Reflecting on Sydney Southerland, from a sexual assault survivor

In the wake of this tragedy, I found myself murmuring to myself one night. “What a waste.” I was taken aback. What did I mean by that?

Last week, Sydney Sutherland, a 25 year-old woman, went jogging near her home in rural Arkansas along State Highway 18 near Newport and Grubbs.

Two days later, her body was found north of her residence.

Two days after that, August 23, 2020, Quake Lewellyn was charged with capital murder, rape, and kidnapping.

In the wake of this tragedy, I found myself murmuring to myself one night. “What a waste.”

I was taken aback. What did I mean by that?

I realized I had said the same words to myself, and maybe aloud to others, many times in the light of untimely deaths. In the light of global catastrophes. In the light of major losses.

What a waste of a life is what I think I meant.

But I hated how that sounded. I hated how it felt.

25 years lived vivaciously, beautifully, in service to others after nursing school… how is that a waste of a life? It’s certainly not. Not in any way at all. Just because a deviant perpetrator targeted Sydney Sutherland and opted to terminate her life abruptly does not in any way indicate that her life was wasted.

I vowed to stop using those words and to find new words, even if only to mutter to myself. What would those words be?

I reflected on my own incidences of sexual assault.

As a survivor of multiple incidences of sexual assault by multiple perpetrators over my lifetime (thank God none ended in death), I recall that vivid sense of purposelessness. Uselessness. Depravity. Feeling devoid of the desire to continue. Lack of hope. This often occurs in sexual assault victims after trauma; it lasts for varying lengths of time, depending on whether the victim seeks help or not.

Thankfully, I sought help, but not right away.

For years, I coped on my own terms. You can imagine how well that worked for me. Self-medication, self-help books, and talking to all the wrong people who give all the wrong advice will get you to all the wrong places. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I was scared to trust anyone at all with what hurt the most.

I finally found a cobbled path to healing through Christian counseling and a recovery program. It’s a continual journey. Post-traumatic stress disorder reminds me of getting divorced. It’s supposed to be final and over, but it’s never really over. I paid the money and moved the turd out of my house. But I’m still stuck with the residue, the financial effects of our marriage, and the reminders every time those stupid Facebook Memories pop up. “12 years ago today: ‘Can’t wait to watch Biggest Loser with X and eat banana splits at the same time!” Barfarama.

Over the past few months, I’ve found it interesting to observe this surge of interest related to #SaveTheChildren—all things related to sexual assault, child sexual abuse, and human trafficking. As a survivor who’s advocated, volunteered, and served in this realm for almost 20 years, I’m thrilled that the world suddenly cares.

I only hope it won’t stop at sharing posts and gory articles online. Let me reassure you if you’re only doing this much that there’s much more you can do to help save children’s lives, if that’s your genuine motive.

Locally, you can volunteer for the Rape Crisis Center operated under the umbrella of the Family Violence Prevention Center or for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Independence County.

If you’re interested in working to combat human trafficking, you can contact P.A.T.H. (Partners Against Trafficking Humans). In fact, you can attend their volunteer training for 20 hours to learn a wealth of information and then volunteer in numerous ways within their organization, too.

To support multiple global human trafficking organizations, select from a myriad of nonprofit organizations, some faith-based and others non-partisan, doing excellent work all over the world. You can volunteer remotely to manage social media, write articles, answer hotline calls, or perform a variety of other tasks. If you’re outspoken and comfortable with public speaking, many organizations need community representatives and educators. You can write a check if financial support is more your speed.

There are no limits to the ways these organizations need help—trust me. I personally align myself with two organizations—P.A.T.H. and The Asservo Project. I recently published a book and give $1 of each book’s proceeds to The Asservo Project. I’ll continue to look for ways—always—to support these organizations because the work they do changes lives, supports survivors, and brings perpetrators to justice.

Ultimately, we’re never doomed to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, victims, or survivors unless we choose to. There’s plenty of work to be done. We just have to choose to take action.

The work of organizations (and volunteers) ensures that beautiful souls like Sydney Sutherland’s are honored, that tragedies like Sydney Sutherland’s assault and murder are redeemed.

Bethany Wallace owns a consulting business, Bethany Wallace Communications & Consulting, and partners with mission-minded organizations to build better workplaces through soft skills solutions.

