Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Thirty-two years ago next week, Mayor Ken Freeman took the oath of office for the first time in 1989, shown above.

After 36 years, Ken Freeman will retire on June 30 as Mayor of Many.  He was first elected in 1989, after having served four years on the Town Council from 1981 until 1985.  His mentor was the late Mayor Virginia Godfrey. When he first ran, he made these promises:  “To run the town as a business, to obtain as many state and federal grants as possible, to build a strong and effective police department, and to support and assist other communities and organizations in the parish.”

Ken Freeman, Early School Days in Vivian

Under his leadership, Many has seen its total assets increase from $6.2 million to $18.3 million, a 195% increase. His administration is leaving the community debt-free, having paid off $5.5 million in long-term debt. The city’s sales tax, 5.265%, is the same as it was in 1989 when he assumed the office of the mayor. Town of Many property taxes have not increased since his tenure as Mayor. His reasoning for never increasing property taxes within the city limits, was to keep them lower than anywhere else in the Parish, making Many a more attractive community for new businesses to locate, leading to an increase in sales tax revenue by creating more jobs. Revenues for the Town of Many have increased from $1.6 million in 1989 to $5 million today, which represents growth of 212%.

Ken and Mary Ellen

For the past 32 years, Mayor Freeman has run the town with a balanced budget each year. The only time Mayor Freeman called for a tax to be voted on by the town’s citizens was in 1999, and that was to replace all the water lines in town and to add new fire hydrants to increase fire protection. It was a 10-year tax that was paid off and as he had promised, tax payments were then reduced in 2010.

Under Mayor Freeman’s guidance, his administration over the years has obtained $21 million in state and federal grants. These monies have been spent to provide the citizens of Many much-needed services such as an airport, which will soon allow jets to land on the improved runway, increasing potential industrial and tourism growth in the parish.

The First Campaign Card; the back noted Candidate Kenneth Freeman was 33 years old, husband, and father of two sons – Peyton, age 7 and Seth, age 4, educated at Many High, LA Tech and SMU, employed as a Sabine State Bank & Trust Branch Manager and it listed his experience as Town Councilman, 4 years.

Grant money received was also spent on housing for rehabbing five old houses and building five new ones; purchasing needed equipment to keep Many streets in good repair; and needed improvements at the Many water and sewer plants.

Additionally, grant money was spent for the recreational needs of local citizens by building the Many Baseball Park, tennis courts, a children’s playground at Sabine High Park, Leon James Park on MLK, and to provide new playground equipment at the Many Ball Park. Grant funds were also used to build a walking track at the Fairgrounds, which also serves as the fairway for the Sabine Parish Fair.

The Many Community Center, [historic Sabine Theatre], which provides area citizens with free movies and musical events, was also restored inside and out with grant money and donations from Parish citizens. Book Nooks, free little lending libraries located all around the town of Many, contain donated books that are available to any Sabine Parish citizen of any age. This project was funded by and is still managed by the Town of Many, with books continuously donated by citizens. Additionally, the historic Many Depot was also restored with grant money and donations from citizens. It will soon become Many’s Sabine Parish Museum, set to open next year. Freeman has often said, “Sabine Parish has a good story to tell, and we hope that the Many-Sabine Parish Historical Museum will tell our story for generations to come.”

Through the Years: from the beginning – husband to Mary Ellen and father to young sons, Peyton and Seth, to grandfather to two beautiful granddaughters, Ella Claire and Charlotte Anne, Mayor Ken Freeman served the Town of Many for eight terms. He is Louisiana’s second longest-serving mayor. His most recent Swearing In is not shown in the above collage.

Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, during which the community was without water for a long period of time, the Mayor also applied for and obtained grant monies to purchase nine generators in 2007, so that during ice and snow storms, hurricanes, and after other natural disasters, the people of Many would not be without water and sewer services. During the week-long snow and ice event last winter, the Town of Many was one of the few communities in Northwest Louisiana not to lose water and sewer services.

Dancing the night away with wife Mary Ellen

The Mayor’s third promise was to build a strong and effective police department to protect and serve the Town’s citizens. To that end, his administration provided funding for all new patrol vehicles with in-car communications, training, and state-of-the-art equipment including protective equipment, a canine unit, along with a special unit to help reduce drug abuse in the community. All of these improvements were made to help make police officers more efficient and effective in their job protecting the town’s citizens, visitors, and their property.

