Local News Archive

State Rep. DeAnn Vaught appointed asst. speaker pro temp of Arkansas House     01/16/23

The 2023 Regular Session is now underway.

The session began on Monday, January 9 when members of the 94th General Assembly took the oath of office.

The House then elected Matthew J. Shepherd of El Dorado as the Speaker for the 94th General Assembly. He is the first person in state history to be elected Speaker for a third term. State Representative DeAnn Vaught, who district includes Sevier and Little River Counties, was named this session’s assistant speaker pro temp.

On the second day of the session, the House and Senate convened for a Joint Session. All constitutional officers took the oath of office and upon swearing-in, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave an address outlining her legislative priorities. The priorities mentioned include tax cuts, improving literacy, and improving public safety.

The House also adopted the rules for the 94th General Assembly. Changes in the rules from the previous year include adding language that incorporates bill filing deadlines and fiscal impact statement requirements for legislation related to state-sponsored health benefits and scholarships.

The deadline to file constitutional amendments is February 8.

The legislature will not convene today for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  The House will reconvene on Tuesday, January 17 at 1:30 p.m.

You can watch all committees and House floor proceedings at arkansashouse.org

Sevier Chamber announces date, theme of 2023 banquet     01/12/23

DE QUEEN – The Sevier County Chamber of Commerce has announced the date and theme of its annual Membership and Awards Banquet.

The chamber of commerce will present the event on Thursday, Feb. 23 and will be Vegas themed. The chamber said that nomination forms and other details will be released in the near future.

The annual event is held to recognize outstanding businesses and individuals in Sevier County as well as highlight the chamber’s roles and activities in the community. Awards range from Large and Small Business of the Year to Citizen of the Year and a recognition of the year’s top teachers at De Queen, Horatio, Legacy Academy, UA Cossatot and the De Queen-Mena Educational Cooperative.

Hochatown appoints mayor, holds first town hall     01/12/23

Submitted by Shellye Copeland/Hochatown Historical Society

HOCHATOWN – The newly-incorporated town of Hochatown now has its first mayor.

On Jan. 10, the first meeting of the town trustees for newly incorporated Hochatown was held at the Chapel of the Pines Church. During the meeting, the Trustees voted unanimously to appoint Dian Jordan, PhD, as the town’s first official Mayor and accepted a donation from long-time resident Vojai Reed for one year of free office space to house the first official Hochatown Town Hall.

The position of Mayor in Hochatown’s form of government is an honorary position and only designates the president of the town trust itself.  The actual day-to-day business and administration of the town will be conducted by a town manager, to be appointed later.  Dr. Jordan is a native of the area and has owned multiple tourist-related businesses over the past two decades.  She was a key participant in the incorporation effort.

Mrs. Reed, a trailblazing professional bass angler, who until recently owned and operated Vojai’s Winery in Hochatown, offered the trust free office space near the former winery as a potential location for the first town hall.  The trust will establish the initial town hall in the building located on US Highway 259 near the Steven’s Gap entrance into Broken Bow Lake.

In other business, the trust voted unanimously to establish several committees which will aid in the governance of the small town.

A presentation by the firm of Hillborne and Weidman regarding possible revenue options for raising operating capital was heard but no action was taken. Discussion regarding potential tax collections by the municipality were forwarded to the Taxation Committee for further deliberation, while administration of requests for annexation and future plat approvals was forwarded to the Planning and Zoning Committee. The trust also took no action after a brief discussion regarding the possible hiring of attorneys to assist with the continued efforts toward establishing a local municipal government.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Town Trust will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at Chapel of the Pines. It is set to begin at 5 p.m.

CACA to host Masquerade Ball in February     01/12/23

KING – The Cossatot Arts and Crafts Association is inviting art fans and others in the community to a Masquerade Ball next month at its art center in King.

The event is scheduled to begin at 6:30 the night of Saturday, Feb. 11 and is being billed for those 18 and older only. Events include dancing and other entertainment, finger foods, a memory photo booth and more. The event will be held in the Cossatot Arts Center located on King Schoolhouse Road just south of Gillham.

Tickets must be purchased in advance and are $40 for a single ticket or $75 for a couple. Those attending are asked to come in formal attire.

For more information or to RSVP, contact Reba at (318) 953-1918 or Nancy at (479) 216-1537. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.cossatotartsandcrafts.com.

Summer interns sought for AGFC     01/12/23

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is accepting applications for summer internships until March 31, 2023. These internships, funded by sales of the AGFC’s Conservation License Plates, let students gain hands-on training and experience needed to compete for a future career in conservation.

Many students are interested in careers in wildlife management, fisheries, wildlife health and conservation education, but often lack the hands-on experience to stand out from the crowd of applicants. Internship not only helps the students in this department, but also gives the agency an opportunity to recruit for possible job vacancies.

Internships are available across the state in conservation education, wildlife management, fisheries management, and wildlife law enforcement.

To qualify for an internship, an applicant:

-Must have a declared degree in the conservation field.

-Must have 60 hours of college credits earned by the time the internship begins.

-At the time of application, must be a college student, graduated within the previous 12 months, or currently be enrolled in a post-graduate program. Graduates must have completed education no earlier than June 2022 to be eligible for the summer 2023 internship window.

-Must have a 2.5 cumulative grade point average on a 4.0 scale.

Selected interns will be responsible to coordinate with their college or university to obtain course credit for their work.