Bethany presents research at conferences and contributes to major publications and recognized podcasts, including Glassdoor, College Recruiter, Zip Recruiter, Jobscan, Flex Jobs, the New York Daily News, Business Tech, Human Resources Online, Life After Teaching, Love Your Story, 10 Minute Mindset, Everyday People, and more. In June 2020, she also recently  published a collection of original poetry, “Hindsight 2020: A New and Selected Poems by Bethany Wallace.”

Bethany earned her Master of Arts degree in English Language and Literature at Arkansas Tech University and her Bachelor of Arts degree in English at Lyon College.

Pandemic: Reporter Angelia Roberts covers local changes

The reporter in me felt some of you might like to read what local medical Dr. Adam Gray and Gary Paxson with White River Health System have to say about the current situation.

By Angelia Roberts

Contributor’s note: The reporter in me felt some of you might like to read what local medical Dr. Adam Gray and Gary Paxson with White River Health System have to say about the current situation. I came away from the meeting feeling better informed.

“We’ve got something at our doorstep that we are going to deal with one way or another.”

Dr. Adam Gray

When Dr. Adam Gray, who serves as the Izard County Health Officer, and Gary Paxson, CEO of White River Health System, spoke to a small group of medical personnel, first responders, business owners, law enforcement and others Monday night at Ozarka College in Melbourne, seating was limited and everyone was screened before being admitted.

Paxson gave an overview of the Corona Virus saying there is a lot of noise on social media.

“The goal is to give you some facts, some reality of what is going on.”

“People are saying we are overreacting and it’s not real. I’m here to tell you it is real. It is a very real, very contagious virus.”

He explained it usually obtained through person to person contact which is why social distancing is so important.

Studies show the people most affected are over 65 years of age, but that doesn’t mean a 20-year-old can’t contact it.

“The CDC (Center for Disease Control) is telling us it is very likely it will hit all our communities.”

Paxson talked about safety measures the Batesville facility have already put into place as a precautionary measure.

He said 20 percent have the potential to be hospitalized, five percent could become critically ill, the importance of having the required staff and supplies are dwindling and very much needed.


In order to flatten the curve, a term that is being used to slow down the infection time-frame, schools are being closed, businesses are changing guidelines and social distancing is being urged. People are being told they should avoid large gatherings and with the latest number being no more than 10.

Paxson said the virus is extremely contagious and there is a limit to what the health industry can handle.

By shutting things down and asking people to self quarantine it can help spread that out over a greater amount of time.

“It is recoverable, but there is no vaccine for it. We are prepared and we have been talking about this like Dr. Gray said, for weeks. We have a plan that is set in place. We started screening before there was ever a case in the state of Arkansas.”

Paxson said he could not express enough the need for people to get correct information from reputable sources, such as the CDC, Arkansas Department of Health, the Surgeon General and others.

“We will probably have a patient at some point and at that point we will lock that unit down. We will most likely go to no visitors in our hospital. Our nursing homes are already there.”

—Gary Paxson

He also addressed people who are hoarding supplies saying, “It’s a terrible idea for our society.”

“We’ve had people who are business owners call and ask if one of their employees has been tested. If someone is tested and that test comes back positive we are mandated to report that to the Department of Health. He said that agency will do extensive questioning of who that person has come in contact with and track those people down to let them know they have been at risk.”

Those results are not immediate and can take as long as four days to get results.


In the meantime, people are being told to continually wash their hands and avoid as much contact with others, as possible.

Paxson said people should sing the Happy Birthday song twice while washing their hands and those who use hand sanitizer should make sure their hands are dry, because it doesn’t work if they are still wet.

He also addressed people who are wearing masks in public saying it’s a horrible idea and is not the required mask to give them protection from the virus, plus it’s causing a shortage in hospitals, nursing homes and first responders who need them.

“If you do contract this virus, research is showing the wearing of that (particular) mask is ineffective.”

While there is a growing concern of people wondering if they might have symptoms, Paxson said they need to understand they cannot randomly just test people at this time. “If you don’t have the symptoms, it’s not appropriate to do so. We have to preserve the resources we have.”

He said physicians are going to screen and rule out other sources before the OK is given to test for this particular virus.

“We feel like we are prepared. We’re treating this as if it is going to come. And, when it comes our staff is prepared and ready.”

—Paxson

“We are evidence based, and numbers driven,” Gray said.

The average person will give the flu to one and a half to 5 people.

The problem with this virus is that it affects an even high number with studies showing how one person can give it to anywhere from 6 to 8 people in about 6 days.

