Friday, December 02, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville teams beat McClellan

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville girls’ basketball team put an end to a three-game losing streak with an easy home win over McClellan on Tuesday. The Lady Titans dominated the first and third quarters en route to a 52-29 victory, while the Jacksonville boys won 59-49 despite being outplayed in the first and fourth quarters.

In the girls’ game, Jacksonville utilized a good balance of inside and outside play. The Lady Titans shot nearly 50 percent from the floor, and scored 38 of their 52 points from inside the paint. Senior Alexis James made the most of her increased playing time due to an injury to starting point guard Josie Starr. James made 3 of 7 3-point attempts and finished with a game-high 17 points.

Starr, who led the team in scoring in its previous game, has been hampered by injuries the last two years, and missed most of Tuesday’s game with another knee injury suffered early in the contest.

Freshman Shy Christopher, who is the team’s leading scorer on average, posted 15 points, all seven baskets coming inside the paint.

Jacksonville led 14-6 at the end of the first quarter, and took a 23-15 lead into intermission. The Lady Titans put the game away in the third quarter, opening with the first 10 points of the half and going into the fourth period with a 40-19 advantage.

Shattoria Briggs added 10 points for the Lady Titans. Shamaryia Brown led McClellan with 16 points and was the only Lady Lion in double figures.

In the boys’ game, McClellan tried to utilize a box-and-one defense to stop senior Titan Tyree Appleby, who has averaged nearly 30 points per game so far this season. The strategy worked early, as Jacksonville struggled to execute against the gimmick defense, but those problems were resolved in the second and third quarters.

Still, Titan coach Vic Joyner wasn’t that pleased with his team’s performance. In fact, he was downright disappointed, despite the victory.

“I thought it was one of the worst games any of my teams at Jacksonville have ever played,” said Joyner. “To execute means finishing. At times we didn’t even run what I was calling. Other times we ran it and got the shot, and missed wide-open shots. That’s just a lack of focus. This team has potential. We have more pieces to the puzzle than we had last year, and I’m trying to get them to another level. But we’re not going to get there if we don’t focus any better than we did in this one.”

Senior post player Chris Williams led the charge in the second quarter. McClellan led 18-16 after one, and Williams scored nine of the team’s 16 points in the second period as the Titans took a 32-25 lead into halftime.

Senior DaJuan Ridgeway became the go-to player in the second half. He scored 13 of his game-high 17 in the final two quarters, including eight in a 16-6 third quarter than put Jacksonville up by 17.

That lead got up to 18 early in the fourth quarter. McClellan then mounted a comeback, but never seriously threatened.

“We got up 18 and should’ve won by 25 or 30, but this team loses focus so easily,” Joyner said. “At this level, against the teams we’re going to be competing with, we’re not going to win anything missing wide-open shots and getting lackadaisical every time we get a little bit of a lead.”

Williams finished with 13 points while Appleby dropped in 12 for the Titans. Marqis Hall led McClellan with 12 points while James Dotson had 11.

Jacksonville’s boys and girls played at Vilonia on Friday after Leader deadlines. Both teams will be off until Thursday when they hit the road for separate tournaments. The Lady Titans (6-4) will play the host team of the Conway High/Dandra Thomas State Farm Invitational at 8:30 p.m. The Jacksonville boys play at Fayetteville.

SPORTS STORY >> SH girls storm back on Beebe

Leader sports editor

When the Beebe ladies traveled to Sylvan Hills on Tuesday, it became a tale of two halves. The Lady Badgers dominated the second quarter and took a 23-14 lead into halftime, but Sylvan Hills controlled the entire second half to pull out a 47-39 victory and remain undefeated at 5-0.

Beebe’s lead grew to 27-16 with five minutes remaining in the third quarter when the Lady Bears mounted a rally that practically never stopped. It started with a 9-0 run, spearheaded by junior post player Alana Canady. She scored a bucket inside to start the comeback. At 27-21, Canady got a steal and went the distance for a layup and was fouled. She missed the free throw, but Lannie Ballard hit two free throws after another Canady steal to make the score 27-25 with 3:20 left in the quarter.

Beebe’s Libbie Hill finally broke the streak with a putback of her own miss at 2:02, but Andrea Dolphin answered with a 3-pointer at the other end to pull the Lady Bears to within one.

With 28 seconds left in the period, Dolphin found Canady wide open under the basket to give Sylvan Hills its first lead at 30-29 since three minutes into the first quarter.

That’s how the quarter ended. Holland forced a turnover and got a fastbreak bucket, but the Lady Bears answered with a 7-0 run and never trailed again.

In the second half, Sylvan Hills was switching back and forth between man defense and an aggressive 3-2 matchup zone.

“We played good defense the whole game I thought,” said Sylvan Hills coach Shelley Davis. “I thought the defensive work we did in the first half played a part in how effective we were in the second half. I wish we could execute a little better than we did on offense, but if they’ll keep working like that on defense we’ll have a good year, because we won’t always shoot as poorly as we did tonight, especially in the first half.”

