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Hudson ISD officer makes the sexual assault fight personal

One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. One in three Texans will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

One in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a dating partner.

Young women between 16 and 24 years old face the highest rate of sexual assault.

And Hudson ISD police officer Kristen Henley is teaching young women at Hudson High School how to recognize it, handle it and to report it when it happens.

“I left the county back in 2018 and came out here to be a school officer,” Henley said. “And all of a sudden, high school females wanted to talk to a female cop.”

Though Henley was stationed with the young students at Peavy Primary School, young women began crying out for her help. Those women had been raped at home or at a friend’s house or on vacation.

“And they all started to feel more confident in talking with a female cop,” Henley said.

Henley began looking into statistics for rape and assault as a result of the number of outcries she received and it shocked her. As a deputy with the Angelina County Sheriff’s Office, she’d seen plenty and knew how bad situations could be, she said.

“And all the sexual assault victims would tell me they’d had a bad feeling, something was telling them not to go there, not to go to a party or for a walk in a park at that time; it gave them a bad feeling, but they didn’t listen,” she said.

One girl had been sexually assaulted by a family member since she was 6, then it came to light that her cousin began doing the same thing to her just a few years ago. And this type of scenario is not uncommon, Henley said.

“The victim keeps becoming a victim and it’s so sad,” she said. “Victims usually continue being victims as they become more susceptible; they’re knocked down, depressed, defeated. So abusers can pick them out of a crowd. They do it easily.”

Her goal is to teach the young women how to really listen to their instincts because intuition is a super power, she said. So she created a program to address coercion, manipulation and gaslighting to help them recognize what they were facing.

After careful thought, she approached the school about beginning this program and they decided it could happen if it was voluntary and the girls under 18 years needed parental permission to attend. The first class brought in 10 girls, the second had 19 and the next one in the coming week will likely have grown from that.

News of the class is spreading and more young women are connecting with Henley and asking to participate, she said.

The class runs for 45 minutes, three days a week. Henley uses stories and statistics to keep it entertaining, though more than once she’s seen a few young women tear up or gasp. Henley also gives the girls a chance to write her notes, and while some bring her joy, others have made her cry.

“They’re telling me stuff, what happened in the past or what’s going on right now, and I’ve begun addressing them at the beginning of class,” she said.

She uses some of these notes to act as a sort of “Dear Abby.” They’re anonymous, but she’ll make sure to give some advice where she can.

On the fourth day, the girls will go to the gym and learn to work with Tasers, defense key chains, pepper spray and more. Other Hudson ISD officers will attend and teach a little self-defense as well.

“Most notes say they need more time, more details,” Henley said. “Most say this is great — they never would have signed up but were glad they were asked to.”

Henley definitely does not think she’s got enough time with the girls to teach them all they need to know, she said.

She’d also like to see a similar program for the young men; some guys don’t know what is or isn’t appropriate because of what they’re seeing at home.

“One out of 17 men are sexually assaulted,” she said. “They need it, too.”

She’s included male statistics in her lessons so male officers can convert it easily to a class for them, as well.

She’ll present her plans to the school board in May and hopes to have a full-blown class where she can give the girls more time to work through the heavy material.

Beyond that, she’d love to see it expanded to the different schools, into a summer program and for a broader age range. Hopefully those classes would have trained martial artists who can teach more comprehensive self-defense too.

“I’m tired of girls being sexually assaulted and having no way to deal with it then committing suicide,” she said. “I’m tired of little girl bodies in bags. They know now they can come to me for help.”

She doesn’t care how old someone is; she wants them to know they can call her and ask for help and they will receive it.

Angelina Benefit Rodeo set to mosey into town

The Angelina Benefit Rodeo is set to bring “The Greatest Show on Dirt” to Lufkin’s George H. Henderson Jr. Exposition Center April 21-24.

“The Angelina County Benefit Rodeo will have the dedication of the Lions Clubs members that volunteer their time to make this show the best at a cost that’s affordable to everyone,” Jeff Harkness, 2021 Lufkin Host Lions Club president, said.

