All letters must bear the handwritten signature of the writer and include address and phone number(s) for verification purposes.
Names will not be withheld and anonymous letters will not be used.
Letters addressed to third parties will not be published.
Thanks expressed to businesses should be published as advertising.
Letters endorsing or opposing candidates, parties or issues during election campaigns will not be published.
Letter writers are asked to limit their contributions to one submission per month. Priority is given to letters of 500 words or less.
Send letters to Letters to the Editor; c/o The Gilmer Mirror; P.O. Box 250; Gilmer, TX 75644. Fax letters to (903) 843-5123
E-mailed letters sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com should include a telephone number.
The deadline is Monday at 3 p.m. prior to the following Wednesday's publication, and Thursday at 3 p.m. prior to the following Saturday's publication.
Across the country and in communities like Gilmer, government employees serve and protect our nation every day.
During Public Service Recognition Week, May 4 through May 10, we gratefully acknowledge their service.
I want to personally thank the 351,000 active and retired federal and postal employees in Texas.
Federal employees care for our veterans and work side-by-side with our military to defend our country.
They conduct cutting-edge research to improve public health and regulate the safety of our food and medicines. And right here in East Texas, air traffic controllers at East Texas Regional Airport insure the safety of thousands of passengers every year.
These are all critical services.
We may not realize all that America’s public servants do for us on a daily basis. Let’s not take for granted the services that they provide.
During Public Service Recognition Week, and throughout the year, please take time to say “thank you” to public employees in your community.
Marshall L. Richards, Hallsville
President, Texas Federation of Chapters (TFC)
National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE)
Please accept my compliments for publishing John Whitehead’s essay on the importance of the Second Amendment. His organization, The Rutherford Institute, is engaged in work that is much needed in our great nation. Mr. Whitehead has written about the over-zealousness of certain police actions wherein private residences have been stormed in the wee hours, and the results have been the deaths of innocent citizens. This kind of police action is growing, and I think it is time to seriously question the validity of storming any private residence.
Police in our country are subject to laws in the realm of “civil” courts. Police action should not be like “military” action, which is not subject to civil court authority. Police storming is like action expected under martial law or under the rule of a tyrannical dictator.
A clear fact about “Police Storming” is that it creates a “shoot to kill on sight” action. The crashing, flashing, and shouting causes a sleeping person to react with survival instinct, and his erratic behavior draws immediate gunfire. This should be eliminated.
Lewis Bishop, Gilmer
As a citizen of Texas, I believe it is my duty to to tell you about the best chance to save our Republic from the over reaching federal government. George Mason and James Madison gave us a tool in the Constitution to reign in the federal government, Article V.
Article V authorizes the people, with their state legislatures, to call a convention to propose Amendments to the Constitution, like term limits for congress.
Citizens for Self Governance has launched a project, Convention of States Project, to limit the power and jurisdiction of Federal Government. The great state of Texas has a leadership team in place to spearhead this movement. To get involved visit our website www.conventionofstates.com or contact our state leadership at firstname.lastname@example.org
I believe the COS Project gives, WE THE PEOPLE, a way out of the abusive Federal government policies and together we can preserve liberty for our children and grandchildren.
Susan Valliant, Arlington
District 94 Captain
We are the new American Legion Auxiliary Unit 320. All of us are related to military veterans than have served our country.
ALA Unit 320 will be serving our veterans, youth and community with its programs.
All ladies, who may qualify to be a member, are invited to contact us and help us help our veterans and our community.
My phone number is 903-843-4324.
Helen Holsworth, Gilmer
President , ALA Unit 320
I truly enjoy reading Willis Webb’s The View from Writers Roost; Sarah Greene’s Sideglances; Dub Mowery, Pappy Moore’s column and MaLu Bradford Beyonce.
MaLu’s piece “Men Are Different” in Saturday’s Gilmer Mirror was one of her very best . . . as I read it to my wife, she said, “We can both relate . . . you especially, and she is right on!”
Keep all these folks’ articles coming.
Oh yes, when Mr. Webb writes about “Leon Hale” and county newspapers — I started as a printer-pressman on an East Texas newspaper . . . eventually working at the Houston Chronicle . . . and always looked forward to Mr. Hale’s column as all those afore named.
Tom M. King, Gilmer
As we approach the winter months there is always speculation about what type of weather to expect.
The National Weather Service came out with their forecast a couple of months ago.
The Farmers’ Almanac has also made their predictions. These are all good but none of them have said what the winter weather will be in our exact area.
To get information we have to go to the old faithful persimmon tree.
We used to depend on Horace McQueen to give us this information but he has put on his hat and ridden off into the sunset.
Legend tells us that the kind of weather we will have is determined by the shape of the cotyleon inside the permission seed.