Gray talked about the math curve and how it doubles over a certain period of time.

Doubling time, in this instance, has been measured at about 6 days.

“Sixty days into this, at the rate it is going and with the known cases we have right now, we could potentially have 150,000 to 200,000 cases in the state of Arkansas within about a 30 day period.”

He gave an example of having 100,000 cases in 60 days and if 15 percent needed to be hospitalized they would need 15,000 beds. Arkansas has approximately 8,000 beds at this time.

“We can’t let it get there. We are not trying to scare anyone, we are just trying to stay ahead of it,” Gray said.

Looking at the statistics from China and Italy, Gray said we have an opportunity to learn from them.

He said China handled it very poorly and took a communist approach by quarantining 60 million people with guns pointed at them, “Which you can’t do here.”

Gray pointed out that Italy didn’t get behind the curve fast enough which caused it to spin out of control.

“Their health system got inundated and they are having to make choices that no doctor or family wants to ever have to make.”

Dr. Gray

“We are not freaking out. We know that probably 60 to 70 percent in the next four months is going to contract this and I would rather spread that out over 12 months instead of the next 60 days. This is a preparatory response, not a reactionary one,” Gray said.

Living in Arkansas does have its rewards, Gray said.

“I think Izard County Arkansas is the one place I want to be if something like this happens, because we are at the end of the world. They (Italy and China) are telling us, ‘Get people away from each other. Slow it down.'”

“Most of the people in this county, think alike really. We look alike. We think alike. We pray alike. Half think the government is out to get us and have been prepping for a long time. We have canned goods in our basements. We are prepared for this. We are gong to be fine.”

In closing Gray reminded everyone that we are all in this together.

“We have to lock arms and come together as a community and find out how to mitigate this. If we do the right thing – bend, don’t break – we will come out on the other side.”


Angelia Roberts served the Independence, Sharp, and Izard County areas as a seasoned reporter and the managing editor of the Batesville Daily Guard for decades. She is one of the most well-known, experienced, and APA-awarded news journalists in the state. She currently publishes Next Door magazine.

State Sen. Joyce Elliott coming to Batesville

Lyon College and the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville (UACCB) are partnering again to this year to provide the community with a celebration of the legacy and contributions of African Americans.

The Fourth Annual Black History Month Celebration will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, at UACCB.

State Sen. Joyce Elliott will be the keynote speaker.

Dean of Campus Life and Diversity Lai-Monté Hunter said the event brings Batesville together for a community-wide celebration of African American traditions and culture. It will feature music and ministry.

“The church is very prominent in African American culture, so we’re bringing those elements together,” Hunter noted.

Musical groups from various churches in the Batesville area will perform, as well as the Lyon College Gospel Choir.

The event will be student-focused, with participation from Lyon’s Black Student Association and UACCB’s Multicultural Student Association.

The event is free and open to the public.

Is the Ozark Folk Center in danger of closing?

For supporters of the Ozark Folk Center, now is the time to rally. Changes are coming.

In July, the Mountain View City Council voted to abolish the Ozark Folk Cultural Center Commission, surprising both the commissioners and the Arkansas State Parks Department.

The city council said the commission was not in compliance with one of its bylaws, which states two of the commissioners must live in the county.

Brooks Blevins, PhD, has researched and extensively documented the history of the folk center. He was on the commission.

“The abolition of the commission was completely out of the blue, from my perspective. And no one on the commission, as far as I know, has ever received a full explanation,” said Blevins. “I don’t know how the center has been affected by the change. Now that the commission has been abolished, I have no connection with the Center and have received no communication from anyone at the Center or at State Parks.”

Before it was abolished, the commission acted as a legal representative between the city and State Parks, approving the yearly budget and overseeing improvement projects at the park for 55 years.

The move was not the first of problems at the Folk Center though.

The park is not a money maker and administrators admit marketing attempts have failed to fill seats at concerts.

The mayor of Mountain View, Roger Gardner, wants to see the land used for a theme park.

According to an article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Folk Center loses $2 million per year.

Explanations from responsible parties include:

The average concert hosted there costs more than it brings in, with attendees only taking up slightly more than 10 percent of the seats.

The county is dry and city council won’t approve an alcohol permit which would help draw attendees.

History on the center

The 600-acre cultural center opened in 1973 in Mountain View.

According to “A Brief History of The Ozark Folk Center”, published by the Regional Studies Center at Lyon College, the idea originated from John Opitz, who approached Mountain View leaders with a plan.