The game was officiated much differently from one half to the other as well. Sylvan Hills was in the free-throw bonus by the 1:33 mark of the first quarter.

Beebe was shooting early in the second and both teams were well into the double bonus by halftime.

In the third quarter, only five fouls total had been called, which Beebe coach Greg Richey believes also played a role in the outcome.

“It wasn’t anything really blatant, it was more about how it changed at halftime,” said Richey. “It’s hard to adjust in the middle of a game. You try to get a feel for how things are going to be called and you make adjustments for that. When it changes within the game, and now they’re allowing a lot of contact they weren’t allowing, it makes it difficult. Especially against a team as physical as Sylvan Hills is. If you let them use their hands and put a body on you, those are some strong, physical girls and that’s an advantage for them.”

While Beebe shot less than half the free throws than Sylvan Hills, it didn’t take advantage of its opportunities. The Lady Badgers made just 6 of 12 foul shots while Sylvan Hills went 15 of 26.

Canady was a force on both ends of the court and filled up the stat box. She finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, six blocked shots and four steals. Jayla Bell added 13 for the Lady Bears while Mallory Kimble scored 10.

Libbie Hill led the Lady Badgers (3-2) with 18 points while Hannah Camp scored 10. Beebe outrebounded Sylvan Hills 36-32, but committed 19 turnovers, including 13 in the decisive second half.

The Lady Bears host Batesville on Tuesday, and then play Wonderview at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Northwester Modern Woodmen Invitational at Morrilton High School.

Beebe plays McClellan at 7 p.m. Monday in the first round of the Cabot Pre-Holiday Classic.

EDITORIAL >> Christmas charity work

Many Christmas charity drives have begun with the holidays just a few weeks away.

These are great opportunities to help see that children have Christmas gifts, elderly veterans are cared for and that the hungry are fed.

The Beebe Kiwanis Club is holding a pancake breakfast with Santa from 8 till 10 a.m. today in the new Beebe High School 9-10 cafeteria behind the arena as a fundraiser for the Badger Food Pantry, the Angel Tree program, college scholarships and more. Tickets are $5, and kids 3 and under eat free.

The Cabot Christmas for Kids toy drive, which for years has ensured kids in need have a happy Christmas, will accept donations of new toys or monetary donations through Dec. 17 to help buy new toys for youngsters who live in the Cabot School District.

There are boxes at all Cabot public schools to drop off toys. Toys can also be dropped off at Centennial Bank, Fred’s, Dixie CafĂ© and Dollar General in Cabot and Ward.

Checks can be mailed to Christmas for Kids, c/o Bill Holden, 100 Gunsmoke Drive, Austin, Ark. 72007.

Checks and toys may also be delivered to the Cabot Schools Warehouse, 310 G.P. Murrell Drive in Cabot, in the Industrial Park off Hwy. 367 toward Austin.

To sponsor a family, call Terena Woodruff at 501-843-3363, ext. 1029. Families who need assistance this year with food or toys, should visit Recipients must live in the Cabot School District to be eligible.

To arrange for donated toys to be picked up, call Bill Holden or Rita Stewart at 501-743-3560. Toys may also be brought to any elementary school in the Cabot Public School District today through Dec. 16 or leave a message for Shelley Montoya at 501-286-8912.

Another longtime collection drive, the Jacksonville Museum of Military History and the Major Jacob Gray Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, have begun their annual collection drive for elderly patients living in the Community Living Center units at Fort Roots VA Hospital.

The deadline to donate is Dec. 30.

See page 4 for a complete list of items requested, which includes new clothing, sneakers, flip-flops, house shoes, toiletries and much more.

Monetary donations are also needed. Checks can be made out to CVAHS Voluntary Services and designate Community Living Center Donation in the memo line. Volunteers are also needed at Fort Roots. For a list of opportunities, call its Voluntary Services Office at 501-257-3288.

People are asked to bring donated supplies to the museum at 100 Veterans Circle. Call 501-241-1943 for more information.

For those in need of a meal and camaraderie, Word of Life Worship Center in Jacksonville will hold a free community Christmas dinner from noon until 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve. The church is at 607 N. First St., Suite 4 inside Stonewall Square shopping center.

People may eat at the church or carry out their meals. Delivery will be available to elderly residents in Jacksonville by calling 501-708-5843. For more information, call Alcorn at 501-708-5843.

Let us know about your community’s charitable activities, and we’ll help get the word out.

Happy holidays!

TOP STORY >> National Book Award

Sherwood native Nate Powell has won a National Book Award for “March, Book Three,” which he illustrated with authors Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) and Andrew Aydin.

The award is the top prize in American literature.

“Powell is the first and only cartoonist ever to win the National Book Award,” according to his website.