If it is shaped like a knife it will be cold. The wind will cut through you like a knife.
If it is shaped like a spoon we can except a wet winter and if it is shaped like a fork the winter will be dry.
I have examined a number of seeds and have determined that we will have mild, wet winter with a 10 percent chance of one good ice storm.
If you want to check this out on your place be sure the persimmons are ripe and fully mature.
County Extension Agent-Emeritus
I was in my classroom in the fifth grade at Paul Keyes Elementary in Irving, Texas when JFK was shot. We were either watching the parade on TV or listening on the radio I honestly can't remember, but when we realized he'd been shot lots of the kids in the classroom began to cry.
I did not. When it was announced that he was deceased many more children began to cry and even the teachers, but still I did not cry. They may have even let us out of school early but at the age of 11 I didn't understand why people were crying and so upset.
I remember the walk home more than the actual event because all the way home I imagined how Mother might take the news. She was not one to watch TV during the day so I didn't think that she would know about it but from the reaction I saw at school I expected that she too would be very upset.
The worst thing in the world for me was to see my mother cry and upset about anything and unfortunately I saw that alot. So as I walked, I rehearsed how I would tell her that her President had been shot. I was more worried about her reaction at age 11 than the President's death.
Dad was traveling that day and I remember arriving at the house about the same time he did. He already knew about it and told me not to say anything to Mother right away but when I entered the house Mother was mopping the kitchen floor, looking a bit haggard and worried and I knew she'd been crying.
Her reaction was what was upsetting to me, not the President's death. Presidents die, they are replaced with Vice Presidents. Life in the rest of the world goes on, but my life was my mother. Isn't it funny what we remember from our childhood, what is important to us and what it insignificant? This 11 year old was more concerned about my mother's reaction than anything else. It had no affect on me personally, it was all about her. She was the most important person to me on this day 50 years ago.
Teresa Holder, Gilmer
I was just wondering if the Gilmer ISD and or the taxpayers ever consider detaching the old East Mountain school district to be attached to the Union Grove school district. Then the kids wouldn’t have to get on the bus at 6:30 in the morning and get off the bus at 5:00 in the evening.It would save money on buses etc. Also the property values in the East Mountain would rise, giving the county more tax money.
It could possibly be win for everyone concerned.
Neal Coulter, East Mountain
I had the pleasure of attending the annual All Service Club Luncheon during the Yamboree.
After the delicious lunch, I settled down to enjoy the presentation by Lori Helpenstill Ham.
I had the misfortune of sitting at the table next to Rep. David Simpson, Rep. Bryan Hughes and County Commissioner Cole Hefner.
Try as I might, I could not concentrate on the presentation. I was so distracted by these men, who kept up a constant dialogue with each other.
I was highly offended that they felt it was okay to talk and whisper during the presentation.
I would think that any of the three men would have enough manners not to do that.
How disappointing it is to see elected officials act out in such a rude and disrespectful manner.
And by the way, Mr. Hefner, when attending a formal luncheon, one removes their baseball cap.
Loring Marshall, Gilmer
I enjoyed Sarah Greene’s Sideglances story about special music entertainment at the Wesley House and the old gospel hymn ‘When the Roll is Called Up Yonder’; but I was not surprised that it was missing from the song books. This is one of my favorites as well. We sing it regularly in the Open Door Sunday School department at Gilmer FBC. It’s number 204 in our song book, Heavenly Highways Hymns; a wonderful song book donated to our department years ago by Runelle Stembridge.
A couple of Sundays back, we sang this wonderful old hymn. I was standing beside the piano leading the singing and observing the smiling faces of members of what we call “The Adult Five Department”under the leadership of Mrs. Merle Cross. With 90 voices singing out, it dawned on me that most folks under the age of 50 probably never use the term “yonder” anywhere in there vocabulary nowadays.
I love the old gospel favorites, from the Stamps, to Fanny Crosby, to the Gaithers, and many others. And I certainly agree with Editor Sarah Greene that the music and message of these traditional worship hymns are far too valuable to be pushed aside.
Everything old isn’t necessarily bad......and everything new isn’t necessarily good!
And ‘doing things right’ is not nearly as important as ‘doing the right thing’.
Steve Dean, Gilmer
America is headed straight towards destruction. And this destruction will come as a judgment from God. This judgment can only be averted if we seek God and turn ourselves and our country around.
Responsibility for the ungodliness which now prevails in our great country belongs to each one of us. But why me, you are probably thinking, to yourself. Because God says so! You see, God is going to hold us responsible for everything. For what we have done and for what we failed to do.
In the Word of God (the Holy Bible) it says, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
We failed our duty in many different ways!