Mountain View needed a water and sewer system, and Opitz thought the town needed a music venue. He recommended the city apply for federal funds to build the auditorium, which would include funding for a water and sewer system for the venue. The town could then connect to the federally funded system.

After many years of efforts by Bessie Moore, Jimmy Driftwood, and others, the city was able to obtain a $3 million federal grant to build the center.

The park has continued to receive government money to offset expenses ($15.2 million from the state since 1996, which is equivalent to about 5 years of its total yearly budget of $3.2 million).

Sources:

http://web.lyon.edu/groups/mslibrary/rcol/folkcenter.htm

http://web.lyon.edu/groups/mslibrary/rcol/oralhistory.htm

Additional (Requires a subscription):

https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/jul/31/folk-center-hometown-cuts-liaison-with-/

https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2020/jan/18/agency-shortfall-at-park-is-2m-20200118/

County says lawsuit against Batesville is easiest way to solve ongoing issues

The issue of who should fund district court is one that the City of Batesville and Independence County have been at odds over for years, with the county currently carrying the whole cost.

Judge Robert Griffin and the Independence County Quorum Court declared that the county’s lawsuit against the City of Batesville–filed on Friday, Jan. 10–is the “easiest way” to solve the disagreement over district court and jail fees.

County Attorney Daniel Haney explained there is “no money” involved in the suit. Rather, it is a declaratory judgment asking the court’s clarification on the state statute regarding the financial burden of local district courts which serve both the city and the county.

The suit’s outcome will allow the county to proceed in determining Batesville’s specific financial obligation to the district court and the jail.

The issue of who should fund district court is one that the City of Batesville and Independence County have been at odds over for years, with the county currently carrying the whole cost.

“District court and the jail have come up in the same conversation over and over again, and in order to figure out one, we have to figure out the other,” said Haney.

He said there is not a court opinion on a district court “solely run” by the county, so the County needs interpretation. 

“Our position is that the district court is not [run solely by the county],” he added.

Griffin provided this statement regarding the suit earlier in the week:

“The suit asking for declaratory judgement in the Circuit Court, is an action to settle what the law says our District Court is, County only or a State Pilot District Court….How could 23 people [Batesville City Council and Quorum Court] decide what the law says when our two attorneys couldn’t come to an agreement?

“This same pathway to settle long standing issues will allow our two governing bodies to move forward in our new partnership with the City of Southside…we will have no reason to speak badly of one another…”

Upon Griffin’s request, the Court approved a motion authorizing county attorney Haney to file suit against the City of Batesville for additional matters that are currently in question as well — shooting sports and recycling.

Griffin explained that the County’s and City’s prior agreements regarding the city’s financial support of shooting sports and recycling were “not being followed.”

Justice of the Peace Jonathan Abbott said the motion was “jumping the gun” and that Batesville was upholding parts of these agreements. He voted against the motion.

Haney stated he would not file suits frivolously and would require approval of the Court.

Additional items at the January quorum court meeting:

1. The Court approved the district court’s and juvenile court’s plans for a 5 percent raise in 2020. The district court will increase ticket amounts, and the juvenile court will cut part-time hours and travel.

2. The Court motioned for County Sheriff Shawn Stephens to move forward with his application for a cop’s grant that would help the Sheriff’s Office replace two officer positions, contingent upon County Treasurer Bob Treadway finding funds to support the rest of the salaries not covered by the grant.

3. Treadway reported that all County funds finished the year in the black except for the Emergency 9-1-1 Fund. However, 9-1-1 surcharge fees of approximately $60,000 brought the fund into the black in January.

4. The Court reappointed David Thompson to the Independence County Library Board. It also appointed Kevin Rose and Brad Cheatham to the shooting range board.

5. The Court nominated and approved Abbott to serve as the Court’s delegate for the Quorum Court Association Meeting in April.

Local headlines

“It takes a small town to keep you humble.” – Bess Aldrich

Apr 24, 2020: Education: Jimmy Hodges named new principal at Southside Charter High School to replace Roger Ried, who is retiring after 29 years.

WEEKLY ROUNDUP APRIL 18, 2020

Apr 18, 2020: Healthcare: There are currently 2.1 million positive Coronavirus cases reported worldwide, and there have been 145,329 deaths reported. A total of 18 million have been tested, according to nCoV2019. In the US, there are 675,640 confirmed cases reported, and 34,522 deaths, 16,106 of which happened in New York (and 226,198 positive cases). Arkansas has reported 1,620 cases, and 37 deaths.