“This rodeo is one of a kind,’’ he said. ‘‘The proceeds go right back into the community, like the Lufkin State Supported Living Center, the community food drive and the Communities Cinco de Mayo, to name a few. It’s an honor that we can bring this to the community.”

Proceeds from previous rodeos have helped the Lufkin State Supported Living Center build a new pavilion and restroom for the residents, as well as providing digital X-ray equipment so that the residents can have X-rays onsite.

Before every benefit rodeo, the Lufkin State Supported Living Center chooses a resident to be a Rodeo Hero.

“The Rodeo Hero has a terrific opportunity for the community to learn about the incredible residents that live here and how the support makes a difference in their lives,” Lynn Hopper, Lufkin State Supported Living Center director of community relations, said.

In addition, their employees volunteer to help with the event and the residents get to attend as spectators.

“It’s a wonderful chance to get to engage with the community,’’ Hopper said.

Barbara Berliew is this year’s Rodeo Hero.

“I am absolutely excited for my sister to get to be the Rodeo Hero,” her brother, Robert Berliew, said. “I am very thankful, as her brother, to see the Angelina Benefit Rodeo and Lufkin Lions Club teaming with the Lufkin State Supported Living Center.”

This year’s show will feature Cowboy Kenny’s Steel Rodeo, in which two men on motorcycles will perform tricks and flips every night. Rodeo coordinator Mike Mathis said the two men typically perform for the X Games and have won medals there.

“The crowd will see some pretty amazing motorcycle work in our expo center,” Mathis said. “All of the crowd, from the youngest to the oldest, truly enjoy watching these guys.”

Other events include bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, bull riding and barrel racing, along with a variety of other rodeo favorites. Mathis said to expect 500-plus world class rodeo riders to attend and put up a good fight for the best scores.

“We will have more participants than will fit in the rodeo; we will have to run slack,” Mathis said. “This is a professional event. We are sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Women’s Professional Rodeo Association — this is the major leagues of professional rodeo.”

The purse is set to reach nearly $100,000 and is expected to attract riders from at least 30 different states, as well as Canada, Australia, Brazil and New Zealand.

“To go with that, we will also have rodeo’s nine-time Clown of the Year, Justin Rumford, from Ponca, Oklahoma,” Mathis said.

There also will be a “Truck for a Buck” raffle for the chance to win a 2021 Jeep Gladiator.

The show starts at 7 p.m. each night. Ticket prices are $8 for general admission, $11 for upper reserved seats and $13 for lower reserved seats.

Q&A with the candidates for Lufkin mayor
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Lufkin residents will decide their new mayor over the next two weeks after early voting kicks off Monday.

Current Mayor Bob Brown has served the community in this capacity for 12 years. In that time, he has led the city through some of its hardest times and as it has grown from those times. He withdrew his bid for reelection during the State of the City address in February.

Running for his position are current City Councilman Mark Hicks, Don Langston and Roshin Rowjee.

Candidates were asked by The Lufkin Daily News to share information about themselves and their platforms. They were each given a maximum of 750 words to answer. Their responses are listed in alphabetical order.

Q: What qualities make you the best city council candidate for Lufkin?

Hicks: I am a problem solver. When I see a need, I work to find a solution. As a business owner with multiple ongoing businesses in Lufkin, I work in this community every day. I truly understand the issues we are facing on a daily basis. Having a young family, I understand the needs and desires of our future generation. When we faced a citywide water outage, I immediately recognized we had a serious problem. Through a collaborative effort, we took this challenge head-on and saw it through to the end.

Sound business judgment is an absolute necessity as we look to the future of Lufkin. We need a mayor that is willing to take on the hard choices such as tax rate, bond rating, diversity of our workforce and many more issues with solid business principles.

My commitment to all of Lufkin is that I will be a representative of all the citizens all the time. I will give everyone the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns regarding city operations.

Langston: I am a servant leader at my church, Carpenters Way Baptist, where I am a deacon and Bible study leader. I am family oriented. My wife Lynda and I have been married 52 years. We have two children: Kevin, married to Allyson, who serves on the LISD school board, and Kelly, who is the head of the Cole Audiology Clinic at SFA. We have four grandchildren and are blessed they all call Lufkin home.