We stood by as our nation was being corrupted and perverted, and we let ungodliness seep into every aspect of our lives. Everything which God considers abomination is now acceptable in America.
Some of our political leaders now brazenly support things which God Almighty called wicked and abominable.
They are either not knowledgeable in God’s word, or are defying God.
The Holy Bible shows what happened to nations who dared to defy God, or that got so morally depraved that God finally destroyed them.
So we need to admit that America is morally and spiritually corrupt, and that it is time to turn back to God. As a start, turn the TV off, and then close your eyes, sit back, take a few deep breathes, and relax for a few minutes without thinking.
Then believe the Bible truth that there is a living God, our Creator, who created everything that was created and made, including you, and that He loves you.
On a clear night, go outside where it is dark and look at the moon, stars, and the never-ending universe. Everything you see before you, stands, on God’s Word.
God wants us to love him, obey him, and serve him, in return for the life he has given us. To get to know God, read the Word of God, the Holy Bible, from beginning to end.
Manuel Ybarra, Jr. , Coalgate, Okla.
I am sure the American people did not elect Senator Cruz to stand on the senate floor and read Green Eggs and Ham, talk about Duck Dynasty or White Castle burgers.
The American people might keep in mind the hours Mr. Cruz spent making an ass of himself, he was also making far more money than the hard working American people out there who work minimum wage jobs or try to feed their families on weekly unemployment benefits.
With all the problems we currently have in America, Senator Cruz’s time could be spent on far more important issues.
I am not saying I disagree with Mr. Cruz, but I certainly disagree with his time wasting, money wasting methods of getting his point across.
The American people need to remember it is your tax dollars that pay Mr. Cruz.
If you made such an ass of yourself, in the public job sector, you would soon be unemployed.
Next time Mr. Cruz comes up for re-election the American people should think about Green Eggs and Ham, Duck Dynasty or White Castle burgers and choose to make sure he is unemployed.
Then he can go home and read bedtime stories to his children on his own time while he figures out how to feed them on a minimum wage job, unemployment benefits or possibly the reduction of food stamp benefits he probably also voted on.
Come on people? 21 hours x $7.25 an hour (minimum wage) equals $152.25, before taxes.
What did he make?
Taxes paid for Mr. Cruz’s childish endeavor.
Think about it!
Carole Despain, Gilmer
I would like to begin by saying that we have come a long, long way. We have a court that respects and appreciates each other, with the ability to agree to disagree. We have a court that I believe, truly works for the people.
It is an honor to work with each member of this commissioners court.
When taking office in January of 2011, we were working with a budget passed the previous October.
We simply managed the day to day business, ensuring that we stayed as close to what was budgeted as possible. When we began work on the 2011/2012 budget, we found that based on 2010/2011 actual numbers, (revenues and expenditures) we would be nearly $2,000,000.00 short of a balanced budget.
With this information, we began to make the many painful, yet necessary changes to correct this enormous problem.
Since that first budget, our county has come from a deficit of nearly 2,000,000.00 to a projected surplus of over $200,000.00.
Our budget is roughly $2,000,000.00 smaller than it was in 2011.
Coming from a deficit to a small surplus seemed to be worth mentioning.
If we hold the line on spending, in a relatively short time we should have adequate reserves and be able to start planning for future improvements for our county.
I am honored to serve the people of Precinct 2 and Upshur County.
Cole Hefner, Upshur County Commissioner, Pct. 2
I have played baseball from early little league age to my twenties.
I have also played fast pitch and slow pitch softball, before going into umpiring and coaching all forms of baseball and softball.
I umpired for about 15 years and would still be umpiring, if I could get around better.
Umpiring is a self-awarding venture. Knowing you are there to help the dignity and sportsmanship of the game.
I had been approached at times about the rules and umpire calling at the Longview softball fields, so I thought I would go and check out the situation. What a travesty!
I went to a few games and thought there was no way these umpires knew the rules they were supposed to be using to make sure of fairness and sportsmanship on the field.
I was there Thursday, Aug. 29, at the field on the corner of US 259 and Hawkins, and thought I had seen it all until the plate umpire called an infield fly. However, the situation didn’t warrant that call.
The base umpire called a runner out, but she was touched with an empty glove; the ball being in her bare hand.
I know that calls are missed on close plays, but this happened in the middle of the base path right in front of the umpire.
Also, the umpires would call time out between every play, even when the ball was still in the outfield and when runners were off base.
Later in the game, they ejected a third base coach. While he was leaving the field, the base umpire was goading him. This, of course, slowed his leaving.
The home plate umpire gave him 30 seconds to leave the field, but the umps couldn’t even get together on an ejection. So the home plate umpire starting counting down.
She didn’t follow his progress and kept her head down while counting. The third base coach was well behind the bleachers and to the wood line, leaving peacefully. All of a sudden, the home plate umpire yelled forfeit to the third base coach team!