The “March” series, which has won critical praise, ex-plains the civil rights movement in a way that can more easily be embraced by young people.

The Georgia congressman worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King to win voting rights for blacks and end segregation.

Powell, 38, is a graduate of North Little Rock High School and now lives in Bloomington, Ind. He is also a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York.

In an emotional acceptance speech, Lewis said, “Some of you know I grew up very, very poor in rural Alabama. Very few books in our home. And I remember in 1956, when I was 16 years old, with some of my brothers and sisters and cousins, going down to the public library and trying to get library cards. And we were told that the library was for whites only and not for coloreds, and to come here and receive this award, this honor, it’s too much.”

“I had a wonderful teacher in elementary school who told me, ‘Read, my child, read.’ And I tried to read everything. I love books,” Lewis said.

Powell’s acceptance speech included a challenge to President-elect Donald Trump, “I challenge you to take this trilogy into your tiny hands and allow your tiny heart to be transformed by it. None of us are alone in this. Not even you.”

Powell told the National Book Foundation, which presents the awards, “Our work was in the spirit of illuminating those participants whose contributions have been less celebrated, but as the trilogy progressed, it clearly told a story of 2016 as much as it did of 1964, and I found myself increasingly focused on future readers.

“As my two daughters grow into the world, as their perspectives rapidly expand, ‘March’ is a road map, providing a real sense of continuity and empathy for those who came before—and how best to move forward. In such a toxic time, I hope this continues to be a part of the antidote for which we’re all hungry,” Powell said.

His animated illustrations in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s documentary “Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot” are expected to be seen by one million students in 50,000 schools across the nation.

Powell’s next book, “Come Again,” is due in 2018. He was the artist for the upcoming comic book “Two Dead,” written by Van Jensen, about a 1947 murder-suicide of a Little Rock police chief and his lieutenant.

Powell has also won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, two Eisner Awards, two Ignatz Awards, two Harvey Awards, a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award, four YALSA Great Graphic Novels For Teens selections, a Best American Comics selection, and has been a finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

TOP STORY >> Council rebuffs veto by mayor

Leader staff writer

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Young, in a rare use of veto power, vetoed an ordinance the council passed in October splitting the city’s engineering department into two sections.

But the city council turned right around Monday night and overturned the mayor’s veto by a 6-2 vote.

Back on Oct. 24 the council voted 7-2 Oct. to split its engineering department into an engineering department and a planning department.

In a letter where she vetoed the ordinance, Young wrote that state law says, “a mayor may veto, within five days, Sundays excepted, after the action of the city council thereon, any ordinance, resolution, or order adopted or made by the council, or any part thereof, which in his or her judgment is contrary to public interest.”

City Attorney Steve Cobb said it’s the first time that he could recall in his time with the city that a mayor has used the veto power.

The veto letter was dated Oct. 26 and received by the city’s clerk office the next day.

In the letter, which she read into the record Monday night, Hillman stated she issued the veto because she believed the ordinance was “contrary to the best interest of the public.”

A number of residents and developers spoke on Monday night in favor of the veto, and Alderman Tim McMinn read a letter into the record from a number of people opposing the veto.

The split of the departments could take place as early as Jan. 1 even though no one has been hired yet to be the city planner.

Alderman Mary Jo Heye, the sponsor of the ordinance that called for streamlining the engineering, permits and planning department into an engineering department and creating a planning, permitting and inspection department, said Sherwood was a growing city and like most growing cities in the state it needed two departments.

She also made the motion Monday night and garnered enough votes to override the veto. Only Alderman Mike Sanders and Beverly Williams voted no. They were the only two to vote against the ordinance back in October.

Back in October, Williams said even though everyone on the council believed in the concept of the city planner, the “elephant” was whether or not there should be two separate departments.

Williams said the original concept was for a joint unit. “As the only one up here with human resource experience, I can say that the joint unit plan was doable and viable.”

The mayor said then the new ordinance would just be passing the burden from the city engineer to the city planner. “You are just going to move the problem,” Young said.

At one time the city had two separate departments.

Former longtime mayor Bill Harmon was the one to merge the two departments because of his relationship with Michael Clayton who became the city engineer. “My dad believed Clayton could do anything. It was a personality move, not a personnel move,” Alderman Charlie Harmon, the former mayor’s son, said previously.

Heye said the city did have a city planner consultant for a while. “But he was dismissed by the mayor and the position never filled.”

She said a city planner would provide long-term strategic planning for the city. “We are one of the few cities our size that doesn’t have a planner. The up-and-coming cities have them. The growing cities have them,” she said, adding that North Little Rock had three planners, so does Conway, and Bentonville has a number of them.

Heye said it has nothing to do with the city engineer. “It’s two different areas of expertise. The engineer knows how to build infrastructure and work with draining. The planner looks at where the roads need to be, how the city will grow so it will be vibrant 20 years from now, 50 years for now. We’ve had no guidance for quite some time,” she said.

