Year in Review: October to December

A petition began circulating to rename the Antler Stadium Field House after longtime Tivy Coach Charlie Dobbs (center), by former students Mike Dyal (left) and John Teltschik (right).

October 2020

• Local journalist and historian Michael Roger Bowlin was born on July 17, 1951 in Kerrville to Bill and Elma Bowlin. He was the youngest of five siblings, one sister Wanda and brothers Jackie, Jerry and James (“Tooter”). Michael was 69 years old when he passed away on Oct. 1, 2020.

• Kerr Commissioners discussed political signs on county property at the Oct. 5 meeting, and a motion to accept grant funding for extra election expenses failed for lack of a second. Commissioner Jonathan Letz chaired this off-Monday meeting in the absence of County Judge Robert Kelly; and commissioner Tom Moser attended by phone.

• The new Strategic Plan for the Kerrville-Kerr County Airport was the topic of a joint meeting held the week of Oct. 5 by the Kerrville City Council, the Kerr County Commissioners and the Joint Airport Board. Airport board President Mark Mosier and airport Manager Mary Rohrer opened the meeting at the Dietert Center.

• Katie McCarty, membership coordinator for the Arcadia Live! organization, provided a tour of the newly renovated Arcadia Theater to show off the new event and entertainment spaces now available for community and visitors’ events. The overall renovated movie theater space will now accommodate about 355 people on the main floor downstairs for seated events plus an additional 78 if seated upstairs in the balcony.

• When a local senior citizen wished for a hot air balloon ride for her 99th birthday and got her celebratory ride in late August, it was one more indication of the spirit of the Kerrville resident at “Little Brookdale.” Also, “The Door Closed and Windows Opened: a Memoir” and subtitled “My Journey Fleeing Nazi Germany and building a new life in America” was published by Ingrid “Inky” Fuerst Blumenthal (author), with Mari Glamser-Samuels, a Peterson Hospice volunteer and friend. Inky celebrated that personal milestone at a drive-through book signing outside Brookdale Oct. 6, selling out every copy of her book in that hour (save one for her) that they had ordered for the occasion.

• A fourth rabies case in Kerr County for 2020 has been confirmed as of Oct. 7, according to Reagan Givens, director of Kerr County Animal Services. The call about a potentially rabid bat came in to officers on Friday, Oct. 2, from a resident in the 1300 block of Harper Road.

• The Kerrville Folk Festival, the longest continuously running music festival in North America, hosted its first KFF October Virtual celebration on Oct. 10- 11 and Oct. 17-18. according to Mary Muse.

• Early voting in the 2020 General Election began Oct. 13 and continued by personal appearance through Oct. 30.

• Peterson Regional Medical Center purchased 10 “AvaSure Telesitter” robots as a way for a single assigned staff member per shift to keep eyes on multiple patients who are deemed to need to be observed continuously. Each Telesitter mobile device is basically a 360-degree camera mounted on top of a pole above a two-way audio speaker; and this vertical assembly sits on an omnidirectional wheelbase. The whole assembly stands more than 6 feet tall; and can be wheeled into a patient’s room to stand across from the foot or side of the hospital bed, to be watching and listening.

• The Kerrville Public Utility Board received a national commendation from the American Public Power Association for its 2020 support in electric power restoration efforts in Kirbyville, Texas, to Kirbyville Light & Power Co.

• Former Kerrville ISD coach Charlie Dobbs retired more than 25 years ago, but the impact he made on his former students and athletes over this 30-year career at Hal Peterson Middle School and Tivy High School still remains, so much so that a petition has been created asking KISD officials to name the field house at Antler Stadium after the man who many say shaped the course of their lives through his dedication, love and discipline.

• Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order to open bars and similar establishments at up to 50-percent capacity, in conjunction with county officials. Kerr County commissioners were expected to discuss the matter on Oct. 13, and make a determination how the Governor’s order will apply locally

• A chlorine leak in West Kerr County prompted officials to call in hazmat teams from San Antonio to neutralize the situation. According to Kerr County Emergency Management Coordinator Dub Thomas, the call came in at 9:13 on Oct. 13 when a Hunt resident reported the smell of chemicals in the air. Specialized firefighter teams from Bexar County responded to the call, Thomas said.

• Kerrville City Council held another in-person meeting Oct. 13 with attendees socially distanced in the Cailloux Theater downtown, and council members and city staff seated on stage. They got an update from Greg Nichols, general manager of the local H-E-B stores, on the construction of the new H-E-B store on Main Street and plans for demolition of the old store; and got good financial news on the city’s re-funding of two series of Certificates of Obligation from their outside financial advisor.