That was a miscarriage of home plate power and absolutely unprofessional.
The league may not have the funds to get good and experienced umpires, but they could at least educate the ones they do have.
Educate them on the rules of and profession of being called umpires.
Umpiring should not be about the money, but for the dignity of the game. This situation was a disgrace to all umpires.
Bobby Driggers, Gilmer
My name is Rowan Shirley, residing in Midvale, Utah.
I attended Gilmer High School, graduating in 1950. During the school year 1960-61, I taught at the Pinewood Park Elementary School in Longview.
One of the teachers was Carol Cox. I knew her dad Cranfill Cox, Jr. who was so pleasant and friendly. Cranfill marched in the East Texas Yamboree as the Drum Major in the Chitlin Switch Band.
Years ago, it was sad to hear Carol had passed away. Later, the sad news was Cranfill and his wife passed away in an airplane crash.
Carol was the Yamboree Queen in 1954. Now, Carol’s granddaughter Karlie White is the 2013 Yamboree Queen. I wish Karlie and her attendants my congratulations.
At my age, it is hard to travel to the Yamboree, which I attended for many years.
Rowan Shirley, Midvale, Utah
We need help from Upshur County citizens!
We are asking for any information concerning our building located on the corner of Harrison and Silver Alley. We need specifically any or all modifications to the building.
When was the Police Department and City Hall added; when did the Fire Department move there; what years was the library in use upstairs and any other uses the building might have had.
We know that some of our old timers have this information. Dig deep in your memories and help us please.
Also any pictures that you have that you would share would be so appreciated.
Contact information — Carl Torchia at 903-843-2326 or Helen Holsworth at 903-843-4324.
Mary Massoletti, Gilmer
The American Legion Post 320 would like thank the supporters of our recent Veterans Outreach/Benefits Fair held at the Civic Center.
It was a team effort by the Legionnaires in distributing posters and enlisting the media to spread the news across East Texas.
This was for all veterans residing in American Legion Districts 1 and 3, covering 19 counties and 40 American Legion Posts.
All the funding for this event was raised by donations from area businesses, organizations and individual donations.
There were over 300 attendees with 41 organizations registered.
Assistance for veterans and their families, through the agencies and organizations represented covered benefits, health care, homelessness, financial and legal aid, education, jobs and transitional help for returning veterans . . . and more, such as the five Country/Western/Gospel groups who entertained us all day and the outside vehicle displays.
Thank you all.
This was a successful and rewarding event for veterans helping veterans.
We can only offer a big, big thank you to all that participated in this effort . . . and another big thank you to those who have served our country.
“For God and Country”
Jerry Holsworth, Gilmer
Past Commander, American Legion Post 320
Yes, it's terrible that Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, just horrible. Almost as bad is no one is talking about how to keep this from happening again.
I can only tell you what my Daddy taught me. Had George Zimmerman approached me as I walked down the street at night with a hoodie on or a baseball cap pulled down over my eyes or just a bandana on my head, I would have uncovered my head, said something like, SIR I'm sorry I did not hear what you said. Oh, yes SIR, I'm on my way home from the store.
I would have probably ended up getting George to give me a ride home. That's what should have happened, red or yellow, black or white. I'm just guessing that's not what Trayvon said!
I'm just saying if you have children or grandchildren and you want them to have a better chance of staying safe, have a talk with them about how they talk to other folks.
My real message is, we all need to show respect for one another and I pray you will take this message to the young folks in your life. May GOD place a guardian angel on your child's shoulder.
Elliott Dean, Gilmer
Why do you insist on printing the crap sent by Mark Vogl? The man may be educated, but face it — he just ain’t smart!
I waded through his article about how only conservatives are Christians, and the government shouldn’t take our stuff to give to the poor, blah, blah, blah!
Not one new opinion. Simply reiterating old man Bush and Karl Rove’s brain-washing junk that the rich should be filthy rich and the poor should be the rich men’s slave or starve.
Granted, I am not smart or educated, but at 74 I’m not too senile to grasp opinions that differ from my own. I enjoy reading everything on the editorial page of The Mirror and like to feel anger, agreement or antagonism — anything but pity for the writer.
After Mr. Vogl’s first article I thought he would improve. Wrong! He went on, and on, and on. Crap nobody wanted to read, already knew, or never wanted to know.
He tried to flatter us by comparing East Texas to Heaven, then slapped us down by reminding us that we are backward yokels with no sense of modern styles or trends. We cling (as Obama has said) to our guns and Bibles, and we remain isolated by choice.