Finally, his last promise was to support and assist Many’s sister communities as well as organizations in Sabine Parish. The Mayor has often said, “As a rural parish, we do not live in Many, Zwolle, Florien, Converse, Fisher, or Pleasant Hill; we live in the community of Sabine Parish, and what’s good for one will improve us all.”

Ken and his growing boys, Seth, left, and Peyton, right

Mayor Freeman served on the Board of the Sabine Association for Retarded Citizens (SARC) and during his tenure, he took steps to oust a corrupt administration and return power to and protect the rights of the organization’s clients. He also served on the board of the Sabine River Authority (SRA) and was instrumental in creating the Toledo Bend Advisory Committee, whose goal is to keep a consistent lake level of 172 feet mean sea level and to provide Toledo Bend Lake residents with helpful information which affects their lives. Both goals were accomplished and continue today.

Ken and Mary Ellen upholding the Many Tiger tradition with son Seth, center

Former Governor Mike Foster appointed Freeman to a task force to develop Louisiana, specifically Toledo Bend Lake, as a destination point for retirees. He also served as the Chairman of the Joint Toledo Bend Lake Board between Texas and Louisiana.

Freeman was Chairman of the Sabine Industrial Development Board which acquired land to develop an industrial park for Sabine Parish. He actively solicited industry to locate in that park.

In addition, Freeman was appointed to serve on the board of the El Camino Real Commission, whose primary purpose is to four-lane Highway 6 from the Atlantic Ocean to Mexico. He served as the Commission’s Chairman for two years but sat on the board for 30 years.

Celebrating at Mardi Gras

Freeman led the charge to stop the closing of Hodges Gardens south of Florien after it was taken over by the state’s park system. 

Freeman has often said that the first impression of a community is a lasting impression, and he always wanted Many and Sabine Parish to make a positive impression on visitors and residents alike. To that end, he developed the “Get Off Your Fanny and Clean Up Many” program which enlisted the help of community volunteers to assist city crews with an annual spring cleaning of litter from the Town’s streets and ditches. At the same time, he also began sending letters to absentee property owners, whose lots created either an eyesore or a health risk, in an effort to reduce blight within city limits. He began a program that tore down old, dilapidated structures and added the cost to the owners’ property taxes at the end of the year.

His administration built new sidewalks and planted seasonal flowers in pots and flowerbeds throughout the town. His administration installed wrought-iron hand railings along San Antonio Ave. for citizens and visitors to safely shop and walk along the Avenue.

A proud grandfather with his beautiful granddaughters

The Mayor and his administration developed the Many Christmas Festival the first Christmas he was in office, 1989. This much-loved event consists of an hour-long parade through town ending at the Fairgrounds for the spectacular Bucky Slay Memorial Fireworks display.

Mayor Freeman was instrumental in assisting local merchants with an annual “Shop at Home” program to advertise and encourage local citizens to support local merchants. 

Before the development of Homeland Security in Sabine Parish, and after calling the Baton Rouge emergency phone number for assistance, which only played a recording saying, “This office is closed due to the storms,” during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita back in 2005, the Mayor went to work again for the Parish. Because of the widespread power outages throughout “Sabineland,” there was a shortage of food, water, and ice. He organized delivery and distribution of donated truckloads of needed supplies at City Hall, which continued for several weeks following Hurricane Rita until power was restored.

Freeman was appointed by the Sabine Parish School Board to the committee tasked to build the new Many Jr. High School. Freeman also served on committees that ultimately built the Sabine Parish Animal Shelter adjacent to the Industrial Park, on land donated by the Industrial District.

In all of these efforts, Mayor Freeman has met his goal of supporting and assisting organizations, communities, and their residents to improve the quality of life for all Sabine Parish citizens.

In thinking back over his career as the longest-serving mayor in Many’s history and the second longest-serving mayor in Louisiana, Mayor Freeman hopes that Many citizens know the decisions he made were made for the people of the Town and their future, including his being arrested.