Visit https://jobs.agfc.com for more information on the internship program and a list of openings for 2023.

Arkansas Big Squirrel Challenge this weekend     01/12/23

Deer seasons may be winding down in Arkansas, but don’t put away the hunting gear just yet. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is hosting the second annual Big Squirrel Challenge statewide Jan. 13-14.

This year, the event has expanded to include a few more weigh-in stations. The closest to us is the Rick Evans Grandview Prairie Nature Center, located on 1685 County Road 35 north in Columbus and just an hour from De Queen.

Participants can start hunting at noon Jan. 13 through 30 minutes after sunset, then hunt again 30 minutes before sunrise until weigh-in at noon Jan. 14. Each team of two individuals can bring their biggest three squirrels to be weighed (field-dressed with skin on). Squirrels will be weighed from noon until 1 p.m. Jan. 14. And prizes will be given out to the heaviest three-squirrel bag in four categories.

Youth teams may consist of two hunters under 16 years of age or one hunter under 16 years of age and a mentor 16 or older.

No registration is required to participate, and teams will get their squirrels back after the weigh-in, so they can enjoy a good supper, regardless of their results in the event.

Medals will be awarded to the top two teams in each division at each location, and Gamo air rifles will be awarded to the statewide overall top team in each division.

For more information visit www.agfc.com.

Jeff Holcombe to be next DJHS principal     01/11/23

DE QUEEN – The De Queen School Board met in a special session Monday, Jan. 9 and approved the hiring of Jeff Holcombe as the new De Queen Junior High principal for the 2023-2024 school year.

Holcombe will be replacing Bill Huddleston who will be retiring after serving 13 years as DJHS Principal and 36 years with De Queen Public Schools. Holcombe has been working alongside Huddleston as the DJHS Assistant Principal and is currently in his 15th year as a school administrator. He is also a DHS Alum who has served as a teacher and counselor during his 27 years as an educator. The longtime Leopard says his new role will be a dream come true.

Holcombe said he looks forward to leading De Queen Junior High School beginning for the 2023-2024 school year. He added words of praise for Huddleston, who he described as a great boss, mentor and friend. Holcombe has served as Huddleston’s assistant principal for the previous 13 years.

Becoming principal is a 30-year dream, Holcombe said. He addd that the work that teachers do is greatly appreciated and that he is honored to help them continue the success they have had educating kids at De Queen Public Schools.

Superintendent Jason Sanders said the district is thankful for Bill Huddleston’s many years of leadership and service to De Queen Public Schools. Sanders added that the school is fortunate it didn’t have to look very far to find its next Junior High Principal. Holcombe, said Sanders, is a quality person, an excellent communicator and cares about kids.

Friday is deadline for Arkansans to help in broadband funding push     01/11/23

DE QUEEN – The Arkansas State Broadband Office is urging all Arkansans to verify the newly published federal broadband map by this Friday, Jan. 13.

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a new national broadband map showing high-speed internet availability across the country. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will use this new map to guide the distribution of funding for building broadband infrastructure through the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program.

To make sure that Arkansas receives its maximum available funding, and that funding reaches areas of the state that need broadband the most, all Arkansas residents and businesses are being asked to visit the new map and verify the information is correct.

The three-step process is simple:

  1. Visit broadbandmap.fcc.gov and type in your address.
  2. Verify your address’ location. If it’s wrong, submit a location challenge.
  3. Validate your available internet speeds. If it’s wrong, submit an availability challenge.

By taking these three steps, Arkansans can do their part to help get funding to the areas that most need broadband infrastructure. Residents and businesses are strongly encouraged to submit their challenges by Friday, January 13, 2023.

The NTIA will use the new federal map to determine state funding allocations for the BEAD program by June 30, 2023. All challenges must be submitted by January 13, 2023, to impact the distribution of BEAD funding.

After verifying or challenging the information listed on the new federal map, residents and businesses can help in this effort by spreading the word about this map and helping others to complete this process. The more who participate, the more input the FCC has to create an accurate and reliable map to direct funding.

For additional information and direction regarding the challenge process, residents and businesses are encouraged to visit broadband.arkansas.gov/verify.

State Rep. DeAnn Vaught sworn in on Tuesday     01/11/23

By State Rep. DeAnn Vaught

Monday afternoon, I took the oath of office to serve as the State Representative for District 87! I want to thank you all again for this honor!! I was appointed to be the House Rules Chairwoman and Speaker Assistant Pro-Tempore. I am so excited about this new journey! I will serve on Education Committee, Ag Committee, ALC, and Rules Committee.

After the swearing-in, the House elected Matthew J. Shepherd of El Dorado as the Speaker for the 94th General Assembly. He becomes the first person in state history to be elected Speaker for a third term.

After an address to the House, Speaker Shepherd announced the chairs and vice chairs for committees. You can find the lists of committee assignments which include the names of chairs and vice chairs at arkansashouse.org.

On Tuesday, the Joint Budget Committee will meet at 9 am. The House will convene at 10 am and then at 10:30 am, the House and Senate will convene in the House Chamber for a Joint Session. During the Joint Session, all constitutional officers will be sworn into office and the newly elected Governor will make an address.

The House streams all committee meetings and House floor proceedings at arkansashouse.org.