If you folks insist on printing Mr. Vogl’s b.s., you should nudge him into explaining himself to us. For instance, who was Elvis before he “became” Elvis, and where can I see a cotton patch? I’d also like to see a real cowboy instead of a ranch hand and a large woman on a high school drill team.
Surely The Gilmer Mirror can do better than Mark Vogl. I hate to waste my reading time on trash-can trivia.
Patsy Lampkin, Winona
I recently read a news report that concerned a college on the East Coast, but which has ramifications for colleges and universities nationwide. Carnegie Mellon University, located in Pittsburgh, Pa., had its president apologize for a papal parody.. It detailed the actions of a female Carnegie Mellon University student who got carried-away with excessive vulgarity during a Spring carnival parade.
Allegedly, the student chose to mock the Catholic Church by her donning a fake Papal Mitre, and robes that were cut-off at the waist. From the waist down, she was completely nude and had shaven her pubic hair in the form of a cross. As Americans, we need to protect "Freedom of Speech". However, even the vast freedoms of Speech, Expression, and Privacy are not launchpads for "anything goes".
It is illegal to cry "Fire" in a crowded movie-theater; it is illegal to utter words which threaten the U.S. President; and it is a criminal act of lewd and lascivious behavior for people to openly parade on a city street with their pubic hair visible (regardless of whether they are male or female). The female co-ed's behavior was a criminal act that violated Community Standards.
Too many people feel that they are at-liberties (bad pun) to "push the envelope". They are sadly mistaken. The female student offender should be given a monetary fine plus a short jail-term to impress upon her the seriousness of her actions. People in America (of all ages) need to regain an inner-compass that keeps them within due bounds of what is right, proper, and appropriate.
Outlandish behavior isn't "making a statement". That student's boorish choice of drawing attention to herself should offend ALL CHRISTIANS, not just Catholics, but Baptists, Pentecostals, Evangelicals, but also members of most mainstream Christian denominations.
I am no prude; but sometimes a "parody" can cross-the-line of what is acceptable in the public domain; especially where children and young people are present. It is simply stupid vulgarity that shouldn't be condoned, but the student offender should be punished to prove that adherence to the 'Rule of Law' is expected and law-breakers will face ramifications.
It seems that people anymore are inclined to protest anything on a whim. Granted: the Right to express one's own Opinion is constitutional; but one person's Right's "end" where they infringe on another person's Rights of personal-space and reciprocal Rights of privacy. Laws are "on the books" to be enforced. Illegal actions must have consequences.
James A. Marples, Longview
As the Chair of the Upshur County Health Fair, I would like to thank everyone who participated in this years event. Throughout the day we had over 200 attendees visit our 52 exhibitors. This year we had a record number of vendors who were on hand to discuss a variety of health related issues including home health, hospice care, diabetes education, long term care options and more.
I would especially like to thank ETMC Gilmer for their phenominal support of the health fair. The ETMC Gilmer Auxiliary volunteers were on hand to assist with registering attendees as they arrived. From there, attendees were invited to take advance of several free screenings offered by ETMC Gilmer.
During the event, the hospital administered 82 cholesterol and blood sugar screenings and 86 vascular carotid screenings. The value of these donated screenings was approximately $40,000 , a generous donation on the hospital’s behalf; all to support the health and wellbeing of the Gilmer community.
This year ETMC Gilmer also added an “Ask the Doctor” area and had physcians from ETMC First Physician Clinic on hand to answer health care questions and address concerns. “Ask the Doctor” was well received by attendees who appreciated the opportunity to speak with a physician without having to make an office visit.
Again, a big thanks to all of the exhibitors and volunteers who helped to make this year’s Upshur County Health Fair a great success!
Christine Jackson, Gilmer
Upshur Manor Nursing Home
Time to bring TEXAS GOLD back to our Lone Star State
For many, many years, I have advocated having various gold repositories of gold coins and gold bars, at other locations aside from Fort Knox, Kentucky. As big as the United States is, there is simply no need to put our financial eggs in one basket. I have recommended other locations or "Gold Storehouses" in places such as Kansas, Utah, Wyoming, and here in Texas.
It is a rare day when I can agree with Gov. Rick Perry, who has now jumped aboard this bandwagon. I highly suspect he is supportive of it for his own selfish political-reasons, but I do not care. The fact that he supports it, is a positive thing. Sometime ago, Perry floated the notion of 'Secession'. And, (whether 'real' or 'hypothetical') it lacked the pivotal element of sold-money within Texas's own borders. The Dallas Federal Reserve Bank already prints flimsy fiat-money (paper greenback dollars), but that paper could be near worthless overnight. Any historian can recall Germany's bad history with paper money that became near-worthless overnight.
Right now, many gold bars, with a value amounting to over $1 Billion dollars owned by the University of Texas Investment Management Company are now being held by the Federal Reserve. It is high-time to get that GOLD back within the borders of the Lone Star State.