TOP STORY >> Bill grants tax breaks to veterans

Leader senior staff writer

In an attempt to retain or attract military veterans to Arkansas, state Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock) and Rep. Bob Johnson, (D-Jacksonville) have filed a bill exempting military retirement pay from state income taxes. A similar move failed to get out of committee in 2015, according to English, but passage this year could make the state more competitive.

State Sen. Charlene Fite, (R-Van Buren), state Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) and state Rep. Scott Baltz (D-Pocahontas) are sponsoring HB1003 toward the same ends.

Currently, veterans are eligible for the same $6,000 exemption as other retirees.

Arkansas veterans can essentially give themselves a raise by moving to one of the 48 other states—including contiguous states—where their military retirement pay is not subject to state tax. But neighboring states like Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee don’t tax military retirement pay at all.

In fact, New Hampshire and Oregon are the only other states where military retirement is taxed, according to retired Col. Don Berry of the Arkansas Veterans Coalition.

The first year of the veterans retirement pay tax cut would decrease state revenues by $10 million, according to Don K. Berry, who lives in Sherwood. But the estimated population of 25,000 military retirees in Arkansas should begin increasing by about 1 percent, or 250 retiree families per year, according to Berry.

Growth would be from Arkansans returning home from their final assignments in 16 countries and 48 other states, from non-residents from Little Rock Air Force Base who choose to stay in Arkansas and from other retiring military families from other states who see the economic value to their family of being part of a stronger Arkansas workforce, Berry explained.

Throughout the region, excluding Arkansas, the military retiree population has increased by an average of about 1.3 percent, while Arkansas’ military retiree population growth has been flat since 2009. At a conservative 1 percent increase, the fourth year would be the break-even point from a tax perspective, he said.

If the projected 1 percent annual veteran population growth holds, the estimated increase to the Arkansas economy over a 40-year lifetime would be an estimated new $500 million or $12.5 million every year.

The current tax proceeds of about $10 million will not go up going into the future as retirees leave or die, according to Berry. “Conversely, with the new retiree growth-driven revenue stream in year 10 new general tax proceeds of $26 million or two-and-a-half times current tax revenue can be projected.”


“This is something I worked hard last year to get through committee,” Johnson said. “I got on the Tax and Revenue Committee this time to help get the bill through.”

“I’m the lead House sponsor for this bill, and Jane English is the lead in the Senate,” Johnson said. Little Rock Air Force Base is in English’s and Johnson’s districts.

In 2015, efforts to pass that tax cut were overwhelmed by the new governor’s tax-cut initiative, Johnson said.

Johnson said some people look at the bill as a $10 million tax and revenue cut. “But it’s not,” he said. “It’s an economic development bill.”

“I’ve been working on this since I first went into the House,” said English, “How to encourage those who are retiring to make this their home. “

She said it would be good for economic development.


The economic development impact of Little Rock Air Force Base is about $800 million a year and the economic impact of retaining and attracting military retirees across the state could be about the same.

These are people who don’t need health care, social services or unemployment benefits, and they have retirement checks to spend in their communities and 20 years worth of skills available for hire, English said.

English said some people were retiring with 20 years in the service, when they are 38 or 40 years old, with long, taxable careers ahead of them.

“They would put more money into the state,”she said.

The bill is pre-filed and ready to start the process toward passage when the three- or four-month session of the General Assembly begins Jan. 9, English said.

Johnson said by encouraging veterans to retire or move on to a retirement career in Arkansas, after a few years additional revenues would be generated after about four years.

Their experience would be a valued addition to the state’s workforce, Johnson said.

“We already exempt active duty pay,” Johnson said. “You haven’t been paying state income tax, you retire and now you’re going to have to pay income tax. The exemption would continue to the spouse when the retired military member died,” he said.

The tax break would apply to retirees and those who receive survivor benefits as beneficiary of a uniformed services survivor benefit plan

“Uniformed services” includes the Army, the Marine Corps, the Navy, the Air Force, the Coast Guard, the Public Health Service commissioned corps or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration commissioned Officers Corps, the federal reserve component of any of those and the National Guard of any state.

“We’re not trying to select a group just to give a tax break,” said Johnson, who is a CPA. “I lose clients who retire and move to a state like Texas or Missouri when they retire.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jackson earns MVP award

By NATE ALLENSpecial to The Leader

RENO, Nev. – University of Arkansas senior Jessica Jackson, of Jacksonville, earned MVP honors over the weekend, leading the Razorbacks women to a 2-0 record and the Nugget Classic tournament championships.

The event culminated with Arkansas taking a thrilling win over Navy, 70-67, in the final game of the event.

Jackson finished with 17 points, her sixth consecutive double figure scoring game. Keiryn Swenson added a career-best 16 points and Briunna Freeman had a career-best 13 points. Alecia Cooley was also selected to the Nugget Classic All-Tournament team.