Apr 18, 2020: Healthcare: A beef processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota is the biggest single source hotspot in the United States. Out of 3,700 total employees, 644 tested positive for Coronavirus and one has died so far (as of two days ago). The company started using protection measures “social distancing, extra cleaning, and thermal scanning” on April 9, when they had 80 active cases. To read more, click here.

Apr 17, 2020: Business: Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced his plan to begin reopening businesses on May 4.

Apr 13, 2020: Healthcare: Independence County has one more positive case of Coronavirus, reported today.

WEEKLY ROUNDUP APRIL 11, 2020

Apr 11, 2020: Healthcare: According to the Arkansas Department of Health COVID-19 map, there are five total cases, and four recoveries as of today in Independence County.

In Arkansas, there are 1,228 confirmed cases, 25 deaths and 346 recoveries.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, commended Arkansas on the handling of COVID-19. Governor Asa Hutchinson has continued to thank and applaud Arkansans for adhering to social distancing guidelines (staying 6 feet away in public areas, and not gathering in groups of more than 10 people). He says the guidelines are working, and a stay-at-home order, which has been implemented in most states, is not necessary in Arkansas.

The experts are currently projecting 297 deaths in Arkansas by Aug 4 due to COVID-19, which is much lower than the previous 707 projection made in March.

Apr 11, 2020: Healthcare: The Coronavirus pandemic has now claimed more than 100,000 lives, and more than 20,000 American lives, nearly half in New York State at around 8,600.

The federal government passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package on March 25 to help families and small businesses.

Some celebrity lives claimed by the virus include country singer Joe Diffie, 61, known for his song “Pickup Man” and “Bigger Than The Beatles”, Adam Schlesinger, 52, who wrote “That Thing You Do!”, Alan Merrill, 69, who co-wrote “I Love Rock and Roll”, and Bill Withers, 81, who wrote “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean on Me.”

Apr 6, 2020: Education: Governor Asa Hutchinson announced all public schools in Arkansas will remain closed and all learning will be done remotely for the remainder of the school year.

WEEKLY ROUNDUP APRIL 4, 2020

Mar 31, 2020: Healthcare: The Coronavirus pandemic continues its course of destruction. As of now (Tuesday at 11:26 a.m.), the reported data on the John Hopkins data tracking map shows 3,178 deaths in the United States attributed to the virus, and 914 of them are in New York City. Total confirmed cases in the US is 165,874, which is the highest level of any country in the world. Italy is reporting 101,739 cases, and 11,591 deaths. Spain has 94,417 cases 8,269 deaths, and China reports 82,278 and 3,309 deaths. Arkansas has reported 523 cases and 8 deaths. Independence County has reported 3 confirmed cases and one death.

WEEKLY ROUNDUP MARCH 28, 2020

Mar 26, 2020: Healthcare: The United States has surprised all other countries in number of reported confirmed Coronavirus cases, more than 82,000 as of Thursday evening. The cases rose by 14,000 on Wednesday, according to the New York Times.

Mar 24, 2020: Healthcare: Six new medical doctors are coming to Batesville in June. University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences North Central Regional Campus in Batesville announces the names of its newest class of Family Medicine residents: Dr. Tim Baty, Dr. Anita Kisiedu, Dr. Jon Mark Lane, Dr. Christopher Mayfield, Dr. Jonathan Pennington, and Dr. EJ Williams.

WEEKLY ROUNDUP | MARCH 21, 2020

Mar 20, 2020 | Education: The special election for an increased millage for the Batesville School District has been postponed from its original date of April 14 to an undetermined future date, due to COVID-19.

Mar 21, 2020 | Healthcare: The Coronavirus – cannot stop talking about this. At this point in Arkansas, there are no deaths, and 118 confirmed cases (two of those are in Independence County). The governor has closed schools, gyms, and dine-in areas of restaurants. The state parks department has closed playgrounds, although campgrounds and cabins remain open. Fishing license requirements in the state have been waived by Arkansas Game & Fish while schools are closed. Wal-Mart, usually open 24 hours every day, is closing at night for extra cleaning. The ACT, a national college entrance exam for high-schoolers, has moved its April test date to June.