It isn't a matter of pride nor ego. It is a matter of Texas property that belongs back here. It would give the general public solid, tangible evidence that the State of Texas maintains a reputation for being financially stable and secure. In a turbulent financial-world: That alone is priceless. Bring our Texas Gold, back to Texas. I personally feel it should be divided among the five quadrants of Texas: East Teas as well as North, South, West and Central Texas. By diversifying the store-houses of gold, the commodity could be guarded against a single heist. Plus, it would prove that Texas' wealth isn't centered in one spot like Fort Knox. I hope the plan passes the Legislature.
James A. Marples, Longview
I’m disappointed that Rep. David Simpson of District 7 voted for an amendment that would have gutted funding for water conservation.
Rep. Phil King’s amendment to HB 4, which thankfully failed 104-41, would have removed a requirement that at least 20 percent of state water funding go toward conservation and reuse projects.
The drought has underscored that we cannot continue with business as usual when it comes to Texas’ water future. Water conservation is the cheapest, fastest and most environmentally responsible way to meet our water needs. In every sector of water use, new technologies and better management practices can enable us to get more out of a gallon of water.
We can’t control when it rains, but we can control how we use water. State funding can help cut water waste, improve water conservation and steer Texas toward a more sustainable water future.
Mike Riggin, Austin
Field Organizer, Environment Texas
Upshur County is top heavy with county employees. Our county had to borrow $1,000,000.00 to keep up with expenses, payroll and pensions.
The county does not exist to provide an employment system for people seeking positions with benefits and pensions.
The decision to cut back on the number of employees was a thoughtful one.
Bill HJR No. 103, that David Simpson introduced in the House of Representatives, will ultimately provide people the opportunity to vote on the issues of reducing the number of JPs and Constables.
The commissioners were elected to get us back on a fiscal track to eliminate our big debt.
This is about running our county in a fiscally responsible way that benefits everyone in the county.
Jane Rinehart, Gilmer
Thanks for giving me the chance to respond to both Ms. Martin and Mr. Click. I do appreciate their letters and opinions.
As we have discussed, there is not enough room for me to answer their requests within the policy for the "Letters to the Editor" .
Please advise your readers that my reply maybe seen on my Facebook page or they may contact me and I will provide them with a copy of my "Facts" and responses. Respectfully,
Sherry Jewkes-Larsen, Gilmer
There was a very important letter in The Gilmer Mirror last Saturday that every Upshur County Taxpayer should read and understand. It was written by Ms. Sherry Jewkes-Larsen, a county employee; it is full of erroneous information, it is not the opinion of most hard working County Employees and it is a story of the tail wagging the dog.
But, there are sources of facts available to every citizen of the County. First of all the County must be run like a business. What else does she have in mind? No review of outdated service? No outsourcing for part-time need? No reduction in staff for a bloated payroll?
Listen folks, there are no guarantees for lifetime County Employment here! And, a well-respected local Citizen volunteered and did the Veteran’s aid work for six months for free and served one Veteran per week. How many $30,000 employees do we need for that? Ask your Commissioner about the cost for this Veteran’s aid position.
This propaganda that the Commissioners are trying to undermine Medical Insurance is bizarre. Citizens, please call your County Treasurer, Ms. Harris, and ask for an explanation of the County Self Insurance method. Also ask Ms. Harris if she is working with the Court to change the Self Insurance. There is not any way for the Employee Medical Insurance under the Federal Government Employee Insurance rules to be changed by the Court without the participation of Ms. Harris, Treasurer, Personnel Manager and County Employee.
And, as to cutting retirement benefits, why should Ms. Jewkes-Larsen receive one-cent retirement benefit more than any Taxpayer of the County? Most of us “retireds” are on minimum Social Security, which was reduced by the Windfall Rules instigated by Reagan but does not apply to Government Employees. Ms. Jewkes-Larsen is on Taxpayer funded Social Security plus Taxpayer funded double retirement plus an out of control Taxpayer funded deferred compensation for extra hours.
Call your County Treasurer or your Commissioner and ask for an explanation of matching benefits paid for by the Taxpayer. Also ask for an employment application so you can get in on the pork. And, call the Treasurer of any nearby county and see what they allow, which in nearly every case is much less than what the Taxpayers of Upshur County provide. And, do not let any County Employee tell you that they accept this benefit boondoggle because they accept low pay. A study of local counties puts our Employees’ pay at average; not way below, not way above, average.
The most bizarre claim made by Ms. Jewkes-Larsen is about Commissioner’s pay for a part-time job. Please, by all means, call your Commissioner and ask if he/she supports their vote for a substantial reduction in pay this year. I know of four County Employees who gladly accept less pay for their position than last year; three of them are current Commissioners. The fourth is not new Commissioner Paula Gentry as implied within the twisted logic of Ms Jewkes-Larsen’s letter.