“I’m pleased,” Arkansas Coach Jimmy Dykes said. “They come in making 10 three-pointers a game and we held them to five for the game. That was the difference in the game.”

The Razorbacks, 6-0, suffered through a couple of scoring droughts and found themselves up just three with under a minute to play. Navy (3-2) grabbed a rebound off an Arkansas miss and called a quick timeout.

One of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, Arkansas knew Navy would look for the long shot to tie the game out of the timeout. The Midshipmen missed the three but grabbed the rebound with 10 seconds to go, calling another timeout.

Arkansas elected to foul out of the break and Navy missed both bonus shots as the Razorbacks held on for the win.

Arkansas went on a 9-0 run over a span of 2:20 in the second quarter to open a 10-point lead over Navy. That lead was the catalyst to the victory as Arkansas would never trail from that point on.

SPORTS STORY >> JHS ladies lose two at Crossover

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Titans dropped two games at the Turkey Crossover Classic last weekend at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock.

On Friday, Jacksonville fell 63-41 to eStem Charter School. In Saturday’s matchup, the Lady Titans fell way behind quickly en route to a 69-42 loss to Hot Springs.

Turnovers were a problem in both games. Jacksonville committed21 turnovers on Friday as the Lady Mets focused its defense on Jacksonville’s perimeter.

The Lady Titans only managed to take two 3-point shots, and missed them both. Jacksonville lost Tarnesha Womack, the team’s only experienced post player, to a broken arm that was suffered two weeks ago against Mills. That partially allowed eStem to focus its attention on the outside, and that proved to be a big difference in the game.

Both teams made 15 free throws and the Mets only outrebounded Jacksonville by two points. Second chance points were even, but eStem made four 3-pointers and scored 17 points off turnovers, to just eight for the Lady Titans.

Jacksonville trailed by a substantial 33-17 margin at halftime, but could mount no comeback, as eStem put the game away with a 21-9 advantage in the third quarter.

Jaylen Mallard of eStem led all scorers with 18 points, while Mariah Adams added 14 for the Lady Mets. Freshman Shy Christopher led Jacksonville with 14 while Martina Knight added nine.

In Saturday’s loss to Hot Springs, the Lady Trojans came out of the gate hot and scored 26 first-quarter points. That turned into a 44-22 halftime lead that Jacksonville never cut into.

Hot Springs center Keke Hunter scored 25 points while senior guard Josie Starr led Jacksonville with 13.

The Lady Titans hosted McClellan last night after Leader deadlines. Look for details of that game, as well as the boys’ matchup with the Lions, in Saturday’s edition of The Leader. The Jacksonville boys and girls will also play at Vilonia on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Roberts leaving Cabot for AAA

Leader sports editor

After five and a half years at Cabot High School, athletic director Steve Roberts is stepping down to become an associate executive director for the Arkansas High School Activities Association. Roberts was one of two people hired to replace outgoing assistant executive director Wadie Moore, who has handled media relations and corporate sponsorships since 1994.

That hiring was voted on by the AHSAA board and announced Tuesday morning at the AHSAA offices in North Little Rock. It increases the number of associate executive directors from two to three, and Roberts will also assume Moore’s corporate sponsorship duties.

Derek Walter, a recent 2016 graduate of UCA, is the new assistant executive director, and will take over media relations.

As athletic director at Cabot, Roberts, 52, oversaw the building of many new athletic facilities, as well as multiple state championships in various sports. For the 2014-15 school year, he was named athletic director of the year for the state for Arkansas.

“It’s been a wonderful experience working at Cabot Public Schools,” said Roberts. I’m especially proud of the people I’ve had an opportunity to work with, and form some long-lasting relationships. We have an outstanding coaching staff and administrators that will do everything they can to help kids succeed. We’ve done a lot, facility wise, during those five and a half years; baseball and softball fields, new track, new press box and Panther Arena.

“We’ve won multiple state championships, but more importantly I’m proud of the relationships I’ve been able to develop. It’s been a great experience and I’m going to miss those daily working relationships.”

AHSAA executive director Lance Taylor said the hiring of two people to replace one outgoing staffer was an effort to strengthen the governing body’s ability to govern all sports and activities of Arkansas high schools.

“What we’re trying to do is fix things,” said Taylor. “It’s an effort to restructure our office to make us stronger to help our schools. (Roberts) will take some of what Wadie was doing as far as our corporate sponsorships, and he’ll also take over a couple of sports for us.”

Roberts was a football coach at the college level from 1994 until 2010. He took over at Southern Arkansas University in 1994 and was there until a two-year stint at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La.

He is mostly known in Arkansas for his nine-year run as head coach at Arkansas State University that began in 2002. In 2005, he took ASU to its first bowl game in 35 years, losing the New Orleans Bowl to Southern Miss 31-19.