Worldwide, as of 3-21-20 at 2:56 p.m., there are 303,505 confirmed cases worldwide, 13,024 deceased, and 93,615 recovered from COVID-19. In the United States, there are 23,126 confirmed cases, 272 deaths, and 26 recovered. We are in fourth place in number of confirmed cases. The places with more cases are China, where it started, Italy, and Spain. The total countries affected are 172 out of 195.

The governor said experts are predicting that at peak, there will be 1000 Arkansans hospitalized for the virus. (Which means the state’s hospitals will need that many ventilators at one time.)

WEEKLY ROUNDUP | MARCH 13, 2020

Mar 13, 2020 | Healthcare: The Coronavirus made itself known in Arkansas yesterday, Mar 12, in Pine Bluff. By the next day, there were a total of nine patients in Arkansas who tested positive. Some colleges moved all classes online. Lyon College canceled its Scottish Festival scheduled for April. Little Rock closed its schools. Churches canceled services. City offices closed. The Arkansas Activities Association suspended all spring sports and activities starting Mar 15 until Mar 30. Even the National Collegiate Athletic Association canceled March Madness. Also affected by the virus: the stock market.

Mar 10, 2020 | Education: Lyon College promoted Chris Hill and alum Madeline Pyle this week – Pyle to Director of Communications and Hill to Director of Creative Services. To read more, click here.

WEEKLY ROUNDUP | MARCH 7, 2020

Mar 2, 2020 | Business: The owner of the local U.S. Pizza closed his Jonesboro location, but says the Batesville location is secure, according to a regional news source.

Mar 4, 2020 | Business: Bad Boy Mowers will start selling tractors in 2021. To read more, click here. Private equity firm The Sterling Group invested in Bad Boy Mowers in December with plans to help the business grow. To read about other companies The Sterling Group has invested in, click here.

Mar 5, 2020 | Tourism: Danny Dozier hands over the management of Maxfield Park to the City of Batesville. To read more, click here <–requires a subscription.

Mar 6, 2020 | Statewide news with local relevance: The COO of ARcare Joey Miller is the president a newly formed Rural Health Association of Arkansas, announced at the Rural Health Summit in Morrilton. To read more about Miller, check out this interview from one year ago. ARcare has three medical clinics in Independence County.

Mar 4, 2020 | Statewide news with local relevance: Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Allen Kerr announced he is resigning Mar 27. To read more, click here.

WEEKLY ROUNDUP | MARCH 1, 2020

Feb 26, 2020 | Business: Someone stole a commissioned owl worth $2,000. Hand carved out of walnut, the owl was returned to the Batesville craftsman this week, per a regional news source.

Feb 28, 2020 | Education: After two seasons as head football coach at Lyon College, Casey Creehan is leaving for Peru State College in Nebraska, which is in the Heart of America Athletic Conference (Lyon College in the Sooner Athletic Conference), per a local news source.

Feb 29, 2020 | Youth: Batesville High School Boys Swim Team won state. You can see their banners displayed at the Community Center.

Feb 28, 2020 | Statewide news with local relevance: UAMS is now offering laughing gas for free to laboring women to reduce anxiety about giving birth, per a regional news source.

March 1, 2020 | Nationwide news with local relevance: A new virus is disrupting the stock market right now, and is widespread news. There are currently no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Arkansas.

WEEKLY ROUNDUP | FEBRUARY 23, 2020

Youth: Southside High School Boys Bowling Team won the 3A-4A State Championship, led by Caleb Patterson bowling a 222.

Youth: Batesville High School Girls Basketball Team won the 4A-3 Conference Championship Friday night, Feb 21, defeating Southside.

Education: Social media in Batesville is blowing up with millage talk this past week. Batesville School District is holding a series of public meetings and tours at its facilities to demonstrate why it is asking for a millage increase in a special election on Apr 14. The deadline to register to vote in this election is Mar 16.

Business: A Bentonville man joined Citizens Bank Board of Directors. Mark S. Forbis is a recent retiree from Jack Henry & Associates, where he was Chief Technology Officer. Forbis is also on the board at IncredibleBank in Wisconsin and 3E Software, Inc. in Springdale, according to his public social media profile.

Statewide news with local relevance: A former state representative is trying to find 71,321 registered voters collectively from at least 15 counties in Arkansas to sign a petition to get used cars exempt from sales tax. Currently, buyers have to pay sales tax on any used car costing more than $4,000. The proposal would move it to any used car costing more than $20,000. Read this story in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette (requires subscription).