• The Kerr County Specialty Court hosted its first graduation ceremony on the evening of Oct. 13. James Biggs was honored as the first graduate as he successfully completed the intensive and rigorous program. Participants in the program go through a variety of rehabilitative and cognitive programs, paired with intensive supervision to complete their requirements. The level of care is based off of each participant’s level of need.

• Kerr County has seen a steady increase in COVID-19 cases over the past four weeks, averaging 5-7 new cases daily, with three coronavirus deaths added to the county’s death toll during the same time. In addition, on Oct. 14, Kerr County officials announced that 15 new COVID-19 cases were recorded, a number that includes 11 cases within a local nursing home. On Oct. 16, Kerr County Emergency Management Coordinator Dub Thomas announced a total of 102 active infections.

• Historic numbers of voters headed to the polls for the early voting portion of the Nov. 3 General Election. As of Saturday, Oct. 17, a total of 9,058 appeared in person to cast an early ballot, while an additional 2,663 voted by mail, for a total of 11,721 ballots cast so far in Kerr County. Early voting continued through Oct. 30 at the Hill Country Youth Event Center.

• Kerr County commissioners held a delayed regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 13, followed Oct. 19 with a “Special Meeting.” On Oct. 19, they voted unanimously to officially cancel the “declaration of a local state of disaster” first put in effect on March 24.

• Kerrville City Council held a special session Oct. 21 to discuss a subdivision development agreement with Lennar Homes of Texas Land and Construction, Ltd., to build “affordable homes” on city-owned property located in the 3200 block of Loop 534.

• Kerr Konnect, Kerrville’s nonprofit door-to-door transit system, provided free rides to the polls on Oct. 22, for nondrivers wishing to vote early.

• After an extensive search and interview process, the City of Kerrville announced that Chris McCall has been named the city’s new police chief. McCall replaces chief David Knight, who retired in September.

• The Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors approved the selection of Brad Barnett as their new CEO and president at their board meeting late October.

• Kerrville Fire Department’s Eric Maloney was sworn in as KFD Chief in a formal ceremony the week of Oct 26, following the planned retirement of former Chief Dannie Smith.

• Peterson Health made a donation of 5,000 reusable face shields to Schreiner University. These face shields will allow students, faculty and staff another option of protection while adhering to the campus safety protocols.

• Captains David and Beth Swyers and their staff at the Salvation Army’s Kerrville Kroc center recognized the 10th anniversary of the local Kroc center’s services to the Kerrville area with a 10-day celebration Oct. 31-Nov. 9.

November 2020

• In a regular Kerrville City Council meeting Nov. 1, city leaders approved sidewalk seating outside the Humble Fork restaurant downtown; and also passed two items related to Kerrville Fire Department equipment.

• Voters chose to return Mayor Bill Blackburn and Place 3 Councilwoman Judy Eychner to their seats, but selected local businesswoman Brenda Hughes to replace incumbent Delayne Sigerman in Place 4 during the Nov. 3 General Election that saw 73 percent of registered voters head to the polls overall. More than 10,000 voters cast ballots in the municipal election, moved from May and coupled with the state’s general election. Larry Leitha, Republican candidate for Kerr County Sheriff, easily defeated Libertarian challenger Warren Funk in the General Election to become Kerr County Sheriff on Jan. 1, replacing longtime Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer, who retired.

• Zion Lutheran Church, as part of the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, has an ongoing community service project that was begun more than three years ago. It is called “Prayer Outreach” to the business and service organizations of Kerrville. “It is a commitment by the church to offer prayers to God for the benefit and welfare of our community’s businesses and service organizations,” said Bob Gates, congregation member and chairman of the ad hoc committee that reminds parishioners of these prayer opportunities.

• In a year of virtual auditions, 13 Hal Peterson Middle School musicians earned spots in the TMEA Region 29 Band in November.

• Corazon, Inc., a national leader in services for the cardiovascular specialty based in Pittsburgh, Pa., has granted accreditation to the “Percutaneous Coronary Intervention” program at Peterson Regional Medical Center. Through a rigorous process, the accreditation proves that the program at PRMC has met or exceeded the societal guidelines of the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology, and Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Intervention.

• H-E-B’s new store on Main Street officially opened its doors to the Kerrville community on Nov. 11. At 114,000 square feet, the newest location features an expansive product assortment and several convenient services customers have come to know and expect from H-E-B.