Leopards split wins at Coliseum against Hope     01/11/23

DE QUEEN – The De Queen senior teams split with Hope Tuesday night in the Coliseum with the Lady Leopards winning easily 60-32, while the Hope boys pulled away from the Leopards in the fourth quarter to post a 63-41 victory.

The Lady Leopards played a brilliant first half with only one turnover and no fouls as the De Queen girls raced to a 43-11 halftime lead and cruised to the 60-32 win. Allison Dockins was outstanding with 26 points to earn our McDonalds Player of the Night award. Dockins knocked down six three-pointers and grabbed three rebounds and three steals. Belle Lindsey scored 14, and Dayton Newberry added 12. The Lady Leopards improved to 2 and 1 in conference play and 11 and 4 overall.

The Leopards had a tough time on the boards as the Hope boys pulled away late for the 63-41 victory. The Leopards trailed by ten points going into the fourth quarter, but the Bobcats finished the game on a 17-5 run. Nathan Patterson led the Leopards with 18 points. Sophomore Sam Graham added nine as the De Queen boys fell to 5 and 9 on the year.

Ashdown falls to Magnolia in Tuesday night basketball action     01/11/23

ASHDOWN – The Ashdown Panthers hosted the Magnolia Panthers in girls and boys action Tuesday night at Helen Parker Gymnasium. Magnolia defeated the Ashdown girls 47 to 22.

The game was close early but Magnolia went on a run before halftime to go into the locker room with a comfortable 22 to 6 lead and never looked back. The leading scorers for Ashdown were LaKenya Williams and Kaitlyn Jones with 6 points.

In boys action, it was a battle of the undefeated in conference play. Ashdown came out hot early and led 30 to 21 with 4 minutes left in the first half. Magnolia went on a 21 to 10 run to go into the locker room with a 2 point lead.  Magnolia put the peddle to the metal in the second half and defeated Ashdown 86 to 57 behind 27 points by guard Nevi Tell.

The leading scorers for Ashdown were Kaiden Winfrey with 22 points while Justin Brown had 13 and Antonio McDuffie pitched in with 10 points. Ashdown falls to 2 and 1 in conference.

Both teams travel to Camden Fairview on Friday night with the pre game show beginning at 5:30 on 102.1 The Good Path.

Sandra Dunn is first female county judge in Sevier history     01/10/23

DE QUEEN – The Sevier County Quorum Court made history on Monday after it appointed the first woman to ever hold the office of county judge in Sevier County.

During Monday afternoon’s meeting of the Sevier County Quorum Court, justices of the peace unanimously announced their pick of Sandra Dunn as the next interim county judge. She will replace Dick Tallman, who was appointed as the interim office holder following the passing of County Judge Greg Ray in late August of last year.

Tallman’s resignation was accepted during the meeting and his tenure officially ended at 11:59 Monday night.

Tallman, who served as county judge for 16 years between 1994 and 2010, agreed to the interim appointment through the remainder of Ray’s 2019-2023 term. Tallman said he was honored to serve out the term, despite the tragic circumstances that brought him back to the office.

“I kinda felt like it was my duty to at least offer,” said Tallman. “Greg was so well thought of and the whole county was in shock. I thought, at least I knew something about being county judge and could take over and finish his term. As it turned out, we’ve got the right person [in Sandra Dunn] to fill in the next term as county judge. I’m so proud I was able to help and just hope I didn’t mess anything up in the last four months.”
Dunn will be the first woman to ever hold the highest elected position in Sevier County. She previously served as the elected county clerk for Sevier and for the last few years as the administrative assistant to Ray and then Tallman.

Tallman said the county could not have asked for a better person to serve as interim judge through Ray’s 2023-2027 term.

As Dunn was appointed to the position, rather than elected, state election law will prevent her from seeking reelection in 2026. Her term as interim county judge will officially expire on Dec. 31 of that year.

Following the quorum court’s decision on Monday, Dunn thanked justices of the peace for the opportunity and said she was honored by their trust in her for the position of county judge.

In his parting message as interim county judge, Tallman reminisced on his friendship with Greg Ray. Tallman’s two terms as county judge bookended Ray’s time as county judge. Tallman knew Ray before he was county judge, having endorsed Ray for his 2010 run for office. But Tallman also saw the work Ray had done for the county after he returned to the county last year following the tragic passing of Ray.

“Greg was the road foreman and took that job not long after I got out of the military and ran for county judge,” said Tallman. “He was road foreman the whole time I was county judge and for the two of us it was a partnership to do the best for the county. I don’t meet anybody that doesn’t rave about Greg Ray. Everyone loved Greg Ray. And they should. He was very energetic, always did the best he could for the county and was always looking for something better to do for the county. I was very proud of him.”

We’ll be bringing you more on this story later this week, particularly an interview with Sevier County’s new judge, Sandra Dunn.

Officials say SCMC opening expected this month     01/10/23

DE QUEEN – Officials with Sevier County’s new hospital say the facility is possibly just days away from opening and only awaiting delivery of its needed pharmaceuticals, which are expected to arrive this week.

Sevier County Medical Center CEO Lori House said on Monday that the hospital received its final pharmacy licensure and is only waiting on the delivery of its needed medications before opening its doors.

You can’t open an ER and have someone come in with a seizure and have no medications to give them,” said House. “But we have 118 people on board right now and we are ready and waiting to serve the public.”

House hesitates to say the exact day the hospital will open, given the unexpected opening delays in recent weeks. But she feels confident the hospital will open this month.

