Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Town of Many Alderwoman at Large Mary Brocato

After a recent meeting with Many Mayor Robert Hable and Grant Writer Suzanne Williams, Alderwoman Mary Beth Brocato resigned as Chairperson of the Many Cultural District Advisory Committee. She had served with distinction in that post for several years. There are those who feel that she was “squeezed out,” even though she resigned.

In a step to clarify the matter, Ms. Brocato issued the following statement to Observations:

“The Town of Many now has a new administration, and it has become evident to me that circumstances and ways of doing things have changed and are very different now.

“After much soul searching, I have come to realize that I was left with no other alternative, so I have submitted my resignation as Chairperson of the Cultural District Advisory Committee, overseeing the Many Community Center, Movies in Many, Music in Many, and completing the creation of the Depot Historical Museum.

“I love our town and our people. These last seven years of service to our town have meant so much to me. With years of hard work, a dedicated and visionary Cultural District Advisory Committee, the support and very generous monetary donations from the public over the past six-plus years for the establishment of the Many Community Center and a historical museum about our parish, we accomplished a lot. We built book nooks and installed them throughout the town, we totally renovated the old Sabine Theater and the historic old depot. The majority of these expenditures were funded through generous donations from the public showing their support in telling our colorful history and culture for generations to come. The museum was on track to open in the spring.

“I am sad that I will no longer be working in these areas, especially the completion of the depot museum, but be assured that I will seek other ways that will allow me to continue to serve our people, our town and our community of Sabine Parish.

“People of Many, please know I will continue to work hard for our citizens as your elected Alderwoman at Large.

“I wish Mayor Hable and his tenacious staff well in their new direction for our town.”

– Mary Brocato

Last week Observations carried a story about a meeting Town of Many employee Suzanne Williams had called about changing the direction of the Many Cultural and Historical District, including plans for the Museum at the Many Depot. On Wednesday, after the article was posted online Tuesday evening, Mayor Robert Hable sent out an email saying Ms. Williams was not Manager of Community Development for the town as stated in the article. While we make every attempt to be sure what we post is exact and truthful, sometimes things slip by us. The picture above shows the signature block of an email we received from Ms. Williams, and why it appeared to us she held that job. 

Howard and Dorsey Bronson of Mobile, AL. Dorsey, left, is a native of Ebarb and a very active member of the Native American Choctaw-Apache Tribe.

And Howard and Dorsey Bronson of Mobile, AL stepped forward in strong support of Ms. Brocato. Dorsey was born Dorsey Ebarb at her Sepulvado grandparent’s home in Ebarb. She attended grammar school at Ebarb, moving to Nevada with her parents and returning to Louisiana in 1963. Her career in journalism included working as a writer for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Shreveport Journal. In 2015 she authored “Louisiana Cooking by Native American Choctaw-Apache” and in 2021 she co-authored “America’s First ‘Trail of Tears.’”

Now Dorsey met Howard Bronson, and they married in 1968. He is well respected in journalistic circles having served as Publisher of the Shreveport Times, President of the Newspaper Production Co., and from 1992-2009 as CEO and Publisher of the Mobile, AL Register. The Bronsons are a team. Even though they live in Mobile, they maintain a close connection to their local Ebarb family.

Ms. Bronson issued the following statement:  “Howard and I are a team and have been working with Mary for months to create an exhibit at the Many Railcar Depot Museum that would preserve the heritage and traditions of the Choctaw-Apache Tribe of Ebarb. Your readers most likely saw the picture of me and [Nichols owner] Lauren Moore on the front page of the Sabine Index dedicating “America’s First ‘Trail of Tears,’” the story of the Choctaw-Apache Tribe at Ebarb, book sales to pay for the exhibit. It was a blow to read that a new person declared herself in charge, moving in a new direction and casting Mary aside. It is a monumental loss to the community to no longer have Mary engaged in helping build a better Many, and raising awareness of Sabine Parish.”