And, as to Commissioners’ income outside County employment, all of our County Employees do this. You can hire yard work, roofing, hay baling and painting from them. Or you can buy candles from them out of their desk during work hours, but nearly all of them are using County presence to obtain extra income.
I am okay with this until they begin to badger the public for what others are getting. Does Ms. Jewkes-Larsen mean to say that no County Employee can have an after-hour job? What about selling candles? I’d bet that the County Employees who bale hay after hours wish that Ms. Jewkwes-Larsen would drop this bizarre complaint.
And, yes, we are losing employees, but there is no shortage in employees. They came as fast as they go. And, to suggest that this is somehow the fault of the Court is ludicrous. This loss may be entirely within the Sheriff’s Department, so please call the Sheriff and ask him if he thinks he is still able to protect us. I’d bet he says yes he can.
Call your Commissioner and ask if there is a study of pay scale in adjoining counties. There is; and the notion that we are behind in pay is bogus. This is not the Court and Taxpayers’ fault.
As for secret meetings, our Commissioners have begged Citizens to attend open meetings on budgets, salaries and many other issues. This is now editorialized as secret meetings, a bizarre claim. But, more to the point, where did Ms. Jewkes-Larsen get her information without secret meetings and with whom?
Here’s the real problem: Oil and Gas revenue rule our Tax and Spend operation. Years ago we were flush in Gas Revenue and a well-meaning Court, urged on by well-meaning County Employees, bought new cars and trucks and computers and Library stuff and hired employees and promised lavish benefits, as in the Gold Rush days.
Now Gas Revenues are down and we are still paying for the excesses, but she is complaining about the excesses not being enough excesses, so let’s bad mouth the Court to get more excesses.
A lot of our future is ruled by the Keystone pipeline; if it goes IN local gas revenue may drop lower; if it goes OUT local gas revenue may go back up – either way we should not allow Ms. Jewkes-Larsen to badger the Court into more excesses.
It is true that County Employees should speak up about unethical behavior. But my main County complaint is about County Employees leaning over their desk to gossip about Political Candidates and peddle a personal-benefit agenda. Talk about unethical behavior!
Porter Click, Taxpayer, Big Sandy
This letter is in response to the ignorant tirade bashing the Commissioner’s court written by Sherry Jewkes-Larsen in the March 2, 2013 edition of The Gilmer Mirror.
First and foremost, it shows little character to talk about “them”, “those two”, “one of”, “some”, “their”, etc. without having the courage to name names and state facts.
She said that as a taxpayer, she felt our taxes should afford us good roads, etc. As a County employee, I feel sure that she knows our County is broke (much like the Federal Government). I know she was against reducing the County’s 2 for 1 match in their retirement program when the Commissioners and many of the taxpayers tried to get a reduction in that amount during last year’s budget proposal. County employees are also guaranteed a 7% return on their money. How many of you get those kinds of benefits? I haven’t made a 7% return on my money in several years. If this, as well as other spending trends continue, the county will end up in bankruptcy.
As far as the school taxes affording our children the best education, money alone will not solve those problems. If it would, she should spend her time convincing the school districts to create a legal fund to hire legal personnel to look into the potential windfall from our West Texas school land minerals recently discussed by our hard working Commissioners. We have children in the schools that have had little parental involvement and practically no discipline. How do we expect our teachers to teach when so many of the children need discipline and structure and yet the teachers are not allowed to do anything with them except put up with whatever they want to do in the classroom.
If our deputies and jailers are leaving in droves, perhaps there is a reason that might not have anything to do with money. The Gilmer police dept. has not had any turn over in a year and a half, and they are paid on par with Upshur County deputies. Then again, you can’t blame them if they are able to make more money some where else, such as in the oil and gas industry. People have been changing jobs to make more money forever. Maybe Ms. Larsen should try it?
I can’t speak for each of the Commissioners as to how many hours they spend sitting in their offices. However, I can say that I know for a fact that Frank Berka has his calls transferred to his car dealership and that he often has more people in his office at the dealership talking about county business than he has car customers. I understand that this is the same for Mike Spencer at his place of business. Also, if Ms. Larsen will recall, Mr. Berka campaigned about the fact the Commissioner’s physical duties are part time now that we have a unit road system and administrator. Therefore, he and two other Commissioners requested and received a substantial reduction in the salary position. Paula Gentry, who did not seek a reduction, was none the less required to do so because of last years accepted budget. In the office of JP, I understand that each of the four of them work about 4 hours a day and have not asked to have their salaries reduced, even though they are at a higher level of compensation than the Commissioners.