“I’m going to say by mid-January we’ll be open,” she explained. “I hate to put a specific date out there, but it’s going to be as soon as we can receive those medications and get them in our system. We are so very close.”

The recent delays were largely the result of licensure requirements and resolving the relatively minor issues that would arise from the opening of such a complex facility like a medical center.

“When the state department of health came down [in December]to look at our facility, what we found is that our nurse call system had malfunctioned,” explained House. “It could have been a power surge that caused the problem, we’re not sure. But it took two weeks to fix. From what I can tell, there probably hasn’t been a brand-new, start-up, full-service hospital like ours [in Arkansas] in 40 years. This is the first time it’s been done in this state in many, many years. It has been a learning experience. But I think, through COVID, going through a pandemic, the nurse shortage, everything else this process has encountered, we’ve done very well.”

Once open, the 15-bed Sevier County Medical Center will offer a broad range of medical services and will provide the first 24-hour emergency care unit in Sevier County since the closure of the privately-owned De Queen Hospital in the spring of 2019. 

Want to learn more about your family history? Let SARA help     01/10/23

WASHINGTON – History may not have been everyone’s favorite subject in high , but there’s one way to get more personally involved in the topic these days: the history of your family.

Americans have shown a growing interest in genealogy in recent years. As demonstrated through booming services like MyHeritage, 23andMe and Ancestry.com, Americans want to know more about themselves by researching their family history.

For the aspiring genealogist in our corner of the state, there is perhaps no resource as important as the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives (SARA). Melissa Nesbitt is the archival manager of the agency, based in Washington. Specifically, that is Washington, Ark., the Confederate-era capital of Arkansas now home to Historic Washington State Park.

When it comes to researching family history, Nesbitt encourages Arkansans to include the regional archives as part of their journey.

That’s exactly our mission, to preserve history through the collection of materials and artifacts that tell not just the story of our area, but its people as well,” explained Nesbitt. “You might be able to find out a lot about your own family by using the resources we offer.”

Founded in 1978, SARA offers a variety of research resources within its 12-county region, which includes Sevier and all surrounding Arkansas counties. Those resources include primary documents such as letters, diaries, maps, photographs, newspapers and broadsides. Books and other print resources also help create a general Arkansas history reference library.

Among SARA’s collections is the Robert B. Waltz Photograph Collection. This collection boasts more than 2,500 images of people and places around Southwest Arkansas dating back to the 19th century. Research services and staff are also available to help guide patrons on their hunt for genealogical information.

Nesbitt stresses the importance of genealogy not just as a way to learn about history, but to discover your own personal connection to Arkansas’ past.

Genealogy is so important because it shows the history of how one generation connects to the next by looking at specific people, places and times and how those events led to what we see around us today,” she explains. “It can also help us understand our own family history or other families’ histories and how it all connected to create who we are now.”

Nesbitt adds that there are a number of tips to keep in mind for the beginner genealogical researcher.

Start with yourself and your immediate family and then move on to older generations,” she says. “Connect with an archivist, like those here at SARA, who can help you research specific times and locations. And use the vast amount of online resources available to help expand what you consider as records, such as voter registrations, property information, etc.”

Finally, Nesbitt encourages Arkansas genealogists to record all the information they collect for future use.

For more information on beginning your journey into genealogy here in Southwest Arkansas, visit www.archives.arkansas.gov or contact SARA directly by calling (870) 983-2633. Arkansans are also welcome to visit the archives in person by making an appointment. The Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives are located at 201 AR-195 in Washington.

DQ man arrested for battery, false imprisonment     01/10/23

GARLAND COUNTY – A De Queen man is in custody after he was accused of assaulting his girlfriend and holding her at knifepoint during an altercation in Garland County over the weekend.

According to an arrest affidavit from the Garland County Sheriff’s Office, 20-year-old Kaleb Chapman was arrested on Sunday near Kirby following the incident. He has been charged with a felony count of false imprisonment as well as a misdemeanor charge of third-degree domestic battery.

Authorities allege Chapman assaulted his 21-year-old girlfriend during a domestic dispute in which he allegedly held her at knifepoint and threatened to kill her. The incident reportedly began over text messages Chapman found on his girlfriend’s phone.

Chapman reportedly physically assaulted the woman before the two left the home in a vehicle. Authorities said the victim was able to call 911 after she escaped from Chapman during a stop he made in Kirby. Officers with the Pike County Sheriff’s Office apprehended Chapman a short time later.

Authorities said the victim has signs of injuries to her head and leg from the incident.

Chapman was handed over to deputies with the Garland County Sheriff’s Office and transported to the Garland County Jail.

Saturday accident claims life of Dierks man     01/09/23

DIERKS – A single vehicle accident claimed the life of a Dierks man over the weekend.

According to the Arkansas State Police, 50-year-old Jerry Dale Jones was traveling eastbound on Highway 278 in Howard County Saturday morning when his 2011 Buick Enclave left the roadway, truck a tree and overturned.

The accident occurred around 9 a.m., according to the preliminary crash report. Jones was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigating State Trooper Ernesto Echevarria reported road conditions as clear and dry at the time of the accident.

Sevier County Quorum Court expected to appoint next interim judge today     01/09/23

DE QUEEN – The Sevier County Quorum Court is scheduled to meet this afternoon to declare a vacancy in the office of Sevier County Judge and announce who will serve in that position for the next four years.