I enjoyed a great visit with old friend Syl Martinez of Zwolle last week.  He is commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Sabine Rifles Camp 2057. They have a lot of good activities going and we shall be reporting about them in Observations. It is always good to visit with a friend from days gone by.

Sabine Sheriff Aaron Mitchell, right, was on the scene in Peason this past weekend to help make sure temporary repairs made after the recent tornado stayed in place. At left is pastor and Sabine historian Rickey Robertson whose home Sheriff Mitchell helped re-secure.
Volunteers join Peason resident Rickey Robertson at his home to help batten down the hatches during the high winds of last weekend. At right is Sheriff Aaron Mitchell. Folks from Mt. Carmel are shown assisting on the roof.

Work is still going strong to clean up the mess the tornado left in Peason a couple of weeks ago. Our friend Rickey Robertson reported that the wind blew rough there this past Saturday and Sunday. He said it got so hard that it was blowing the temporary tarps off of houses and outbuildings. Word got out that help was needed and to quote him, “The cavalry came running and these men helped saved the day for us.”

Sheriff Aaron Mitchell was there to help. Rickey said, “You don’t see many Sheriffs out like him.” He added, “Aaron and I worked many years ago on the same drilling rig in the Gulf. Ironically, our rig was the Sabine 1. We then both got into law enforcement.”

He continued, “And Mt. Carmel folks [helped, too], that is Brother Matt up on the roof with the other guys, and when they left, three soldiers from Ft. Polk came and worked with me all day long. I have never in my life seen so many folks coming to help us out. And I don’t know the names of everyone, but I say ‘Thank you all.’”

Onita Jones, known as “Ms. Family Farm and Garden,” said life in Peason quickly changed with the buzzing of chainsaws, the sound of dozers, tractor and other equipment, the overflow of people coming to help others from not only Sabine Parish, but all over the state.

She wrote, “The homes and places of those that got hit will never be the same, those who were injured will never be the same, and our lives have been changed. Although we were blessed with little damage, our week has been spent with our friends working to save what we could by going through a lifetime of belongings.”

Onita thanked Pine Grove Church for being the hub of the community and “…for taking donations and distributing them, for serving many meals and for all the other ministries they did.” She added, “We thank all those people who gave their time, their services, financially and most of all for the prayers.”

She concluded, “Please continue to lift up the Justin Westfall family and his grandmother Betty. Remember Terry Bell and his injury. Just remember Peason. It’s the community I have lived in all my life. The people who live here have roots and resilience that country folks have.”

And as Observations is posted today, we are glad to report that the GoFundMe page for the Westfall family has raised $50,827.

The buzz about the recent motion the Sabine Parish School Board passed about volunteers continues to make the rounds. Board Member Dale Skinner of Dist. 9 said it was aimed to keep him from coaching the basketball team at Pleasant Hill. A regular Observations reader, Jacqueline Shuford, inquired about the matter, so for her and others, we are going to print the complete motion that was adopted. It follows:

“The Board recognizes that volunteers can make many valuable contributions to the school. The Board believes that use of volunteers within the school program, whether during or after regular school hours, enhances the educational process not only for students, but also for the community. Therefore, the Board endorses a Volunteer Program in the district, subject to suitable regulations and safeguards, to be promulgated by the Superintendent or staff, in cooperation with the schools.

“Every effort shall be made to incorporate the use of school volunteers into the community schools program as well as any or all other programs or activities of the school district.

“Notwithstanding the foregoing, no School Board member shall volunteer in any role, capacity, or position which shall place the member in a supervisory role over employees or students in extracurricular or cocurricular activities, such as clubs, spirit groups or athletic teams. School Board Members may not serve as volunteer coaches, assistant coaches or sponsors of such activities.”

Now we are presented the Louisiana High School Athletic Association rules from the handbook:  the qualifications and duties of a faculty coach are spelled out. Those of a non-faculty coach are also spelled out, including “A school shall not allow non-faculty coaches to serve as the head coach in the sports of boys basketball.” But it goes on to say, “With written permission from the principal, non-faculty assistant coaches shall be allowed to serve as the head coach.”