Roberts said he wasn’t sure which sports he will oversee in his new position, but Taylor, while not saying anything definite, indicated that Roberts’ background will play a key role in determining one of them.

“I’m sure football is probably going to be one those sports,” Taylor said. “It’s right there in his wheelhouse. We’re excited about Steve and Derek. We think they’re both going to make us better. You have to change because times change. This will make us stronger where we think we’re kind of weak right now.”

Currently, deputy executive director Joey Walters is rules interpreter for basketball, golf, tennis and soccer. Associate executive director Don Brodell is over football, softball, baseball and wrestling.

Associate executive director Nick Laster is over volleyball, swimming and diving, cross country and track.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot’s big third buries Cyclones

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers won their fourth-straight game since a season opening loss last Tuesday, beating Russellville 44-28 at Panther Arena.

Cabot led the entire game, but could not pull away in the first half despite taking leads of six and seven points numerous times. The big run came in the third quarter when Cabot turned a five-point halftime lead into a 20-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

It took two minutes for either team to score in the third period, and it was the Lady Cyclones that struck first. A basket by Anna Myers made it 18-15, but Cabot went on a tear at that point, finishing the quarter on a 20-3 run, including 17-straight.

The run began with two free throws by Camryn Harmon. A minute later, VanOss scored and Sobczak benefited from a Russellville turnover to quickly make the score 24-15.

After a defensive stop, Allen made a 3-pointer for a 27-15 lead that forced another Russellville timeout.

Russellville missed two free throws out of the break, and VanOss hit a 3-pointer for a 30-15 Cabot advantage. Another Allen trey later made it 33-15, and a 2-pointer byAllen put Cabot up by 20 with about a minute left in the period.

Lady Cyclone Zee Shields finally ended the streak with her own 3-pointer, but Cabot got one free throw from Chloe Thompson, and a 2-point basket by Roberts to put the Lady Panthers up 38-18 heading into the fourth quarter.

The run didn’t stop there; Cabot also scored the first four points of the fourth quarter, making it a 24-3 run over a 10-minute stretch of play.

The Lady Cyclones finished the game with a 10-2 run against mostly Cabot junior varsity players to set the final margin.

Cabot appeared on the verge of breaking the game open on a couple of occasions in the first half, including right away.

The Lady Panthers got baskets from Holly Allen, Josie VanOss and Kenzie Wagner in the first 90 seconds to take a 6-0 lead, and never trailed.

Scoring tapered off after a Russellville timeout, and the Lady Cyclones pulled to within 8-6 with less than a minute left in the quarter.

Moments later. Cabot’s Maggie Bush completed a three-point play to send the Lady Panthers into the second quarter with an 11-6 lead.

Russellville started the second period with a 3-pointer by Kasey Heath, but Allen answered right back for Cabot to put the home team back up by five. Lesley Roberts then gave Cabot its largest lead up to that point. Her 2-point field goal from close range made it 16-9 early in the period.

Another timeout made for another brief scoring drought by Cabot as Russellville scored four-straight points to get to within three with seconds left in the half. Cabot center Haley Sobczak then scored the final basket of the half to make it 18-13 going into the locker room.

Allen was the only player in double figures. She finished with 13 points. VanOss added nine points and six rebounds.

The Cabot ladies will travel to Springdale to face the Lady Bulldogs on Friday, before beginning play in their own Pre-Holiday Tournament that starts next Tuesday.

EDITORIAL >> Thanks be to...

The countless volunteers and generous donors who helped make community Thanksgiving dinners a memorable event for many.

Jacksonville’s Lighthouse Charter School staff and volunteers reportedly fed 2,000 people with the help of neighboring First Baptist Church, whose volunteers prepared the dinners and transported them to the school.

Local churches and area businesses helped sponsor the event. Jacksonville High School grads Clinton McDonald of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Demetrius Harris of the Kansas City Chiefs were on hand to greet the crowd.

In Ward, members of Cornerstone Assembly Church prepared its eighth annual Thanksgiving meal for the community. They anticipated 300 would attend. El Paso held a community-wide Thanksgiving dinner and Jacksonville High’s ROTC served dinner at VFW Post 4548 in Toneyville. Thanks to all. Stay tuned for more.

EDITORIAL >> Suits threaten tourism funds

The Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion Commission last week balked once again at funding requests from the military museum, boys and girls club and the Jacksonville Historical District.

This year the museum is asking for $40,000 in aid after having received $400,000 in city aid in the past decade. Some commissioners may be willing to give the museum $20,000 for next year. This type of city funding to private groups is in jeopardy because of lawsuits challenging the practice in Little Rock, North Little Rock and elsewhere.

According to our reporter Rick Kron, even the commission’s donations to the air base open house and air rodeo participation have come under fire.

The commission is following the advice of City Attorney Robert Bamburg, who thinks the outcome of a lawsuit against North Little Rock and Little Rock could have a negative effect on Jacksonville if the commission approved the requests.