Interim Sevier County Judge Dick Tallman is expected to resign today, opening up the office for another appointee to serve through January of 2027. Tallman was originally appointed to the position in September following the unexpected passing of Sevier County Judge Greg Ray. During his appointment process, Tallman said he would serve in the position until another individual could be appointed for Ray’s 2023-2027 term.

Ray was running unopposed for that term when he passed away in late August of 2022. As the filing period had ended, the quorum court was left with one option: appointing someone for the remainder of Ray’s 2019-2023 term as well as the his term that would have began earlier this month.

The next election for the office of Sevier County Judge will be held in 2026. State election law will prohibit the individual appointed today from running in that election.

The quorum court met last week in executive session to review several resumes it had received for the office. Sevier County justices of the peace are expected to announce their decision today.

Also scheduled for today’s meeting is a report from Sevier County Medical Center CEO Lori House. David Boone Ministries, which administers several senior citizens centers in the county, is also expected to provide an update.

The quorum court will then appoint a delegate to the Arkansas Quorum Court Association for 2023 as well as vote on the appointment of Dr. Ken Erickson to the Sevier County Airport Board.

A final item on the agenda includes providing an 8.5 percent pay increase to county library employees. All county employees, save those with the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office who received a sizable mid-year raise in 2022, were provided the raise beginning this year. However, library employees were reportedly and inadvertently left out of the broad pay increase. The quorum court is expected to remedy that oversight today.

The meeting begins at 2 p.m. in the courtroom of the Sevier County Courthouse and is open to the public.

Begin 2023 right with subscription to Arkansas Wildlife     01/09/23

Start 2023 with fresh information about the Arkansas outdoors by subscribing to Arkansas Wildlife, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission magazine produced right here in The Natural State.

Arkansas Wildlife features articles and news about places where you hunt, fish, camp, bird-watch and boat – no doubt you’ll discover some new ideas for getting out and enjoying the state.

The magazine is published every other month and includes a 13-month calendar issue that’s released July 1 with hunting dates for deer, turkey, waterfowl and all the other game species pursued by Arkansans.

What’s the catch? It’s a small one – a one-year subscription (five 36-page issues with no advertising plus the calendar issue) is $12. Order two years for $20 or three years for $25. That’s a bargain. Arkansas Wildlife makes a great birthday, Father’s Day or Mother’s Day gift. Know someone who loves the Arkansas outdoors but lives out of state? Keep them posted with Arkansas Wildlife.

Subscribing is easy – visit arkansaswildlife.com.

J.D. Vaught to be posthumously inducted into Arkansas Ag Hall of Fame     01/06/23

LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame will induct five new members this spring to honor their service as leaders in Arkansas’ most important economic sector.

The Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame seeks to recognize individuals who reflect the “broad and diverse impact of agriculture across Arkansas,” said Hall of Fame committee chair Debbie Moreland of Roland. The Hall of Fame began in 1987 to promote awareness and honor those who helped local communities and the state prosper. This year’s inductees up the organization’s number of honorees to 181.

This year’s inductees will include one man well known in Southwest Arkansas for his contributions as a farmer and to his community as a whole: the late J.D. Vaught of Horatio.

A pioneer in contract livestock production, Vaught adapted early in both chicken and swine production and used technology like performance records and artificial insemination to improve purebred Charolais (early 1970s) and Angus cattle (1980s).

He built chicken houses in the early 1960s and a contract hog facility in the mid-1970s, produced poultry from 1964-1999, and was a partner in Poultry House Cleanout Service from 1968-74.

Vaught was a member of the Arkansas Farm Bureau state board of directors from 1991-99, a Sevier County Cattlemen’s Association officer and was instrumental in founding regional pork producer associations and the Grannis Trail Riders.

He owned and operated a 400-acre family farm from 1963 until his death at age 82 on Dec. 26, 2022. In early November 2022, Vaught had 150 cattle and 520 swine sows. He served on the Horatio School Board for more than 20 years and was a founding member of the school’s Ag Booster Club.

He and his late wife of 50-plus years, Linda, loved the life of agriculture and raised four children.

The other four inducettes include Arkansas Century Farm owner/operator and philanthropist Ellis Bell of Forrest City; Arkansas State University professor of agricultural economics Bert Greenwalt of Jonesboro; innovative rice farmer Chris Isbell of Humnoke; and veteran cotton farmer and industry leader Steve Stevens of Tillar.

Sevier County Fair Association hosting Second Annual Drawdown fundraiser    01/06/23

DE QUEEN – The Sevier County Fair & Rodeo Association is gearing up to present its second annual Drawdown fundraising event next month.

The fundraiser has been scheduled for Feb. 11 beginning at 6 p.m. in the De Queen High School cafeteria. Tickets are $100 each and will include a steak dinner for two with all the fixings.

Besides supporting a great cause in the Sevier County Fair & Rodeo Association, the event will also include another major highlight: a chance at a $5,000 drawdown prize. There will also be additional door prizes, raffles and other chances to win. And to help increase the chances of winning, only 140 tickets are being sold for this year’s event.

So don’t delay, contact any fair board member to get a ticket ASAP. You can also reach out to the Sevier County Fair & Rodeo Association through its Facebook page.

De Queen set for a 2020 Census recount     01/05/23

DE QUEEN – The De Queen City Council launched into its first meeting of the new year with a discussion on a number of issues, including a Census recount for De Queen and the possible regulation of porta-potties in the city limits.