WEEKLY ROUNDUP | FEBRUARY 15, 2020

Healthcare: White River Health System is being sued for alleged age discrimination, according to a news source. Meanwhile, they have been recognized as an “Age-Friendly Health System” participant, according to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. This status is valid for one year. To see the other 270 health systems that have been recognized as participants as of Jan 2020, click here. A quick review of the list revealed WRHS is the only hospital in Arkansas to participate in this program.

Business: Gary Huskey and William Ball (Stellar Sun in Little Rock) say they want to install community solar energy centers in Strawberry, Ark., and Evening Shade, Ark., to provide power to 11 counties, including Independence County, according to a news source. The centers will be paid for by customers, who will lease the land, according to Ball. Customers affected are those of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative and Craighead Electric Cooperative. They are planning a public meeting to discuss the project and answer questions.

Business: A new bank opened in town. The Bank of England Mortgage opened a branch at 1501 Harrison Street in Batesville. The Bank of England was started in 1898 in England, Ark., and according to its website, it is “Arkansas’s oldest and largest lender,” with more than 1000 employees and 99 locations in 39 states.

Business: A local lawyer is now also selling real estate. Johnathan Burgess joined Crye-Leike as a sales associate, according to a local news source. According to Crye-Leike’s website, they have 11 total agents in the Batesville area.

Education: FNBC Community Bankers paid $100,000 for naming rights for the Ozarka College Technical Center in Ash Flat, Ark. To read more, click here. I wonder how this will translate to naming rights for Batesville’s proposed new facilities...

Noted: The County terminated its recycling agreement with the City of Batesville. To read more click here and here. I wonder how many people in town are still recycling, and who is buying the recycled goods...

Youth: The Southside High School Bowling Team, led by Caleb Patterson who bowled a 222, won the state tournament for 3A-4A. To read more, click here.

Lifestyle: Want to know what a local priest has to say about Valentine’s Day? Click here.

Statewide news with local relevance: The closest water park to Batesville is going up for auction on April 14 (same day as the special election for the Batesville School District millage), according to a news source. Starting bid for Wild River Country is the unpaid taxes owed ($282,000). The property is 62 acres in North Little Rock. Another Arkansas theme park is up for auction soon. The 400-acre Dogpatch theme park in Jasper, which last sold in 2014 for $2 million, will be auctioned on March 3 because the current owners owe more than $1 million and are behind on payments. The bidding for this property will start at $1 million, according to an article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette published on Jan 24.

Tourism: In case you missed it –> Currently, state parks do not allow use of all-terrain vehicles on state forest roads. This limits Arkansas’s all-terrain vehicle tourism potential. And affects Batesville, because if that industry grows, so will one of our home grown companies, Intimidator. In 2019, the state legislature passed ACT 671 for there to be a study conducted called the ATV Tourism and Trail Expansion Study, and from the study should come recommendations for a “statewide all-terrain vehicle trails system,” with intentions of using state forest roads as connectors. To read more about ACT 671, click here. To read more about ATV tourism, click here. To see a list of ATV tourism destinations in Arkansas, click here.

Nationwide news with local relevance: The Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl Sunday night, Feb 2, 2020. They defeated the San Francisco 49ers, who hired the first female to coach a team in the Super Bowl. Katie Sowers is an offensive assistant for the 49ers.

WEEKLY ROUNDUP | FEBRUARY 2, 2020

Statewide news with local relevance: Applications opened yesterday, Feb 1, 2020, for HealthTech Arkansas, which is an accelerator program for five new healthcare companies each year. Startups get $75,000 upfront and pilot projects with at least two Arkansas healthcare providers. There are currently ten providers associated with the program: Arkansas Heart Hospital, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Arkansas Urology, Baptist Health, CHI St. Vincent, Conway Regional, Mercy, St. Bernards Healthcare, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), and Washington Regional Medical Center. The director of HealthTech Arkansas is Jeff Stinson, MBA. He is also involved in the Fund for Arkansas’ Future. To read more about the program, click here.

Noted: There were 85 human trafficking cases in Arkansas reported to the national human trafficking hotline in 2018, a big jump from 46 in 2017. There were 41 cases reported to the hotline in the first half of 2019. To read more, click here.

Important: In case you missed it, in order to enter a federal building or board a commercial airplane after Oct 1, 2020, you are required to have a “Real ID.” The large amount of paperwork could be harder to compile than you think because of name discrepancies on documents. Therefore, starting the process now is recommended.