The complaint was that Dale took over the coaching job, leaving the head coach out. But he had a winning season going. We are told that persons in Pleasant Hill complained to the School Board about Dale, including Chief of Police Ray Williams. One source told Observations that “Dale took over the coaching job.” Dale said he had the permission of the principal and coach to assist in coaching. Another source said, “Do you think the principal and coach are going to tell Dale ‘No?’”

Dale has visited Tedd Dumas and me several times about this situation. His big question is “Who put the matter on the agenda?” Dale, a School Board Member, missed the meeting when the motion was adopted. Retired Supt. Sara Ebarb told Observations that she did not put it on the agenda. So, that means someone else must have done it. Surely, under the freedom of information act Dale can find that information out, if it is so important to him.

WE GET LETTERS: And we always love to hear from our friend Ronald Byrd of South Boston, VA. His comments on last week’s column follow.

“Robert, Kudos to Judge Beasley for his long period of service and for his acquisition of a $200K grant for intense follow up supervision of offenders who are mentally ill or have substance abuse problems. I hope that’s $200,000 annually because intense supervision will eat up that money pretty quickly. I know that Sheriff Mitchell and his staff would favor any actions that would reduce the rate of recidivism and salvage the lives of some of those lost souls. I wonder what might come out of you, Suzanne Williams, Judge Beasley, and Sheriff Mitchell getting together to brainstorm related ideas and ways to get an extension of that grant and perhaps come up with more support for that very worthwhile activity… just something to think about in your spare time! I have to laugh because I know that spare time is hard to come by for you. Ronny”

We are pleased to report it is Observations’ understanding Judge Beasley did, indeed, secure a grant of $200,000 annually from the Louisiana Supreme Court, not a one-time payout.

Rick Rowe, left, of KTBS’s Community Caravan interviews Community Bank President J. J. Blake, right, during the series’ last segment in Many on Thursday.
Many Mayor Robert Hable, left, and Sabine Chamber of Commerce Director Shanna Gaspard, right, both were deeply involved in last week’s Community Caravan KTBS promotion of Many.
Town of Many Grant Writer Suzanne Williams, left, talks progress with Baton Rouge visitor Ray Scriber, right, Director of the Louisiana Main Street Program.

Last week was an exciting one for the Town of Many as KTBS Channel 3 out of Shreveport spent several mornings in town to highlight the goings on of Many in their “Community Caravan” monthly series.

Observations caught up with the Caravan on Thursday, Dec. 13, their last day in town, as they visited Martone’s for a lunchtime segment.

Also in Many on Thursday was Ray Scriber, Director of the Louisiana Main Street program, which is operated by the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development out of Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser’s office.

“We talked earlier today with Ray Scriber about getting downtown Many into the Main Street program as an official Main Street town,” Mayor Robert Hable told Observations at the Community Caravan Thursday broadcast. “We got the preliminary info on that. It’s going to take some work and some dedication from the business owners along San Antonio Avenue, but we have high hopes,” he shared enthusiastically.

“Natchitoches is [a Main Street city] and we can look at what they’ve done. It’s a big dream but it’s possible. I’m so excited about the rethinking of the Cultural Historic Committee, and I hope people come out of the woodwork [to support it] and they can see that no one has an agenda,” the Mayor shared. He continued, “We want everybody’s feedback about what we can put together to benefit everyone.” 

A few dozen patrons enjoyed lunch at Martone’s during the Community Caravan taping. The Italian restaurant is not usually open at lunchtime, so it was indeed a treat for those who stopped in. Among the diners were several local leaders as well as some KTBS Community Caravan faithful, who follow Channel 3 to whatever town they highlight each month.

“We’re loving this,” said Community Caravan coordinator Jan Elkins, center, of KTBS. She was joined by Meteorologist Joe Haynes, left, and Reporter Rick Rowe, right. Rowe interviewed several locals during the four-day series.
Community Caravan’s Rick Rowe from KTBS, left, points to Sabine Chamber of Commerce Director Shanna Gaspard’s t-shirt during the interview with her about Many that was broadcast from Martone’s.