During Tuesday night’s meeting of the De Queen City Council, Mayor Jeff Brown announced he successfully petitioned the U.S. Census Bureau to perform a recount of its 2020 Census for De Queen. Brown said he and other city officials were dismayed over the previous Census, which showed a decline in De Queen’s population of around 600 people – or nearly 10 percent.

The count, he said, was far from accurate.

“I know that’s not correct and I think everyone in De Queen knows that’s not correct,” said Brown. “So last Wednesday, I got on the phone with the U.S. Census Bureau and got us successfully signed up for a census recount.”

“Our census came in for 2020 at 6,105, which is down 500 or 600 folks and that’s just not accurate,” Brown added. “We’ve got to get an accurate count. Tax dollars, federal funding, is directly tied to that count. Funding for infrastructure, money we direly need.”

City officials estimate De Queen’s true population is closer to 10,000 and could be as high as 12,000. Brown said the lack of rental units and homes for sale within the city – despite several years of housing development within De Queen – is evidence that De Queen’s population has only grown since the 2010 Census.

Brown said more details on the Census recount and how it will be conducted will be shared in the months ahead.

In other business, Brown said he and City Attorney Erin Hunter are crafting an ordinance to present to the city council that would regulate the use of porta-potties within De Queen. Their frequent use around town, Brown said, is becoming an eye sore.

“I got to noticing porta-potties around town that have been there for extened periods of time,” said Brown. “Porta-potties are not meant to be used as permanent bathrooms. Construction sites, festivals, events, that’s understandable. So we’ve got our city attorney drawing up an ordinance to present to the council to regulate the time a porta-pottie can actually be set out in the city.”

Brown said he plans to introduce the proposed ordinance during the council’s February meeting.

During Tuesday night’s meeting the council also approved contracts with four local entities: the UA Cossatot Economic Development Office, Sevier County Museum, Sevier County Humane Society and the De Queen Senior Citizens Center. All four entities, Brown said, perform valuable services for De Queen. Those range from helping reduce the number of stray animals by offering low-cost spay and neuter clinics for pets belonging to De Queen residents, to preserving Sevier County history and developing additional economic opportunities for the city.

The council then approved an ordinance setting future meetings of the city council at 5:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month. These meetings are open to the public.

Esteban Ochoa was expected to discuss the topic of soccer field in De Queen. However, Ochoa was not in attendance and the issue was not discussed.

Finally, the first city council meeting of  the year was of special note for its newest council member, Kimberly Jarrell. Jarrell was elected to the seat unopposed after its former alderman, Dr. Jason Lofton, declined to seek reelection in 2022.

Jarrell said she hopes to assist the city in developing strong job opportunities for young residents who feel they otherwise must leave De Queen to pursue a successful career.

“This first year I’m going to sit back and learn from the other council members,” said Jarrell. “I want De Queen to be the city I grew up in, to come back to that for our future generations. So that our future generations come back. As a teacher for 17 years, I want our young people to come back and not feel like they have to leave. That means a good town to live in with good job opportunities.”

The next meeting of the De Queen City Council is set for Feb. 7 beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the De Queen City Hall.

Follow important safety guidelines while enjoying the outdoors     01/05/23

LITTLE ROCK — During the cooler months in Arkansas, there are many opportunities for outdoor fun, such as hunting, camping and riding all-terrain vehicles. While enjoying these activities in the Natural State, it’s important to follow safety guidelines to avoid accidents and injuries.

Jesse Bocksnick, extension 4-H outdoor skills coordinator for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said safely operating guns and ATVs can minimize the risk of accidents.

“Accidents happen — we can’t be 100 percent safe all the time,” Bocksnick said. “But the main thing is to practice good, safe operation of ATVs and safe gun handling so that when an accident does happen, we can minimize it and it’s just a scare – not a tragic story that we talk about years later as a teaching tool.”

Proper firearm handling

When it comes to safe gun handling, Bocksnick said three elements are key: muzzle control, action open and trigger control.

The muzzle is the part of the firearm where the bullet exits the gun. Keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times can help prevent accidents or minimize the damage of an accident.

Every year it seems like somebody gets hurt with an ‘empty gun,’ and that’s because they think it’s unloaded, and it’s not,” Bocksnick said.

The action on a gun is the part where the ammunition enters the chamber and is then extracted when the gun is fired. By keeping the action open, the user indicates to others that the gun is unloaded until it is time to shoot.

When that action is closed, nobody knows if there’s a bullet in the chamber,” Bocksnick said. “You just assume that it’s loaded. We assume that all guns are loaded all the time – it just keeps things safer that way.”

Trigger control means “you keep your finger off the trigger until your sight is on the target,” Bocksnick said.

A lot of folks, especially young folks, when you hand them a firearm, the first thing they do is wrap their hand around the grip and they’ve got a finger on the trigger,” Bocksnick said. “We don’t want to do that.”

For adults who are excited to introduce hunting and shooting sports to the young people in their lives, Bocksnick said it’s important to brush up on safety skills, as many adults develop poor safety habits over time.

People are usually excited about training young folks and getting them out there,” he said. “It’s a family pastime, and they want to pass that tradition along to their family members, but sometimes they have unsafe habits, or they don’t realize how unsafe they actually are with a firearm. When they’re talking to kids and teaching them the basics of hunting, sometimes they may skip over or take for granted some of those basic firearm controls.”