Bamburg warned the commission that taxpayers could sue the city for “misappropriation of public funds and it usually becomes a class action suit.” The attorney said there would be huge legal fees and the city would have to pay back every hamburger tax customer and every motel room tax customer who support the A&P commission with a two-cent sales tax.

But the funding issue is not completely dead as the commission tabled the requests until their Dec. 19 meeting. It was not that the commissioners were unsympathetic to the needs of the museum and boys and girls club, but felt they would be crashing legal lines.

Bamburg told the commission not to fund nonprofit entities after a case filed in 2013 against Little Rock and North Little Rock by three individuals who claim the City of Little Rock, since 1993, had given the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce nearly $4 million in “unlawfully appropriated funds generated by tax revenue,” plus another $100,000 of tax money to Metro Little Rock Alliance.

North Little Rock is charged by the three individuals of giving more than $750,000 of tax money to the North Little Rock Economic Development Fund.

The suit, which is now in the briefing period at the state Supreme Court, contends that giving tax money to private corporations, even non-profit, violates the state constitution. The suit says those two cities “misused and illegally spent public funds generated from tax revenue.”

Bamburg believes Jacksonville helping to fund the museum, the boys and girls club and the Air Force open house and rodeo participation all falls into the same category as the suit details.

Bamburg told commissioners that Issue 3, which passed in the November general election, is not the cure-all for the dilemma the commission is facing. “Issue 3 only refers to using tax money for economic development,” Bamburg said. “Advertising and promotion commission funds are not mentioned or referred to in Issue 3.

The new downtown historical district purchased Jim’s Pawn Shop to be converted into a city museum and small coffee shop. But after the purchase, the group discovered the roof needed repairs. If the city owned it, there would be no problem, but the historical district group is a nonprofit, non-city entity and Bamburg fears it falls under the prevue of the lawsuit.

The downtown historical district had asked the commission for $25,000, and it could get $5,000. But if a judge tells cities to stop funding private groups, they may never see another dime again from Jacksonville. This might be a good time for volunteers and benefactors to pitch in and save these worthy institutions from closing.

TOP STORY >> Husband charged in knifing

A Cabot man was arrested on Monday for allegedly stabbing his wife to death.

Codie Hogan, 25, of 300 Chapel Ridge Drive, Apt. 121 is charged with first-degree murder.

Police were called at 6:40 p.m. Monday to the apartment about a woman covered in blood lying in the bathtub. Officers arrived at the scene and spoke with family members who made the 911 call.

The victim, Tiffiny Hogan, 23, had multiple stab wounds.

Cabot police, along with Jacksonville police, located Codie Hogan at a Jacksonville gas station within an hour.

Codie Hogan was taken into custody and is being held at the Cabot Police Department.

He awaits transfer to the Lonoke County Detention Center. His first court appearance has not been set.

TOP STORY >> Candidates make pitch for top job in district

Leader senior staff writer

It’s possible that one of two well-qualified candidates interviewed by the school board Monday night will be offered the superintendent’s job Monday, when the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District meets in regular session, board president Daniel Gray said Tuesday.

Robert Ross, superintendent of the Mansfield School District near Fort Smith, and Bryan Duffie, current assistant JNPSD superintendent, interviewed at the JNPSD central office conference room in executive session—a meeting started at 5:30 p.m. and adjourned about 9:30 p.m., according to Superintendent Tony Wood.

It was Wood’s Nov. 7 announcement that he would resign effective June 30 that put the superintendent search in motion.

Ross and Duffie alone among five candidates met the district’s criteria of five years or more experience as a superintendent.

“Personnel will be on the agenda Monday,” Gray said, but that’s true regardless of the superintendent opening according to Wood, who said earlier that this meeting will have the fewest hirings, firings and resignations of any meeting this year.

In an introduction he made to the board, Ross said, “To make this vision become reality, it will take a strong instructional leader with years of experience to initiate the future growth of this district by looking at the social and industry trends, the economic factors and much more to determine the uncertainties of your situation.”

“The clichĂ© statement that it takes a village to raise a child is better said in this situation that it will take the community to make the success of the district,” according to Ross’ statement.

Ross, who became Mansfield School District superintendent in 2011, said when he took over, the district faced financial problems and decreased enrollment. He said the board made adjustments, moved employees around without firing them, and the district now has a balanced budget and a surplus despite declining enrollment.

Before that, he was superintendent of the Independent School District in Sulphur Bluff, Texas, where he oversaw upgraded technology.


He has worked as a teacher, coach, principal and superintendent. He holds a mid-management principal certification and superintendent certification. He has a mid-management administration degree and master of education from Tarleton State University at Stephenville, Texas.

He received his superintendent certification at Texas A&M-Commerce. He said he understands running a school or district, budgeting, bonds and building.