• Kerr Economic Development Corporation won Silver awards in “Over the Fence Podcast,” a project in the Digital Media category, Industry Workforce Roundtable, a project in the Partnerships With Educational Institutions category, and Kerrville Together website, a project in the Special Purpose Website category.

• Peterson Health officials announced they now have antibody therapeutics to fight the COVID-19 virus and will also administer vaccine when available, while Kerrville Fire Department Chief Eric Maloney provided statistics and safe holiday advice Nov. 13 during a virtual joint stakeholder update.

• After more than eight years on the job, Kerrville Convention & Visitors Bureau President/CEO Charlie McIlvain announced his retirement effective Jan. 15.

• Despite auditions being virtual in 2020 due to COVID-19 safety concerns, eight Tivy High School musicians earned acceptance into the Texas Music Educators Association Region 29 Honor Orchestra. Submitting their auditions digitally this year didn’t shake Tivy High School choir members, with eight musicians earning All-Region honors and five advancing on to the next round of auditions for All-State recognition.

• Kerrville City Council held their regular meeting Nov. 16 at the Cailloux Theater with socially distanced seating, and approved holding a public hearing on an annexation, and first reading of changing zoning on the Vintage Heights and Fuddrucker’s properties. They also said farewell to councilwoman Delayne Sigerman as she left office; and her seat was filled by newly elected Councilwoman Brenda Hughes.

• With local cases of active COVID-19 near 200 and continuing to rise in a second wave of the pandemic – just as it is across much of the nation – Kerr County residents are being urged to avoid travel and group gatherings with people outside their immediately household. On Friday, Nov. 20, Kerr County Emergency Services Coordinator William B. “Dub” Thomas said the number of active, contagious cases of the virus in the community has climbed to 197.

• While many things were canceled in 2020, the spirit of Christmas is still burning brightly, thanks to the dedication of the Kerrville Christmas Lighting Corporation. The recently revitalized nonprofit organization held a broadcast Nov. 21 for a special event celebrating the reason for the season. In addition, downtown businesses hosted an in-person, festive “Holiday Open House,” complete with sale incentives and refreshments.

• Beth Palmer was named 2020 “Citizen of the Year” at the Chamber Awards Ceremony, for her work on food drives for area families. Other award winners at the 2020 Chamber Awards Reception included Albert Vasquez, named “Ambassador of the Year;” Mike and Karen Burkett who were chosen as “Volunteers of the Year” for their five years of work to create Kerr Konnect, which opened its “car doors” in 2018; and “Business Person of the Year” to the late Granger MacDonald.

• The City of Kerrville reached an agreement with Freese and Nichols, Inc. that will help provide for an upgrade to the damaged Loop 534 Aerial Pipe Bridge at no cost to the city. The original pipe bridge was completed in mid-2018 as part of the city of Kerrville’s reuse distribution system project at a cost of approximately $700,000. The bridge suffered major flood damage in October, 2018, forcing the removal of the bridge and pipe infrastructure in early 2019.

• The Antler Band received perfect scores from all three judges during the UIL Region 29 2A-5A Marching Band Competition held Nov. 21-22 at Antler Stadium.

• The Salvation Army put out a call for more volunteers as the requests for meals during the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner increased to 1,200. The community responded and adaptations were made to include a drive-through pickup station.

• Local retailers faced unusual challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic this year, so when looking ahead to their biggest shopping weekend of the year — the traditional “Black Friday” weekend, no one knew what to expect. The results, however, were incredible as local residents increased their local shopping and retailers did their best to make sure the experience was safe and comfortable for their patrons.

December 2020

• The Symphony of the Hills kicked off its 20th Season on Dec. 3 with “Ode To Joy,” a celebration of holidays around the world.

• Playhouse 2000 welcomed its cofounder, Kit Werlein, back to the stage in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," which opened in the VK Garage theater on Friday, Dec. 4. Werlein, who worked side-by-side with P2K founders Doug and Susan Balentine to create a community theater for Kerrville in 1998, took on this leading role for the first time since appearing in "Blithe Spirit" in 2010.

• Kerr County Commissioners held an off-Monday meeting Dec. 7, renewing an interlocal agreement and approving an electrical easement with Kerrville ISD; and delaying a decision on funding moves for major repairs at an airport hangar. They also approved contractual incentives for operation of the Hill County Youth Event Center under management by Spectra.