I am a conservative businessman who has devoted 48 years to making this community a great place. I spent 12 years on city council and had many noteworthy accomplishments. Some are: establishing the Lufkin Economic Development Corporation, our single greatest tool for economic development; holding and reducing taxes; acquiring the Abitibi water rights ensuring adequate water for 50 years; raising our bond rating and establishing best business practices; reducing waste and saving the city hundreds of thousands of dollars; promoting tourism through establishing a working LCVB; and major upgrades to our parks, downtown and zoo.

I have a passion for good government. I have always been an advocate for all citizens in this community. I am retired from my business and can devote full attention to this job. I have no outside business interests that would take away that focus. I have a reputation as a straight-shooter and being a man of my word.

Rowjee: I believe every public servant must encompass the following qualities to be an effective leader: entrepreneur spirit, excellent communication skills, vision, ability to delegate, integrity and empathy.

Q: What is the biggest issue facing the city? Why?

Hicks: The biggest challenge facing the city is to continue to create high-paying jobs. In the last three years, under my leadership on the council, the city of Lufkin has worked with multiple companies to create over 600 good-paying long-term jobs in Lufkin. This job growth is the best economic development the city has seen in decades and I will continue to make sure we attract new jobs into the city.

Langston: While visiting with people in our community, several needs have come up in the following order of priority: lower taxes, support of police and fire, infrastructure improvements, economic development and customer service. I don’t rank one above the other but think they are all intertwined. To attract new businesses and industry, you need low taxes, a well-trained police and fire department, adequate water, sewer and roads, and a customer-friendly city staff.

Rowjee: Redistricting is the biggest issue facing the city of Lufkin. Since the early 2000s, district lines have marginalized Lufkin, Angelina County and the Pineywoods. Our region has been influenced by leaders from other regions of Texas who do not have the Pineywoods on their priority list and the consequences have been nothing short of profound, culminating in multiple, permanent industry closures, an estimated 10,000-plus jobs lost and, most importantly, the loss of federal representation. With district lines properly representing Lufkin and the Pineywoods of East Texas, we will ensure viable federal representation in Washington, D.C., with either a congressman or congresswoman working in the interests of folks here in Deep East Texas. Proper district lines will ensure industry, business and quality job growth soon to follow.

Q: How do you propose to fix it?

Hicks: As mayor, I will continue to be very involved in the creation of new jobs by working closely with the economic development corporation and LEDC 4B board of directors, and constantly evaluate the incentives offered by similar sized cities in Texas to make sure Lufkin is competitive for new jobs.

As mayor, I will advocate that the city continues on our path of business diversification. Under my direction and consultation with the LEDC director, I set forth an initiative to create a path of business diversification and that plan is working extremely well with more than 600 full-time jobs being contractually obligated in the last three years. The new business in the last three years included a state-of-the-art sawmill, an aerospace engineering expansion, a modern new technology wood mat company, a marine gear repair, revitalizing the Aspen Power facility and building a new pulp mill, industrial chemical plant, corporate headquarters for tractor sales, health and beauty research and development and upgrading an oilfield trade company. The city was also designated as a foreign-trade zone No. 247 and there are only 300 designations in the United States.

As mayor, we continue to incentivize new and existing facilities to build new facilities, upgrade existing plants and attract new business to our great city.

Langston: Since I left city council in 2015, council has raised taxes to the highest they’ve ever been even while cutting back on services. The job of a council member is to question, not just be a rubber stamp. Lowering taxes means we have to be efficient at providing services to our citizens. My business background and record on council proved the best way to save money is to be proactive in the budget process, questioning each expenditure and having every department in the city build a budget around sound business and hiring practices.

Supporting our police and fire demands providing the best training and equipment possible, competitive salaries and encouraging each department to engage in community volunteerism. I would like each department in the city to provide human interest stories on employees and distribute them across media platforms.

Infrastructure improvements begin with proper maintenance. The quality and accountability of city personnel must improve. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We lost our water supply over a lack of maintenance; it can and should be prevented in the future. We must do the same for our streets, sewer and drainage. We must institute training of essential employees so when faced with retirements and attrition, services are provided without skipping a beat.

