U.S. Rep. Brian Babin held a Town Hall meeting Monday...but you don’t get to see it

By Jim Powers, Editor, Tyler County Booster

U.S. Representative Brian Babin held a Town Hall meeting Monday, July 20, at the Lions Club building in Woodville. Town Hall meetings are an interesting dynamic, a relatively unstructured opportunity for constituents to interact directly with their representative. That interaction has always been hard to convey with the written word. The written story is either a list of dozens of questions and answers, which many readers will not look at, or a short summary of the main points with context missing.

The Booster has for several years tried to overcome that limitation by covering political events with video posted to Facebook and our YouTube channel. We planned to cover Representative Babin's public Town Hall meeting by shooting video of the event. Because the meeting was held at 7 p.m., which might prevent some older people from attending, video would allow them unfiltered access.

A couple of hours before the meeting, we received an email from Representative Babin's Press Secretary telling us that we would not be allowed to shoot video during the Q&A part of the meeting. The expressed concern was that people would not feel comfortable asking questions if a video camera were present. Ultimately, after a couple of email exchanges, I received an email from Babin's District Director, saying that an audio recording was o.k., (but still not video) and that they had "worked out a way to handle the privacy of folks."

I have shot video at numerous political forums in Tyler County. In none of those events have folks in attendance seemed intimidated or uncomfortable because a video camera was present. These events have at times been contentious and frank.
Most people do not attend a public Town Hall format meeting with any expectation of privacy. Government representatives should seek transparency when dealing with constituents. Because this was a public meeting, open to anyone, with no expectation of privacy for those in attendance, it is unclear why Representative Babin chose to prohibit shooting video. When I questioned the decision, I got a reply only restating the prohibition.

The Tyler County Booster is committed to using the full range of technology available to provide Tyler County citizens with the news. We offer coverage in print, through our website, through a digital edition of the Booster, on Facebook and through video on our YouTube channel. Many people, in fact, prefer video to text and our video has proven very popular. A free press and transparent government are essential to a functioning democracy. Hopefully, Representative Babin will reconsider limiting media coverage of his public meetings.

Woodville man with handgun threatens woman

by Emily Waldrep

On June 27, deputies with the Tyler County Sheriff's Department were dispatched to a residence on County Road 4400 in the Mount Neches area. A caller contacted the communications center and reported that they could hear people fighting in a neighboring yard.

According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, when deputies arrived on scene they could hear the arguments from the original callers yard. When they went to the residence, a female identified as April West opened the door.

"At that time deputies saw Mark David Whittemore, age 53, of Woodville, holding a black semi-automatic pistol in his right hand," Weatherford said. "Deputies ordered Whittemore to drop the weapon and he complied."
Whittemore appeared to be under the influence of some type of chemical agent and reported that he had possibly taken some Xanax, Weatherford said.

Deputies investigated the crime and determined that Whittemore had held a pistol to the head of West and threatened her.
Whittemore was arrested for Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon/Family Violence.

He was transported to the Tyler County Sheriff's Office without further incident. Whittemore is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Kelly Jobe Named Tyler County Extension Agent

Ms. Kelly Jobe has been named Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service's County Extension Agent-FCS Tyler County, effective June 8, 2015, according to a joint announcement by Tyler County Judge, Jacques L. Blanchette, the Tyler County Commissioners Court, and Ms. Shelia Lewis, District Extension Administrator, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, headquartered at Overton, Texas.

Kelly JobeKelly JobeAs a new county agent, Ms. Jobe will participate in the 30-day FIRST STEP For Success program in Jasper and Newton County prior to beginning her career in Tyler County. FIRST STEP provides the new agent an opportunity to develop a basic understanding of the role of county agent and gives them the opportunity to observe and experience the day-to-day operations of a typical county Extension Office.

"I am pleased to have Kelly join our County Extension Faculty in Tyler County. She will be a great asset to the county and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service," says Ms. Lewis. "I feel certain she will do an excellent job because of her enthusiasm for providing quality, educational programs and working with the public."