When training youth on proper firearm handling, Bocksnick said another issue is handing off firearms to young people too soon.

If they can’t physically work the action, hold the gun up, or handle the recoil, they’re too small,” he said. “You need to wait until the next year, or maybe the year after that. I see a lot of parents push kids too fast. They want them to be that hunting buddy so badly that they give them a little too much responsibility for their age.”

ATV and UTV safety

Riding ATVs and UTVs, or all-terrain and utility task vehicles, can be a fun way to explore the outdoors. But these vehicles can be very dangerous for riders if not handled safely.  

Bocksnick said that for ATVs and UTVs, the “number one thing to remember is to wear a helmet.”

It is the single most important piece of safety equipment that a person – adult or youth – can wear,” he said. “It must be a Department of Transportation-approved helmet.”

It is also critical to follow the age recommendations of the vehicle’s manufacturer, Bocksnick said.

Most ATVs and UTVs are 16 years old and up,” Bocksnick said. “Just because a youth can steer a machine or push the throttle doesn’t mean they are capable of driving that machine. ATVs are ‘rider active’ machines that require the operator to use their body weight and active movement to properly ride the machine and make it handle properly. With UTVs, if a youth cannot sit in the seat properly with their back against the seat, buckled in, and reach all the controls, they are too young.”

Bocksnick said a common misconception about UTVs is that they are safe for children because they have a roll bar or rollover protective structures. But youth must be buckled in and using the seatbelts or harness systems for these protective measures to work.

Unfortunately, ATV and UTV accidents are a major cause of head trauma, death and major injuries in the state among youth,” Bocksnick said. “Youth riding machines they are not old enough for, not wearing helmets, or carrying passengers on ATVs increases this problem exponentially.”

Hunting and campfire safety

During hunting season, many people get injured from their deer stands. Becky McPeake, extension professor and wildlife specialist for the Division of Agriculture, said scouting for the proper deer stand location before the hunt is important.

Find a tree which is strong enough to support your weight,” McPeake said. “Sometimes the tree nearest an opening is smaller in diameter, and it is tempting to use that tree, but don’t. Be safe.”

McPeake said being in good shape is also key to successfully navigating a deer stand, as it takes physical strength to get in and out.

If there are physical limitations, ground-hunt to be safe,” she said. “You can build your own blind using natural features or purchase a tent blind.”

Wearing a harness is also an “essential safety feature” for those using deer stands, McPeake said.

Use a climbing rope, climb a little higher than your stand, and slip into the stand,” she said. “Then, use a rope to lift or lower your supplies and your unloaded firearm, and clip yourself in the tree once in place.”

Be sure to get plenty of rest and stay awake while in a deer stand, and let others know when heading out for a hunt.

Tell your family or friends when you go hunting and when you expect to return,” McPeake said. “Leave them a map of where you will be hunting, since cell service sometimes doesn’t work in remote locations.”

While hunting, camping or simply spending time in the backyard, campfire safety guidelines should also be followed to avoid injury or an out-of-control blaze. Creenna Bocksnick, extension 4-H camping coordinator for the Division of Agriculture, said the first step to a safe campfire is checking the fire regulations in one’s area.

Some locations don’t allow for open flames, and seasonal burn bans also need to be considered,” Bocksnick said. “Campers also need to remember general fire safety concerns: burns, keeping flammable liquids and materials away from the fire, and not leaning or stepping over the fire.”

Bocksnick said people should also pay close attention to their surroundings for other potential fire hazards, including “dead trees above their fire that can fall, tinder on the ground near their fire that can catch on fire, and tree roots under their fire that can also catch on fire without them knowing.”

People camping in a wilderness setting should also aim to “leave no trace” of their presence at the campsite after leaving.

Campers should build, douse and cover remnants of their fires so that the next person doesn’t know they were there,” Bocksnick said. “They should also not put items in the fire that will not completely burn and turn to ash during their stay.”

For more information about the 4-H shooting sports program and Arkansas 4-H ATV safety, visit the Arkansas 4-H Outdoor Skills website or contact Jesse Bocksnick at jbocksnick@uada.edu.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uada.edu. Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit https://uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.

Sevier County elected officials, deputies sworn in Tuesday morning     01/03/23

DE QUEEN – Sevier County’s new quorum court was sworn in alongside other elected officials during a ceremony Tuesday morning.

The ceremony included the swearing in of the quorum court, county coroners, deputies of the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, full-time elected officials and constables.

The Sevier County Quorum Court includes four new members beginning for the 2023-2027 term. The new members include Callie Efird, Michael Barnes, Walter Smith and Scottie Morris. Returning justices of the peace are Roger Whitmore, Roxie Stephens, Angie Walker, Greg Wright and Kenneth Currence.

All were sworn in by newly-elected county clerk Renea Bailey.

Efird comes to the quorum court after defeating incumbent David Wright in the 2022 election. Barnes successfully challenged Earl Battiest for the District 1 seat on the quorum court. Walter Smith replaces Evelyn Keels, who was specially appointed in 2021 and not able to run again. Keels was appointed following the death in 2021 of her husband, Charles Keels, who was a long-serving member of the quorum court.

A similar process brought Scottie Morris to the quorum court. He replaced Marilyn Archer, who was also specially appointed after the death of her husband, Mike Archer, who served more than two decades as a justice of the peace.