“I honestly believe that I am leaving your hometown in better shape than I found it in 1989. It has been my honor to serve you as your Mayor. I also want to thank all my staff, grant writers, and council members over the years for your hard work in making Many a better place for all of us to live and work. I wish all of you and our community every success in the future,” he stated.

The Kenneth Freeman Family – from left, son Peyton, daughter-in-law Teresa, granddaughter Ella Claire, Ken, Mary Ellen, daughter-in-law Amber, son Seth and granddaughter Charlotte Anne.

Heard that long-time Many Junior High School Principal Madeline Owens will soon be retiring. I suppose that folks interesting in applying may do so at the School Board Office.

Charged: Stan Self

Stan Self has been charged with Attempted Second-Degree Murder after he shot his brother, Jimmy Don Self, with a .357 revolved after an argument over a tractor. It happened shortly after 2 p.m. on June 15 on the Beaver Pond Road off Pump Station Road south of Many.

Sheriff Aaron Mitchell and his detectives responded to the call. Jimmy was flown to Rapides Regional Medical Center by Air EVAC with non-life-threatening injuries. Stan was booked into the Detention Center.

Assistant Sabine Parish Detention Center Warden Kaylynn Remedies, left, Sgt. Steve Procell, Assistant Warden Sheryl Hembree and Sgt. Curry Richardson, right, recently attended a two-day training course by the Legal and Liability Risk Management Institute in Hammond. The course covered intoxication and withdrawal in the jail environment, medical best practices, cell searches, shakedowns and body scanners, use of force, response to inmate aggression, restraints for the front-line officer, mental health and suicide awareness, investigation in-custody death for staff, legal updates and best practices for corrections officers, PREA law and transgender inmates. Sheriff Aaron Mitchell continues what he started when he took office almost a year ago to ensure all his deputies have the opportunity to attend the best, up-to-date training courses possible.

Sad to report that Richard Irwin Bagwell, 73, drowned in Toledo Bend Lake, according to Sheriff Aaron Mitchell. His body was found in the Aimwell area of the lake off Hwy. 1212 the morning of June 19.  Answering the call, in addition to the Sheriff’s Office, were Wildlife and Fisheries, Coroner Mark Holder and the North Sabine Fire District First Responders.

Ms. Bagwell stated her husband had gone fishing around 4 p.m. the prior day. He called her around 8:30 p.m. saying he was having motor problems and would use his trolling motor to get back home. He was an avid fisherman but did have some health issues.

His boat was located against the bank several hundred yards from his body the morning of June 19, not far from his home on Toledo Bend.

Morris Naron

It is with sadness that we learned of the death of Morris Naron, 11, nephew of Rhonda Leach, Vice-President, General Manager and Jack-of-all-Trades at Baldridge-Dumas Communications.

The State Police investigation revealed that a UTV driven by a 14-year-old female was traveling northbound on Grant Circle in Webster Parish. As she made a left turn onto Bistineau Terrace Road, she lost control of the vehicle, which caused it to overturn. The young lad riding was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected during the crash. As a result, he suffered fatal injuries. Morris is the son of Krystin and Trey Naron, who is Rhonda’s brother.

Troopers would like to stress the importance of utilizing proper safety equipment such as approved helmets and seats belts when operating any off-road vehicle.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Naron family and we send deepest sympathy.

A Safariland Defense Technologies representative was at the Sabine Parish Sheriff’s Shooting Range the morning of June 15 to demonstrate the use of less-lethal and de-escalation tools and techniques. He demonstrated the 12-gauge and 40mm impact munitions.

Sheriff Aaron Mitchell and several of his deputies were in attendance and were able to test-fire the shotgun rounds and the 40mm munition weapon. The goal is to provide a safer way to deal with suspects in certain high-risk encounters. These munitions will stop the threat of suspects without inflicting life-threatening injuries. The consistent accuracy of these weapons also decreases the chance of bystander injury.

Sheriff Mitchell is committed to providing the latest technology and training for his deputies, and always with the safety of the public in mind.

As always, hats doffed to Sheriff’s Deputy Wade Seegers for providing valuable information to our readers.