• Kerr County health authorities are now seeing new COVID-19 cases that outpace recoveries among local citizens, and added another fatality from the novel coronavirus Dec. 7. “This is getting out of hand,” said William B. “Dub” Thomas, coordinator of Kerr County Emergency Services, who is in charge of aggregating data from the state and local sources and tracking the trends in the pandemic’s impact.

• A swearing-in ceremony was held the week of Dec. 7 for new Kerrville Police Department Chief Chris McCall. McCall’s wife, Kelli, joined him on stage at the Cailloux Theater as Municipal Judge Mark Prislovsky administered the oath.

• Carol Twiss, a retired 28-year veteran Kerr County Sheriff’s Office deputy, was sworn in as Ingram Chief of Police the week of Dec. 7. Twiss promised to communicate with residents, and fill vacated positions with highly-qualified officers.

• Anne Overby was named “Outstanding Woman of the Year” for 2020 by the Kerr County Women’s Chamber, sponsor of this annual award. Overby was nominated by Jaclyn Hall, citing Overby’s leadership in ‘FUNraising’ and helping guide restoration of the Arcadia Theater downtown into the Arcadia Live! event center.

• Kerr County Commissioners voted approval in their meeting Dec. 14 for the Kerrville-Kerr County Airport Board to move funds into capital projects to repair damaged hangar doors; banned sales and use of certain fireworks during the holiday season, due to drought conditions; and approved earnest money on acreage off Spur 100 as the site of a new Animal Control facility and expanded Road & Bridge storage yard.

• Kerrville ISD trustees held their regular board meeting Dec. 14, by Zoom, and with attendance limited to trustees and minimal staff members. Superintendent Dr. Mark Foust asked Kerrville ISD trustees to consider a board resolution to be sent to Governor’s office in Austin, requesting that Texas public school personnel be designated as “essential front-line workers” and therefore eligible for priority COVID-19 vaccine distribution, if school personnel choose to get shots of the vaccine.

• As the United States saw its first vaccinations against COVID-19 on Dec. 14, Kerr County citizens were continuing to experience the negative effects of the novel coronavirus. Kerr County has seen 195 new positive cases in the last week, along with three additional deaths. On Dec. 15, Kerr County Emergency Management Coordinator William B. “Dub” Thomas stated that there are currently 308 active cases of COVID-19 in the county, while 1,552 people have recovered from the virus.

• Kerrville City Council members Dec. 14 considered agenda items for the 2021 city general election and approved a Kerrville Fire Department request to remount an existing ambulance on a new chassis, as an alternative to buying a new vehicle.

• A Kerrville man was shot and killed during a reported disturbance call Dec. 21, Kerr County Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer said. “Upon arrival, officers discovered that there had been a verbal disturbance between two residents in the subdivision. the disturbance led to both residents pulling guns and exchanging fire.”

• The sense of relief and excitement was palpable Dec. 21, as the local allotment of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines arrived and healthcare workers were inoculated. Due to initial limited supply, recipients were prioritized, beginning first with frontline healthcare workers who included Kerrville Fire Department Emergency Medical Services crews, Peterson Health physicians and nurses, Kerrville State Hospital, and Veterans Administration Hospital staff. While the hospitals administered the vaccine shots themselves, H-E-B Pharmacist Amber Burress mobilized to vaccinate other healthcare workers including KFD, home health and hospice workers and other small healthcare providers.

• Nearly 200 volunteers worked to ensure 300 local homebound residents could celebrate the holiday with Christmas meals through the Dietert Center’s Meals on Wheels program, which is celebrating its 50th year of service to Kerr County this year. According to Brenda Thompson, Dietert Center executive director, volunteers delivered a hot meal on Dec. 23, along with a frozen holiday meal.

• The recent surge in COVID-19 cases and a statewide order to ban mass gatherings forced the cancelation of the 77th Annual Hill Country District Junior Livestock Show. The Kerr County Livestock Show and a premium sale is still planned.

• Center Point Volunteer Fire Department firefighters battled a blaze for hours Dec. 27 in the 200 block of Elm Pass Road, with assistance from the Kerrville Fire Department and Turtle Creek Volunteer Fire Department. There were five occupants of the home at the time of the fire, who escaped.

• DPS troopers investigated a reported fatality accident that occurred Dec. 28, in the 3200 block of Highway 173, near Comanche Trace.

• Kerr County bars had to shut down until further notice and other businesses were ordered to step back their reopening efforts from 75 percent down to 50 percent capacity, effective Dec. 30, because local COVID-19 hospitalizations have become too high.

• After 40 years and 39 years of service, respectively, Kerr County Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer and Chief Deputy Clay Barton retired on Dec. 31.

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