I’ve heard it said, “You can be on the right track but if you just sit there you will get run over.” New businesses don’t come on their own. You must go after them. That means developing the frontline resources available to us. Those relationships include local industry heads, our governor’s office, U.S. senators and representatives. The governor’s contact person for economic development for our region is Betty Russo. We should develop constant communication with her in promoting Lufkin. Our most recent industry successes come from local entrepreneurs and industry heads spreading the word about us. Let’s utilize this resource to our benefit and go reel them in. I propose establishing a business round table for economic development where ideas are discussed leveraging their contacts in industry. Industry growth creates opportunities for small business growth and quality of life improvements. Industries looking at Lufkin want low taxes, good government, an adequate workforce and adequate infrastructure. We can and should provide this. Let’s build on the foundation we started when I was on council. Let’s keep our train moving so we don’t get run over.

Our citizens deserve equal treatment and opportunities. Let’s change how our city-sponsored committees are chosen and have equal representation from each ward. Let’s advertise those positions instead of council hand-picking them. I love this great city. Help me make it better by electing me your next mayor.

Rowjee: As a citizen of Lufkin, I have been working behind the scenes with both the state of Texas House and Senate redistricting office members and chairs. In 2019-20, I had worked with the former House chair representative Phil King’s office to schedule a redistricting hearing in Lufkin, Texas. However, the COVID-19 pandemic, to this day, has resulted in continued delays for a physical meeting as I requested at the Pitser Garrison Convention Center.

On Jan. 29, 2021, I participated in a Texas Senate redistricting virtual meeting, hosted by Senate Chair Joan Huffman and the respective redistricting committee members, sharing the importance for them to schedule a physical meeting here in Lufkin, Texas (view the video on my “Roshin Rowjee for Mayor” Facebook page). Presently, I am actively conversing with the new House Chair Rep. Todd Hunter’s office requesting a physical meeting be held here in Lufkin, Texas, in 2021 before the final district lines are drawn. I participated in a House redistricting virtual meeting at 10 a.m. on April 8, 2021.

Before the new district lines are finalized, I ask all people in Lufkin and the rural communities of Angelina County to request a physical meeting be scheduled at the Pitser Garrison Convention Center in Lufkin, Texas, by calling House Chair Todd Hunter’s Office at (512) 463-0672 or (512) 463-9948 and Senate Chair Joan Huffman’s office at (512) 463-0117 or (512) 463-0493.

Together, both you and I, through telephone calls and persistence, will change the political and economic trajectory of Lufkin and Deep East Texas. Industry and business growth along with substantial, quality job growth will soon follow. If elected your next mayor of Lufkin, on May 1, 2021, the following week, I will be in Austin, Texas, visiting with both the Texas House and Senate Redistricting Chairs, insisting that both committees schedule a redistricting hearing in Lufkin, Texas. In the interim, I will continue virtual meetings and telephone calls with both legislative bodies.

Q&A with the candidates for Lufkin school board

Four candidates are running for three at-large positions on the Lufkin school district’s board of trustees.

Election Day is May 1.

Incumbents Hall Henderson, Matt Knight and Scott Skelton filed for reelection. They are being challenged by Delphina Hadnot Maxie.

Candidates were asked by The Lufkin Daily News to share information about themselves and their platforms. Their responses are listed in alphabetical order.

1. What qualities make you the best trustee candidate for school board?

Henderson: Dating back to my time playing basketball as a Panther at Lufkin Middle School and Lufkin High School, I’ve spent my entire life on teams. I’m an excellent teammate, and I understand the importance of recognizing your role and doing it well. My time on the board has allowed me to identify the many strengths of my colleagues (team), to listen and learn from them, and use my experiences and background to work with them to achieve positive results for our school district.

Knight: I have experience as a classroom teacher, a principal, in the special education setting, as a district textbook coordinator, as a school maintenance worker, a school bus driver, a coach and now as a parent and advocate for this district. This uncommon set of skills and experiences make me uniquely qualified to serve the students, teachers, parents and members of our community. My knowledge and experiences allow me to provide an important perspective and adds value to the talents and experiences on our board.