Arrested: Sheldon Devan Ebarb

Sheldon Devan Ebarb, 43, of the Noble area was again arrested the morning of June 18 and charged with Possession with intent to distribute meth, Possession of drug paraphernalia, Possession of a firearm while in possession of CDS, and Possession of or dealing in firearms with obliterated numbers.

The prior evening, Sheriff’s Detectives obtained a search warrant for his property at 14100 Hwy. 191 at Noble. Detectives had received anonymous tips of stolen property at his residence.

Detectives located and seized stolen copper wire, batteries, solar panels, power tools, weed eaters, state highway signs, a flatbed trailer, a Polaris UTV and many other items.

At the time, Ebarb was arrested and booked for Felony theft of $25,000, Theft of motor vehicle and Motor vehicles alteration or removal of identifying numbers prohibited.

A ribbon-cutting, hosted by the Sabine Parish Chamber of Converse on June 16, officially opened the new SCOA building in Converse. Sabine Council on Aging Executive Director Jeff Morrow and Donna Smith Ammons, vice president of the Board of Directors, center, snipped the ribbon. Looking on from left are Chamber Director Shanna Gaspard, Converse Meal Site managers Shelly Dickerson and Rebecca Moore; and SCOA Board member Frances Hopkins, at right.
Laurie Morrow, Campus Dean of the Central La. Technical Community College in Natchitoches, left, and SCOA Activities Coordinator Kayla Hataway, center, are shown with several local elected officials at the Open House of the new SCOA building in Converse. Center left is Sabine Assessor Chris Tidwell, center right is Clerk of Court Shelly Salter; and at far right is State Senator Louie Bernard, Dist. 31.
Enjoying a chat at the Grand Opening of the SCOA’s Converse Meal Site were, from left, Kayla Hataway, SCOA Activities Coordinator; Pollie Brandon, Shanna Gaspard, Chamber Director; and Laurie Morrow.
SCOA Executive Director Jeff Morrow, right, talks with Sen. Louie Bernard of Natchitoches at the opening of the new Converse Meal Site.
Four members of the SCOA Board of Directors attended the ribbon-cutting at the new Converse Meal Site.  From left are Executive Director Jeff Morrow with scissors, Treasurer Danny Lopez, Vice President Donna Smith Ammons, Secretary Mary Procell and Board member Frances Hopkins.
SCOA Board member Fran Hopkins and Converse Mayor Troy Terrell helped hold the ribbon at the Grand Opening ceremonies.  Shown in the background are Sen. Louie Bernard, left, and Brad Walker, Chief Deputy of the Sabine Parish Sheriff’s Office, right.

Photos courtesy of Kayla Hataway and Laurie Morrow

Meal Site Manager Shelly Dickerson is shown being interviewed by KWLA radio personality Brad Ford at the Grand Opening of the SCOA Converse location.

Through the leadership of the Sabine Council on Aging’s Executive Director Jeff Morrow and the support of the Board of Directors, two new Meal Sites have been constructed for the elderly of Sabine Parish at Converse and Florien. 

The new sites are open Monday through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and provide a hot meal daily, along with exercise classes, varied activities and fun.

On Wednesday, June 16, the official Grand Opening of the Converse site was hosted with Executive Director Morrow and his wife, Laurie, who is Dean of the Natchitoches Campus of the Central Louisiana Technical Community College.

Chatter filled the large activities room, while some shot pool and others browsed through the library, kitchen area and exercise room.

A delicious lunch of finger foods, fresh vegetables, fruit trays and cake was provided to all who attended. 

At 11 a.m. Shanna Gaspard, Director of the Sabine Parish Chamber of Commerce, hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony with SCOA Executive Director Morrow and Board member Donna Smith Ammons snipping the ribbon signaling the grand opening of the new facility.

The celebration continued until 2 p.m. with tours and renewing acquaintances by a large crowd of well-wishers.

Dignitaries on the hand included Senator Louie Bernard, Sabine Clerk of Court Shelly Salter, Sabine Tax Assessor Chris Tidwell, Sabine Sheriff Aaron Mitchell and Chief Deputy Brad Walker, Converse Mayor Troy Terrell, Mary Gore of Toledo Bend Ministries,

Bonnie Fox-Miles, who represented the Sabine Tourist Commission and Frances Hopkins, who represented Sabine Medical Center, along with SCOA employees from Legacy SCOA in Many.