She is also insinuating that some of the commissioners are having unethical meetings and private agendas. That seems rather slanderous to me. How many times does she attend Commissioners Court to find out what is going on in the county? Perhaps she should spend more time in court and less on “rumors”. Great people think and talk about ideas. Average people talk about things. Small people talk about other people.
As far as county employees not being considered worthy of decent pay or benefits, I would venture to say that most of them make more and have better benefits than most of the people in this county.
As a Taxpayer and County employee I feel that I must write to make the other Taxpayers of Upshur County aware of what is happening to our County.
I was recently told by one of the Commissioners that as a taxpayer, I had a right to say anything, but as a County employee I should watch what I say.
I begged to differ with him and said that if things were being done that were unethical or to hurt the County, I had a responsibility to speak up.
As Taxpayer, I feel that our county taxes should afford us good roads, the best law enforcement protection and the most polite, educated/knowledgeable service in all the other departments within the county.
Our School taxes should afford our children the best education.
I know everyone is feeling the financial crunch, but remember school boards/districts set the rates and receive the money for their taxes. The county only collects them. The Commissioners set the rate for county services only. So when you consider your tax bill, please remember the smaller portion of your taxes go toward the biggest expenses—the County Services.
It is a very disturbing trend we are having in the county—we are losing our Deputies and Jailers in droves. Our Sheriff's Department is the lowest-paid law enforcement agency in the county and they have the biggest area to protect. We all have gone almost seven years without a pay raise, and most have not complained and have continued to serve the taxpayers as a duty to better our county. Now there are some on our Commissioners Court that want to take away or reduce the bulk of our insurance and retirement benefits. As a result, we are losing good, well-trained, caring people, as well as all the money the county has invested in their training and education, to other counties and agencies.
There is also a push to continue to reduce this county from four (4) JPs and Constables down to two (2), thus further reducing our law enforcement protection.
Why does it seem that some of our commissioners want to lessen the protection and services to the taxpayers? What service do the Commissioners provide? Exactly how many hours do they actually work to earn their pay? They want to keep reducing the services provided to the taxpayers, and yet expect the taxpayers to pay the same amount?
They have outsourced this county in many aspects and their plan is to do even more. Upshur County cannot afford this. We do not have taxes coming in on oil and gas like Smith County or Industry like Gregg County.
Instead of these men having what some would consider, unethical meetings and private agendas, why are they not spending their time on Economic Development?
Paula Gentry is the only commissioner, that I know of, who is actively working an 8-hour day in her office, fielding calls, checking on problems, forwarding requests, checking back on things and researching ways to help improve the County.
Could it be that she is working this hard, because this is her ONLY job? Her ONLY focus? Unlike the other three who have other businesses that come first?
The County cannot be run like a private business, though we must be financially responsible, we MUST keep in mind - we are a service provider to the Taxpayer. Because of things the Commissioner’s Court have done, are doing or wanting to do, we the taxpayers are being short changed and being put in harms way and getting a lot less for our tax dollars.
Our Veteran’s now have to go to other counties to be served - this is a disgrace!!!! They ,of all people, should be able to be served where they live - not only because they are taxpayers, but because of what they have given to keep us free. It upsets me that no major outcry has happened because of the way we are treating the very people that protected our rights.
We are sending our tax dollars to other counties for the 911 and IT services. They now want to do way with more services by getting rid of half the JP's and Constables. They would like to get rid of our Fire Marshal's position and if rumor is correct our Public Library will also be cut and our County Tax Office. I say rumor because, instead of doing things in a clear manner by putting it on an agenda and getting direction from the court - a couple of them hold "get together’s" and seek out like minded people and exclude those who might disagree. Though this may not be illegal it is by far unethical. They should be able and should want to present their ideas in the open - to not only the others on the Court but to the taxpayers and County employees. But that is not what is happening.
Because of the their private agenda's, lack of forethought and foresight, they are ruining the County for us, our children and grandchildren. If allowed to continue without some sort of accountability OUR County will be ruined for years to come and at what cost to the taxpayer to repair? If you or your family end up hurt or in need of law enforcement protection or services and it does not come in time or at all - please do not blame the Sheriff or his dedicated men and women, blame your Commissioner's. If your other services suffer because of shorthandedness or because they have gotten rid of the experienced ones - the Commissioner’s are the one's to blame they do not consider us worthy of decent pay or benefits.
With the exception of one or two on the Court, they treat the County employees like they are dirt and are of no consequence- while they- with the exception of one- gladly accept a larger salary than most other elected officials and only work part time.
There is so much more I could write to tell the taxpayers that I feel they should know, but there is a word limit for these letters.
Sherry Jewkes-Larsen, Gilmer