Maxie: I am honest, a hard worker, committed to service, a strong believer in the best education and health care for our community. As a lifelong resident of Lufkin ISD, I can relate to the minority community. I’m involved in tutoring programs, summer programs with an educational component and physical activities through JD’s Center of Hope. I bring 36 years of proven leadership and the ability to connect people to resources. It is my desire that students have greater academic achievement and higher educational opportunities

Skelton: Through my years of service, I have gained the experience and knowledge to effectively address the issues facing LISD. I have been on the teams that have hired two outstanding superintendents and spearheaded a bond election to finish our high school campus and build a new middle school. As a lawyer and business owner, I am familiar with the needs of the community and challenges we face. As the husband of an educator, I am familiar with the daily challenges our teachers and staff face.

2. What is the biggest issue facing the school and how do you propose to fix it?

Henderson: I will always say school funding is the biggest issue any public school district faces. The difficulty for the districts is that the main funding mechanisms are not within local control. We’re fortunate to have exceptional local representation at the state level looking out for us, but the Legislature meets every two years, and school funding is always my No. 1 concern. The uncertainty can make for difficult budget and long-term financial planning. The current board has worked diligently with the administrative team to make sound financial decisions with consideration of the benefit to the students and teachers and with an awareness of the burden on local taxpayers.

Knight: In my opinion the most pressing issue is our ability to continue to find ways to serve children of poverty. Currently, 84.4% of the students LISD serves are economically disadvantaged, compared to the state average of 60.3%. Losing 11 weeks of instruction last spring and the ability to facilitate interventions last summer with SSI and summer school deeply impacted this population of children. This summer LISD will continue to make strides with the interventions put forth this school year.

Maxie: The biggest issue I see facing the school board is the impact of the pandemic. The pandemic affected staff, students and families in our community through death, long-term illness and education. I support the school administration and staff to evaluate the impact of student learning. The district looks at test data to identify students who have not done well and consider the additional impact of the pandemic. Taking into consideration prior to the pandemic some students were struggling and not passing mandated tests, what will need to happen to help them? It will take communication and support of the administrative staff, teachers, parents and students to ensure that all students can have some measure of success

Skelton: Funding — we must engage our state leaders regarding funding education adequately. Recruiting and retaining teachers in rural Texas is difficult. As a board member I have been engaged in plans regarding how to more effectively recruit teachers. Poverty is an overarching issue effecting every aspect of our district. We must find every avenue to help children overcome their struggles. We must continue to teach and train empathy and understanding for all students and meet every need we can so that they may all succeed.

3. When was the last time you took a surprise visit to a school campus? Which campus and what did you find?

Henderson: My son, George, is a second-grader in the Dual Language program at Slack Elementary. Prior to COVID-19, I surprised him with pizza for his birthday, but I let his teacher and principal know I was coming. I hope to do the same for my son, Charlie, when he enters kindergarten next year.

It is against board policy to make a surprise visit, and I have respected that policy. I have visited and toured every campus within the district, but only by invitation. My objective is to play a role that supports the efforts and activities of every campus in the district.

Knight: Making a surprise visit to a campus is not only against our local board policy, but it also opposes the guidance from the Texas Association of School Boards. That does not keep me from being involved with activities and championing the great things going on at our schools. Being visible supporting our teachers and students is something I take great pride in doing.

Our parents and teachers know I am there to support their children, and know I am visible and available when they have questions or concerns. Next fall, I will have children at three different LISD campuses. My role as dad allows me to be more heavily involved in the great things going on in our campuses and support the hard work of our students.

Maxie: I had to visit the Lufkin Middle School with a concern for an issue with my daughter. Mr. Derrick James was professional and very helpful. I feel he handled the situation with great concern and the well-being of my daughter.

Skelton: Making a surprise visit to a school is against board policy — a policy that we review and vote on yearly and which I fully support. Teachers and students do not need the disruption of board members paying surprise visits.

Also, a surprise visit is nothing more than an attempted “gotcha” moment. Board members need to operate within the framework of the board meetings and policies. This is how highly effective boards work together and avoid unnecessary drama.