The Grand Opening of the Florien Site will be hosted on Wednesday, June 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with the Ribbon-Cutting ceremony scheduled for 11 a.m.

A Special Thank You to Donna Smith Ammons for supplying the above article.

READY TO PERFORM – Members of the Willie Stewart Family and Friends Band are shown prior to an outstanding performance in front of the Stone County Courthouse in Mtn. View, AR Saturday night. Left to right are Willie Stewart, Debbie Stewart, Mark Birdwell, Kelly Stewart, Clancey Stewart, Bo Stewart, Laurie Gentry and Steve Birdwell.
Ms. Billie Young, also known as “Mimi,” was right at home in Mtn. View, AR. She is Clancey Stewart’s grandmother and moved from that area to Florien some years back. She is shown here holding Clancey and Kelly’s youngest son, Arvie Paul. His big brother is Fletcher.
IT WAS HOMECOMING for Clancey Ferguson Stewart as she performed in Mtn. View, AR Saturday night. The young lady is a fiddling maven. She played to a packed audience at the Stone County Courthouse stage as part of the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce’s regular summer outdoor music series. Clancey was warmly received and got to see many friends from the past.
BO STEWART, shown at left, received a standing ovation as he performed the patriotic recitation “Take a Knee” Saturday night. His presentation was so popular, the band was called back after they finished their set to do the piece in its entirety again. Playing bass is Laurie Gentry and at right on the cajon drum box is Bo’s son, Kelly.

Willie Stewart Family and Friends Band from this area presented a stellar performance Saturday night on the lawn of the Stone County Courthouse in Mtn. View, AR. It was a homecoming for fiddler Clancey Ferguson Stewart, who learned to play fiddle and grew up in that area. She married Kelly Stewart and moved to Florien a few years ago. During Saturday’s show, Clancey was featured on “Golden Slippers” and “Orange Blossom Special,” two fiddle instrumentals, and during the first, she danced and played her fiddle at the same time which, as always, drew lots of enthusiastic whoops and hollers. She also joined Steve Birdwell to sing lead on “After the Fire is Gone” and provided harmony vocals on several other selections.

The Birdwells – father Steve and son Mark – were featured on “Holding Things Together” and “Follow That Star,” as well as contributing to a vocal quartet with Willie and Bo Stewart, “Just a Little Talk with Jesus.” Willie presented “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” and “Just Someone I Used to Know” with wife Debbie, who sang a great version of “Grandpa” and a gorgeous Gospel song, “Record Book.”

Kelly Stewart showered down on “Slewfoot” and “Farewell Party” for the program, and Bo sang “Dim Lights” and “Bubba Hyde.”

Laurie Gentry contributed “Satisfied,” a 1950s Gospel hand-clapper and “Neighbors,” a sentimental tune written by Arkansas folksinger Charley Sandage about Mountain View and its people. She dedicated the latter to friends in the audience who watched her grow up playing music in Mountain View and to her sister, Tara, who was also in attendance and plays wonderful clawhammer-style banjo.

Bo Stewart honored all veterans with his recitation of “Take a Knee” while the band played “America, The Beautiful” as background music. The audience of 500-600 rose to their feet as he presented the selection, many with tears in their eyes and others with their right hands placed across their hearts. The selection was so popular that the audience asked that it be repeated in its entirety at the end of their program. The band was happy to do so.

Readers are reminded they can catch Willie Stewart Family and Friends in concert soon at Many Community Center [Sabine Theater] in downtown Many for a special Independence Day weekend performance on Saturday, July 3 at 7 p.m. The patriotic show is free to all and concessions are available for only $1 each. Doors open at 6:15 p.m.

Our good friend Tonia Bridges, a native of Florien, tied the knot on June 18 at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO. The lucky guy is Albert Duran III. Sometime back, Tonia moved from Sabine to Cheyenne, WY to begin a new chapter in her life. For the wedding, she placed her grandmother Louise Cooper’s hummingbird pin in her bridal bouquet and wore a hummingbird necklace given by her mother, Louella Cooper Brown.

