lot from their officers. You could not mess up even in the slightest, either on or off duty. They had very high standards for their officers,’ she said.

Vernon took time off from law enforcement to start a family in 1997. She moved to Pecos and had a little trouble adjusting to West Texas after living in the East so long. “It took me around two years to fully appreciate the beauty of the desert.”

Living on a ranch south of town, Vernon got to see sights one would be hard pressed to find in East Texas. Tarantula migrations, scorpions and the occasional sand storm, kept things interesting out on the ranch for Vernon. “I learned a lot living out there. I learned to can, which is harder than you think. I raised cattle, with a 100 percent calving rate. I even kept chickens, and stitched them up using what I learned as an EMT after a coyote attack.”

She got back into the law enforcement business after a while when she took a position as a reserve deputy for Reeves County Sheriff’s Office. When a part-time position came up at the PD, she took it. The position was as community involvement officer and Vernon said she enjoyed that thoroughly.

“As you know I got into law enforcement to help people, and working in that capacity suited me. Soon, however, a full time position with the force came up and I applied and got the job,” she said.

She has been working full time with the PD for two years now and says she really enjoys the town itself as well as the people here.

“I would really like to see more parental involvement with the kids lives here in town. Parents should stop trying to be their kids’ friend and act more like parents. As far as the kids themselves, I would really like to see the young ladies especially respect themselves and their bodies more. Go for what you really want; don’t just settle for what is available right now. Wait to have kids till you have a responsible partner to help raise them and set a good example for them. Expect the best out of yourself; don’t sell yourself short; get your education, begin your career and then start to think about starting a family.”

“I would really like to see the ladies here in town start to have more self esteem, they need to know how wonderful they are, and if they are going to succeed it is up to them. I would also like to see something for the kids to do at night that would get them off the streets and doing something healthy.”

Dean says Granado to remain on ballot

Staff Writer
Pecos Police Investigator Armando “Mondie” Granado, who announced he would withdraw his bid for the Precinct 1 Commissioner’s seat earlier this week, will still be on the March 9 Democratic Party primary ballot, Reeves County Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Dean said on Thursday.

Granado withdrew from the race due to a conflict with city law that prohibits salaries city employees from running for political office. Granado said that he would have to quit his job in order to run and he did not want to resign his position.

However, Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Dean said Thursday that there was a deadline in the election code to withdraw from the race, and that date has passed.

“You only have up to a certain date to withdraw and it was past that date,” Dean explained this morning. “We can’t take his name off the ballot.”

If Granado does happen to win the election, despite withdrawing, he will then have to withdraw from the runoff election. If he were to win over 50 percent in the primary election to avoid a runoff, the party would have to select a new Precinct 1 nominee for the Nov. 2 general election.

Granado’s withdrawal still leaves four candidates seeking the four-year term as Reeves County Commissioner. They are incumbent Felipe Arredondo, who is seeking a fourth term in office, and three challengers: Rogelio “Roy” Alvarado, “Chel” Florez and Robert C. Natividad.

Granado is the second candidate to drop out of a run for commissioner after first announcing plans to seek the seat. In December, three-term incumbent Precinct 3 Commissioner Herman Tarin announced he would not seek another four-year term in office, after filing to run earlier in the month.

Even with Tarin’s departure, the race for the Precinct 3 seat remains crowded, with nine candidates running in the March 9 primary. They are Abel Baeza, Lisa Lopez Boicourt, Rosendo Galindo, Jimmy Gallego, Saul Herrera, Manuel “Manny” Lopez, Joel Madrid, Joseph Peter Rodriguez and Bailey Wheeless.

U.S. 285 head-on truck crash kills three

From Staff and Wire Reports Three people, including 4-year-old child, were killed after two tractor-trailer rigs collided head-on between Fort Stockton and Sanderson on U.S. 285 in Pecos County, officials said.

A full report from the Texas Department of Public Safety was not available at press time, but the DPS office in Pecos said a woman and the child were inside one rig and died at the scene shortly after the accident about 10 p.m. Thursday, said Department of Public Safety dispatcher Kathy Bartlett. The driver of the rig was taken by helicopter to a Lubbock hospital.

The other rig caught fire and its driver died at the scene, Bartlett said. The crash was 26 miles south of Fort Stockton and the highway was closed for about six hours.

Fort Stockton DPS troopers are investigating the accident. Names of the victims and the injured driver had not been released as of press time pending notification of next-of-kin.

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