Hired here last spring, Duffie has been on the ground floor of getting the new district up and running. Before that, Duffie was superintendent of Westside Consolidated School District at Jonesboro from 2010-2015.

Before that, he was principal of the Westside Middle School, then the high school.

His Ph.D. is from Vanderbilt University.

He got his bachelor’s degree in mathematics education and his master’s degree in school leadership, management and administration from the University of Central Arkansas.

For a dozen years before that, he worked for North Little Rock High School–East Campus as a math teacher and trainer, student council adviser and Key Club adviser.

Duffie has a public service record dating back to 1993, including Kiwanis Club service projects like Boys’ and Girls’ Club mentoring.

TOP STORY >> Residents assured on Austin PD

Leader staff writer

It was standing-room only at Monday’s Austin City Council meeting, which was considering next year’s budget. But what brought the crowd to the meeting were the rumors about the possible disbanding of the police department, which The Leader has covered extensively in recent weeks.

With the recent firing of the police chief, the sheriff’s office insists it is not interested in taking over the city’s police department, although deputies will spend more time in Austin as they move their Cabot operations to Austin.

The budget vote was postponed until the regular December meeting. Alderman Matt Sheets said he wanted city employees to receive a 2 percent raise, and the other aldermen agreed.

The possible raise would be included in 2017’s estimated budget of about $1,437,500. Unlike most cities, Austin’s budget shrank from $1,580,200 or about $142,700, in part because of the one-time city hall expansion expenditures, Mayor Bernie Chamberlain said.

Next year’s budget also includes a new police car and fire truck.

The council also unanimously approved keeping the city’s millage at .0047 and approved $6,230 for the repair of a wastewater pump by Mid-State Electric of Jacksonville.

There were no absences and the next regular meeting has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 19.

Mark Miller of Austin may have described it best when he said the rumors swirling around the city created a “perfect storm” as he talked with others after the council meeting about closing the police department.

The rumors began spreading last month and were fueled by ill-informed TV news coverage and rampant social media speculations and postings.

Scott Rustein of the Cross Creek said, “A lot of the rumor mill was fueled by websites.”

The number of visitors at the November meeting had more than doubled over the number that attended October’s meeting, and the council chamber was basically standing room only by the time the mayor called the meeting to order at 7 p.m.

After the city’s business was concluded, Chamberlain opened the floor to discussion and she and council members fielded questions from the audience that in large part reflected the community’s concerns about the Austin Police Department.

Many attendees remained concerned about the viability of the city’s 13-man police department, but Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley was there to dispel the notion that his agency was taking over police duties in Austin.

The mayor fired Police Chief Jim Kulesa on Nov. 18, and during last month’s council meeting she did not acknowledge that she had explored with the sheriff any economic advantages to using county law enforcement instead of operating a municipal police department. Those issues agravated some in the audince.

But Alderman Sheets said at last month’s meeting that the department was not in jeopardy and at Monday night’s meeting, he pointed out that the police department was included in the 2017 budget.

According to City Attorney Greg Crumpton, Chamberlain cannot further address the issue of the police chief’s firing. On Nov. 18, the city issued a press release, stating, “The chief did not meet the expectations of the job duties…”

An officer quit about the same time, which also created a buzz, but in the same press release, Chamberlain said, “The safety and security of the citizens (are) of utmost importance and I assure you the police department is still intact and working to protect the people.”

After his firing, Kulesa claimed he was being pressured to set up speed traps and issue more traffic tickets, but the council noted that the police department issued only 13 citations last month.

“We are not here to close your department down,” Sheriff Staley said.

In addition to explaining the legal hoops the city and county would have to jump through before that could happen, he said the public may have confused the issue because of the plans to move the Lonoke County Sheriff’s North Office from Cabot to Austin.

Austin’s sister city is growing and that can complicate response time.

Cabot isn’t always pleased with deputies running their sirens and lights within the city limits.

Austin though is ready to make room for the deputies, providing them with desk space, bathroom privileges and Internet access, he said.

Chamberlain said, “We want them here.”

Staley said he hopes to make the move around Jan. 1.

Chamberlain sees the move as a win for the city, basically doubling their show of law enforcement personnel. Usually, there’s only one officer on patrol in Austin, although the city’s police and fire departments have a mutual-aid agreement with Ward.

Before adjourning the meeting, Alderman Sheets said he welcomed the visitors and hoped they would continue attending city council meetings.

Chamberlain also said she welcomed visitors.

After the meeting, residents agreed that perhaps some good will come from the rumors.

Already, various Austin neighborhoods are connecting, resident Rutstein said.

Another resident would like to see the crime watch groups take a more active role in the community. “We need to figure out how we can come together,” he said, with Rutstein adding, “We need to talk and share ideas.”

Resident Miller said the rumors took the city by storm, “It’s brought awareness of some our problems, but I’m more comfortable with what’s going on in the city now.”