As 2012 drew to a close, we sat down to brainstorm the biggest stories of the year for Cherokee County. This was not an easy task for a news staff whose senior member has only been on board since Aug. 1. Assisted by Sports Editor Jay Neal, who has manned the sports desk for the past four years and is a wealth of institutional knowledge, we vetted a list of some of the things that have made an impact on our coverage area over the past 12 months. We also polled our readers via Facebook and received one overwhelming response as to the story which made the biggest impression on them: the October murder of beloved area coach and father-figure Stacy Hunter.
As the year ends, Hunter's alleged murderer has yet to be tried. His replacement with the City has been hired, but the void he has left in the community cannot be filled.
In addition to Hunter, the downfall of Lon Morris College cannot be ignored as a top story of the year. As that story continues to play out in the court system, former employees received a fraction of their wages owed, an auction of real property is set to take place and creditors are hoping to recoup some of what they are owed.
While Lon Morris was declining, Jacksonville College was posting record enrollment. And a at the same time, Jacksonville Independent School District was thriving. With the addition of two new campuses and updated construction at some of the existing schools, we celebrate the growth and fiscal security this signifies.
If you'd ever wanted to know what almost $20 million in marijuana looks like, ask a Cherokee County Sheriff's deputy. County officials, aided by federal and state agents, located, seized and burned marijuana with a street value of almost $20 million this fall. And the Jacksonville Daily Progress had the only reporter present allowed to be at the scene of the burn.
And speaking of "Bernie," that is, Rusk resident Kay "Baby" Epperson stole the show with her role in the movie that put East Texas "behind the Pine Curtain."
In the political arena, longtime incumbents Chuck Hopson and Elmer Beckworth were unseated by challengers Travis Clardy and Rachel Patton.
We share a little more about these top stories with you.
- Amy Brocato Pearson
Stacy Hunter murdered