Ms. Jobe earned both her Bachelor of Science and Masters of Science from the University of Houston.

She was previously employed by Goose Creek CISD and Deer Park ISD where she served as a Lifeskills teacher and Special Education Administrator before moving to Chester where she has spent the last 16 years. Over these years she has served Chester ISD in many capacities, including Elementary Principal, Special Education teacher and Interim Superintendent.
The County Extension Office in Tyler County is part of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, an agency of the Texas A&M University System. Local Extension programs extend university resources to local residents by providing practical information and education in the four areas of agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, 4-H and youth development, and community development. Extension is a cooperative effort of the United States Department of Agriculture, the State of Texas through Texas A&M University, and the Tyler County Commissioners' Court.

Kelly commented "I am so excited to have this opportunity to serve my county in a new capacity. After 29 years of teaching in the public school system, I felt the need to expand my educational audience. When the Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent position became available, I saw an opportunity to give back to my community, using all of my skills and gifts that God has so graciously afforded to me."

Woodville man arrested for DWI after colliding with TCSO vehicle

by Emily Waldrep

A 27 year old Woodville man was arrested for Driving While Intoxicated on June 27 after he struck a Tyler County Deputies vehicle on 1943 West near Warren.

According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, two Tyler County Sheriff's Deputies were responding to a prowler call just outside of Warren when one noticed a vehicle matching the description given by the complainant traveling back towards Warren. The deputy informed the other deputy traveling behind him that the vehicle was headed his way.

The second deputy observed the pickup traveling towards him and he activated his emergency lights as the vehicle approached.

"The vehicle did not attempt to slow down and as it passed the patrol vehicle it struck the drivers side mirror, knocking it off of the patrol vehicle," Weatherford said. "The vehicle continue down 1943 towards Warren, and the deputy was able to catch up to and conduct a traffic stop on the vehicle."

The driver was identified as Aaron Michael Sanford, age 27, of Woodville. The deputy immediately detected the strong odor of alcohol coming from inside of the vehicle.

"Sanford admitted that he had been drinking and there were two boxes of beer as well as 16 ounce cans that were still open and still cold as well as a six pack of glass Corona bottles of beer," Weatherford said.

The DPS trooper conducted field sobriety tests on Sanford, and he was placed under arrest for Driving While Intoxicated and transported to the Tyler County Sheriff's Office.

His bond was set at $2,000.

Former Woodville Sonic employee arrested for Credit, Debit card abuse

by Emily Waldrep

A former employee of Woodville Sonic was placed under arrest for Credit and/or Debit Card Abuse after he gained access to funds on other Sonic employee's payroll debit cards.

"At Sonic, in lieu of a check, the company puts employees' wages on a debit card that they are assigned," said Captain Mike McCulley of the Woodville Police Department.

The investigation began in May when one of the victims noticed that his balance on his debit card issued by Sonic was incorrect. According to McCulley, the employee questioned Sonic about what could be happening to his monies, and a regional manager was contacted.

"It was determined that there was someone accessing the employees debit cards and making unauthorized transactions," McCulley said. "Based on that information, we opened up an investigation."

Officer Deshazo with the Woodville Police Department headed up the investigation and was able to determine that a man identified as Geremey Deshawn Harris, age 22, of Woodville was responsible for accessing and spending money from other employees debit cards.

An arrest warrant was issued for Harris and he was subsequently arrested and charged with Credit or Debit Card Abuse, which is a state jail felony.

Harris is also being investigated on an additional charge of Fraudulent Use of Possession of Identifying Information, McCulley said.

"There were multiple victims effected by him using these debit cards so there may be additional charges to come," McCulley said. "If you have worked at the Woodville Sonic in the past two to three months and were issued a debit card and suspect some of your monies were taken off your card without authorization, please contact the Woodville police department so we can add your name to the list."

McCulley said that he feels there are additional victims that have not come forward.

Harris is presumed innocent until proven guilty and the investigation is ongoing.