Morris said he hopes his service on the quorum court will bring more representation for the residents of northern Sevier County.

“I just felt like it was a good community effort for me to get involved and represent the citizens of northern Sevier County,” said Morris. “I’m just about as far north in Sevier County as you can get. I want to be the eyes and ears for our county judge, the county sheriff and represent our citizens. I think the quorum court has been in good hands and I want to see it kept that way. I’ve got some big shoes to fill. Mike Archer did a good job and I hate that he’s not here anymore. But I think there’s no where better to live in Southwest Arkansas than Sevier County and I want to help keep it that way.”

Morris recently retired after 37 years with Southwest REA, including as the local district manager.

Both Efird and Barnes said they hope their youth helps bring new ideas and prespectives to the quorum court.

“Honestly, I think that was my motivation for running,” said Efird. “There was nothing personal about the race. David Wright served here two decades and I’ve got some really big shoes to fill. I just believed it was time for change. I Also believe that this county has a lot of good potential and we’ve headed in that direction the last few years. I do want to thank all of my constituents for their vote and support, that means a lot to me. I was really nervous about running, especially after our great county judge passed away because he was a big influence.”

“When I decided to run, someone told me that you got to strive for change if you want it,” said Barnes. “And if you want to complain, you need to vote or seek office yourself. I hope I can offer a youthful perspective to the county, with me and Callie being the youngest members on the quorum court. I’m appreciative to everyone for giving me the chance to be on the quorum court and try my hand at making a difference for our county.”

Barnes is a detective for the De Queen Police Department while Efird is a teacher serving with the De Queen-Mena Educational Cooperative.

Finally, Smith said he hopes his past experience in local government and as Sevier County’s OEM coordinator will serve the residents of Sevier County well on the quorum court.

“I’m excited to take Charles Keels’ place on the quorum court but I’m sorry the way this seat became open,” said Smith. “I’m looking forward to working with the new justices of the peace, we’ve got a lot to learn. One of our big projects is the budget. I’ve got some experience with that, having been on the city council in De Queen for six years and having done my own budget in OEM.”

“I was really looking forward to working with Greg Ray, we were really close,” said Smith. “That didn’t work out. I thought a couple of times I would just withdraw my name from the election, but I realized that’s not what Greg what have expected from me. He would have wanted me to run and be a part of this organization.”

Following the swearing-in ceremony, the quorum court launched into its first meeting of the year. The first item was setting the date and time of future quorum court meetings. Following a brief but relatively contentious discussion, the quorum court voted 5-4 to keep the current schedule of meeting at 2 p.m. on the second Monday of each month.

The four justices voting against that measure included Efird, Barnes, Wright and Walker.

During the discussion, Barnes said he hoped to move the meeting to Monday evenings to allow more people a chance to attend and speak up at future quorum court meetings.

The quorum court then went into executive session to review three resumes it has received for the position of interim county judge. No decision was made following the session, but quorum court members anticipate making a public announcement regarding their choice during its next meeting on Jan. 9.
That meeting will begin at 9 a.m. on Jan. 9 in the courtroom of the Sevier County Courthouse. The meeting is open to the public.

2023 to bring lower corporate, state income tax for Arkansans     01/03/23

Arkansans will see lower taxes in 2023.

Starting Jan. 1, a corporate tax rate reduction went into effect, along with a decrease in state income taxes.

The rate change was passed in 2021 and it will show up on next year’s tax returns.

This year, the state income tax decreased to 4.9 percent. It’s expected that after the 2023 tax returns Arkansans will save more than $295 million dollars.

Scott Hardin is a spokesperson for the Department of Finance and Administration said this is the lowest income tax rate Arkansas has had since the state implemented a state income tax.

Legacy wins Genoa Holiday Classic, more local basketball starts tonight     01/03/23

GENOA – Three days of basketball equaled three victories for Legacy Academy’s senior boys, who played in the Genoa Central Holiday Classic tournament last week. The Warriors defeated the Horatio Lions in the championship game to win the tournament trophy. Legacy was the smallest school in the tournament and the only boys team to play through the entire tournament undefeated. The Lady Leopards won the girls side of the tournament with an undefeated appearance in Genoa.

The Legacy-Horatio game was a hard fought championship competition with excellent effort made by both teams. Horatio led 44-43 with 1:13 left in the ballgame when Ethan Gallagher stole the ball from the Lions on an inbound. A final steal by Gallagher again on Horatio’s last inbound sealed the game.

Ethan Gallagher led all scorers and rebounders in the game with 23 points. He hit all of these in the second half of the game. Gallagher also provided the Warriors 14 rebounds. Eli Mitchell gave the Warriors 10 points, 5 rebounds and took 2 charges. Manolo Vazquez contributed 9 points and 5 rebounds. Horatio’s Samuel Gideon led the Lions with 16 points, including 4 three pointers. Trey Mason followed with 13 points and 13 rebounds. 

Area teams have a full schedule of basketball for the first week of the new year. Legacy’s senior and junior boys will host Trinity Christian today while the De Queen Leopards and Lady Leopards travel to Malvern to open up conference play. Greg Revels and Toney Stowers will have the play-by-play of the senior action starting at around 5:45 right here on Your Number One Country. Meanwhile, the Ashdown senior teams travel to Hope today. Following a junior varsity game at 5 p.m., Jim Cross will have the play-by-play of the senior action starting at around 5:30 on 102.1 The Good Path and on the KILX app.