“KTBS is thrilled to be in Many this week,” Caravan Coordinator Jan Elkins told Observations. “Rick Rowe has been down here Monday through Thursday every morning, and today we’re having the Community Caravan forum where we ask people ‘What do you like about Many?’ and ‘Why do you like living here?’ And what we do, because we’re based in Shreveport, we try to let the rural areas know that they’re a part of our viewing area as well, that they’re important to us. So, once a month we go to an area like this and take some of our staff like Joe Haynes, ‘the tallest meteorologist ever,’” Elkins said with a smile, “as well as Rick Rowe, ‘the oldest reporter ever,’” she laughed mischievously. “It’s important to us to get out and get to be with some folks we normally don’t get to see,” she shared. “We’re loving this!”

Everybody seemed to have a great time. Some were interviewed on air by Rowe.

Those attending the Thursday lunch KTBS Community Caravan event at Martone’s included Mayor Robert Hable, Dist. A Councilwoman Mary Perry, Dist. B Councilwoman Anita Darwin, Dist. C Councilwoman Bobbie Jackson, Dist. D Councilwoman Cherry Williams, Chamber of Commerce Director Shanna Gaspard, Tourism Commission Director Georgia Craven, Many Chief of Police Cheryl Wooley, Town of Many Clerk Amie Brown, Grant Writer Suzanne Williams, Deputy Clerk Valisa King, Clerk Dawana Simmons, other Town of Many staff, Community Bank President J. J. Blake and more.

We understand the promotion started with the familiar Community Caravan question, “Where in the ArkLaTex is Rick Rowe?” Monday, Jan. 10, found him in Many as he kicked off the series at Bistro Coffee on San Antonio Ave. On “Tasty Tuesday,” he visited HardKor Café at Rigs & Racks on Hwy. 171 Bypass. Nichols was featured on Wednesday’s “ArkLaTex Made” segment, and on Thursday Rowe presented a Toledo Bend profile, spoke with Many Police Officer Stanley Cook for “Behind the Badge,” then wrapped up with the Community Caravan Forum segment at Martone’s Italian Restaurant.  

The photos above show drugs, cash and other items discovered during the arrest of Justin Calhoun last week at the Timbers Apartments, shown center, in Many.

Justin Jeremy Calhoun, age 34, of Many was arrested at Timbers Apartments in Many early Sunday morning, Jan. 15, for several drug charges.

Sabine Parish Patrol Sergeant N. Sandel and Deputy J. Bridges responded to a disturbance call at the apartment complex just after midnight. Deputies noticed Calhoun run from his parked vehicle towards the woods near the complex.

Deputies observed Calhoun throw a plastic bag when they caught up to him. Deputies discovered approximately one ounce of suspected methamphetamine, one-half ounce of crack cocaine, three ounces of marijuana, Clonazepam pills, and measuring scales in the bag. Deputies also found over $1,000 cash in Calhoun’s pants pocket.

Deputies seized the narcotics, cash, and Calhoun’s 2018 gray Volkswagen Jetta.

ARRESTED: Justin Jeremy Calhoun

Calhoun had several prior narcotics arrests according to his criminal history record.

Calhoun was booked into the Sabine Parish Detention Center for Possession with intent to distribute schedule I (Marijuana), Possession with intent to distribute schedule II (Meth), Possession with intent to distribute schedule II (Crack Cocaine), Possession of schedule IV (Clonazepam), Possession of drug paraphernalia, Second or subsequent offenses, and Flight from officer.

Sheriff Aaron Mitchell wishes to recognize Sgt Sandel and Deputy Bridges for their quick action in this case to get these illegal narcotics off the streets.

Sheriff Mitchell also commends all his patrol deputies who are out in the parish 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to keep Sabine Parish citizens safe.

(Special thanks to Det. D.W. Seegers for the above article.)

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