Tonia worked for me at the Index at one time, and she and I were later office mates at the BDC radio station studios when she worked there in advertising sales. She is a good person, and we wish her and Albert all the happiness in the world.

An 18-wheeler truck hauling salt water overturned on Hwy. 174 near the Sistrunk Loop between Converse and Pleasant Hill Tuesday morning before 8. The Sabine Sheriff’s Office initially reported minor injuries.

Alyssa Simmons Elledge

Alyssa Simmons Elledge, daughter of Ken and Phyllis Simmons, has been named Principal of Summerfield Elementary in Shreveport. Caddo Parish Superintendent of Schools, Dr. T. Lamar Goree, made the announcement on June 9. Alyssa is a 1995 graduate of Many High School and earned her Bachelor of Science and Master of Education from Northwestern State University. In 2018, she graduated from Walden University with a Doctor of Education in Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment.

Alyssa has worked over 20 years in Louisiana and Texas public education, two of those wonderful years having been as a classroom teacher at Many Jr. High. Her experience includes seven years teaching middle school English and over 13 years as a school administrator at the elementary and secondary level.

Since 2017, Alyssa has worked in Caddo Parish as a Master Teacher for Woodlawn Leadership Academy and as Assistant Principal for Woodlawn Leadership Academy, Youree Drive Middle School and Ridgewood Middle School.

Alyssa is married to David Elledge who also serves as a school administrator for Caddo Parish Schools. Together they have three children:  Layne Elledge, a senior at University of Louisiana Monroe, majoring in Pharmacy; Kyle Elledge, a sophomore at Bossier Parish Community College where he is a member of the baseball team and pursuing a degree in Physical Therapy; and Dru Simmons Thatcher, a Junior at Caddo Parish Magnet High School and a member of the YMCA Northwest Louisiana Swim Team.

Randy Parker Sr.

Sabine Sheriff Aaron Mitchell reported Tuesday morning that one of his deputies, Randy Parker Sr. of the Noble area, passed away Monday evening of an apparent heart attack.

At the time of his death, he had just finished his 12-hour patrol shift. He started working Aug. 1, 2020 as a Reserve Deputy and recently started working part-time in the Patrol Division.

Sheriff Mitchell said it is heartbreaking to lose “one of your own” deputies with a promising law enforcement career. We join Sheriff Mitchell and his staff in offering sincere sympathy to the family.

Arrested: Ronald Carnell Holland

Ronald Carnell Holland Jr., 24, of Many was arrested recently after being stopped for probable cause by the Sabine Sheriff’s Patrol Division. He was stopped at Hot Wells near Zwolle on Hwy. 191 and fled the scene. He got away from officers, and the next day he was bragging about the event on social media, saying he had outrun the police and they couldn’t catch him.

Wrong again. He has been arrested. Because he had failed to appear in court, his bond was revoked. The Sabine Narcotics Team was working in DeSoto Parish and saw Holland at a Chevron station in Mansfield, where he was arrested.

He is currently in jail in DeSoto Parish but will be returned to Sabine.

Holland had been arrested earlier, April 14, after the Sabine Sheriff’s Tactical Narcotics Team agents got a tip about his alleged illegal drug activity. They obtained a search warrant for Holland’s Buffalo Dr. home in Many where they found 14 Adderall pills, $2,000 plus Xanax bars with a street value of $25,000, 156 grams of marijuana, $1,000 in cash, a .45 pistol and .223 AR-style pistol.

Sadly, Holland’s 4-month-old child was in the house at the time of the search. Holland at the time was charged with Intent to distribute marijuana, Possession with intent to distribute Adderall, Possession with intent to distribute Xanax, Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, Possession of a firearm while in the presence of narcotics, Illegal use of narcotics while in the presence of a person under 17 and Possession of drug paraphernalia.

Arrested: Joshua Drayton Holland

Joshua Drayton Holland, 29, of Many was arrested in Orlando, FL. He was wanted in Sabine Parish for Domestic abuse battery, Aggravated assault with a firearm and Failure to appear for domestic abuse battery (child endangerment.) He was out of jail on $5,000 bond after being arrested on Nov. 4, 2020.

The Sheriff’s Office is currently making arrangements to have Holland brought back to Sabine Parish.


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