IN REVIEW: Remembering March 2018

As compiled by Rick Kennedy, managing editor
In a special 12-part month-by-month series, SWARK Today presents a review of the top stories and news worthy events in both Hempstead and Nevada counties over the course of the calendar year of 2018.  This installment looks at March 2018.
• One member of the Arkansas General Assembly representing Hempstead and Nevada Counties, who was up for reelection in 2018, apparently will not face any opponents and return to office for another term as the dust settled from statewide filing completed last Thursday. State Representative Danny Watson, a Republican, who represents both Hempstead and Nevada counties as part of State House District 3, did not draw an opponent for either the May 22 Primary or November 4 General Elections.
• A citizens petition seeking to change the governance structure of the City of Hope was presented Thursday to Mayor Steve Montgomery — as he was attending a Tourism Board meeting – for inclusion on the May 22 ballot, and prior to the City of Hope Board elections later this year.
• With emerging wind power options as well as solar, SWEPCO VP Brian Bond said Thursday that he was optimistic on renewable energy growth as well as existing generation resources like the Fulton Turk Plant at the south end of Hempstead County.
• Incumbent Nevada County Judge Mark Glass, a Democrat, will face local businessman Mike Otwell, a Republican, head-to-head in the Nov. 6 General Election. Neither man will see a May 22 Primary opponent.
• An area attorney was named last Thursday by Governor Asa Hutchinson to the seven-member Arkansas Public Defender Commission. The Arkansas Public Defender Commission oversees all public defender operations in the state of Arkansas, including Hempstead and Nevada counties. Blake Montgomery, of Hope, was tabbed to replace Eugene Bramblett, an attorney from Camden.
• Coming off an acclaimed 2018 Hope/Hempstead Chamber of Commerce banquet earlier this month, it signaled that the organization’s troubles and challenges of March 2017 were perhaps, finally, in the rearview mirror. One year later, March 2018, a heralded banquet video is posted on the Internet, and Thursday morning, now seasoned Chamber Director, Beckie Moore, was already looking to build on 2017’s successful revival of the Hope Watermelon Festival, working on the website for the 2018 Hope Watermelon Festival.
• As the Vietnam War raged at its peak in 1968, 50 years later a series of celebrations and parades are being organized across the nation to honor those from that often-misunderstood conflict. In downtown Hope, a Vietnam Veterans Parade is being organized for Thursday, March 29.
• As the Hope/Hempstead Chamber of Commerce banquet commenced Monday, the United Way also saluted its top annual business donors as well as its director of the past 25 years, Paula Pack.
• The only possible surprise on Monday, March 12, when the Hope/Hempstead Chamber of Commerce named both Jerry and Twyla Purden as “Citizens of the Year” was that it had not previously happened before 2018, especially given both of their already long and distinguished histories of community service in Hope and Hempstead County. Whether as a couple or individually, their resumes are impressive.
• Shortly after being named as the 2018 Hempstead County Educator of the Year at the Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce Banquet on Monday, March 12, Spring Break happened, and Thomason and his family were on the way to Florida. Such quick movement didn’t surprise local Hempstead historian Mark Keith, who said “He is always on the go; he is always doing something.”
• Over the past three years, a virtual roll-call of County music superstars and legends have paraded into Hope’s Hempstead Hall, among them Trace Adkins, Ronnie Milsap, Sara Evans, Clint Black, the Oak Ridge Boys, and Joe Diffie. Award-winning artist Travis Tritt joins that heralded list as he brings a full band with him to perform live at Hempstead Hall on Friday, April 6.
• After fulfilling one of the historic collegiate athletic careers on the diamond during a successful four-year campaign resume for Southern Arkansas University Muleriders, Prescott’s Trevor Rucker will be taking his talents to the professional level in baseball. It was announced last week that Rucker has signed with the Southern Illinois Miners of the independent Frontier League.
• As the Prescott City Council elections have unfolded, three seats have seen challengers including that of Ward 2, Position 2 incumbent Stacy Jester, who is being challenged by newcomer Carolyn Todd, a resident of Prescott, who is employed in neighboring Hempstead County at the Hempstead County Dept. of Human Services as a supervisor.
The week of March 28:
• Investigation into a weekend fire that destroyed the South Main Family Dollar retail outlet on Saturday was still continuing, a spokesman with the Hope Fire Department confirmed on Tuesday. In a brief statement late Tuesday afternoon, Kayleigh Painter, who is Dollar Tree’s manager of Media Relations, said “We are thankful that no customers or associates were injured as a result of this incident. Our first priority has been relocating our associates to work at other Family Dollar locations. We do not have a timetable for reopening at this time.”
• An estimated crowed of 200 Master Gardeners, home enthusiasts, and home owners showed up at Hempstead Hall on Monday night to hear speakers, trade tips and see exhibits at the annual Hempstead County Master Gardener’s Spring conference. The evening’s keynote speaker was Kitty Sanders, a “Master Naturalist” from Fayetteville, who spoke about butterflies and the importance of pollinating insects to the ecosystem.
• Hope Mayor Steve Montgomery read a proclamation Tuesday night setting the proposed special city election to reorganize Hope’s form of government for July 10. Although there would be no cost to the city if an election is held as part of a countywide run-off, Montgomery said “There’s no guarantee there’s going to be a run-off.” and later voiced his belief that the election should stand on its own.
• By virtue have having a half-dozen events, including its own signature main event, in the month of April, almost the entire month of April from beginning to end is shaping up to be “Relay for Life” month in Hope.
• Spring time is the season for awards in Nevada County as two presentations happen in the month of April. While the Prescott Nevada County Chamber of Commerce will have its awards during its annual banquet on April 26, 12 days before, the Ila Upchurch Corporation will host its Annual Awards and Recognition Banquet on Saturday, April 14, 2108 at 6 p.m., also at the Prescott High School Cafeteria..
• Over Spring Break, the Prescott Curley Wolves got back to action on the diamond in two fierce battles against championship caliber baseball programs of the reigning Class 2A state champion Spring Hill Bears and 2015 Class 1A state champion Ouachita Warriors in a couple of non-conference showdowns.
• Prescott Lady Wolves rounded out their weekend of tourney play on the diamond in Hope 1-2 in their return to compete in the 2018 Debra McMaster Memorial Scholarship Softball Tournament. The Lady Wolves have been one of the schools to participate in this tournament since it debut in 2011.

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