Local headlines: A tea shop opened Wednesday, Jan 29, located across from the Citizen’s Bank headquarters on St. Louis Street. The Tea Crate is owned by Nathan and Shaelyn Ellyson, and the structure that houses it is built out of stacked shipping containers. The shop opened with already 2,348 Facebook likes. To see a menu, click here (requires a Facebook account).

Business: Citizen’s Bank promoted Helen Shaw to Vice President – Corporate Security Officer and Facilities Manager. To read more, click here.

Business: Brian Emison is the new Chief Deposit Officer at First Community Bank in Batesville. To read more, click here.

Lifestyle: Great article about a local writer in the Batesville Daily Guard this week – Madeline Pyle. With a Master of Arts degree in Applied Communication from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, she is currently the Associate Director of Communications for Lyon College, and freelances for the Batesville Daily Guard and White River Now.

WEEKLY ROUNDUP | JANUARY 26, 2020

Healthcare: One of the local Internal Medicine residents, Ron Varghese, MD, was accepted into an endocrinology fellowship program in Maryland. To read more, click here.

Education: The Batesville School Board voted this week to put a millage increase before voters on April 14. The board is requesting voters to approve a $49 million, 8.4 millage increase, which would put the total school millage at 47.15. To read more about the plan, click here.

Nationwide news with local relevance: Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash today (1-26-2020). Bryant was a legend in the basketball world. His last tweet was congratulating LaBron James for surpassing his third place spot in the National Basketball Association’s All-Time Scoring List. Bryant scored 33,643 points in the NBA, and currently is the second-highest paid NBA player in history at $323.3 million.

WEEKLY ROUNDUP | JANUARY 20, 2020

Tourism: It took many years for the Ozark Folk Center State Park to be built. It now struggles to fill seats at concerts. According to an article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, it loses $2 million per year. To read more about this issue, click here.

Media: White River Now has an app. This is good news because…now there are fewer barriers for me to access local stories. Fewer clicks and fewer distractions. And aligns with my habits already built into my daily routine of clicking on apps on my phone.

Lifestyle: Local yogi Roman Plaks is offering locals the chance to become Registered Yoga Teachers (RYT®s). To achieve certification, enrollees are required to attend the course one weekend per month for eight months at his studio, Yoga7, located beside BodyFit. The certification, offered by the Yoga Alliance, is widely recognized, and requires no prior yoga experience to enroll. According to Plaks, many who register do not intend to use the certification to become yoga instructors. To see what they plan to use it for, click here.

Tourism: The lights display brought in $64,893 from the riverfront activities, which included $29,158 in donations. A year prior, White River Wonderland brought in $55,346, which included $25,410 in donations, according to city council minutes. (They estimated 174,000 visitors in 2018.)

Tourism: The municipal golf course’s new green fees are now in effect. The increased rates were compiled by the newly formed Batesville Municipal Golf Association. The creation of the association is an attempt to save the golf course from being repurposed by the city. The motivation to repurpose was due to the course being $100,000 shy of meeting its 2018 budget. The new single rate is $540 annually, and $600 for a family. To see a list of all the new rates, click here.

Noted: The county (Independence) filed a lawsuit against the city (Batesville) on January 10. Lawyers on the case are Daniel Haney for the County and Tim Meitzen for the City. To read more, click here.

Statewide news with local relevance: Arkansas is one of four states to partner with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Because of this, 39,000 books are delivered EVERY MONTH to Arkansas children (1.4 million nationwide) who are enrolled in the program. The program is free for the family receiving the books, they just have to sign up. Which more and more families are doing, 87 percent more in the past two year. Independence County children ages 5 and under are eligible. To sign up, click here.

Noted: Primaries in Arkansas will take place on Tuesday, March 3.

Noted: A summary of Arkansas laws changed in 2019: Due to Act 182, more than half a million taxpayers in Arkansas will have reduced income tax. Act 822 will lower tax rates for businesses, and will allow them to carry net operating losses eventually up to 10 years. Act 190 restructured the state government, reducing the number of cabinet-level agencies from 42 to 15. To read more, click here.

Education: Last year, only 30 percent of low income students in Arkansas scored at grade level on the ACT Aspire Test (57.2 percent of non-low income scored at grade level). That is a big difference. To read more, click here.

WEEKLY ROUNDUP | JANUARY 13, 2020

Education: Southside Junior High School received a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, who awarded Arkansas Public School Resource Center $42.53 Million to fund charter school programs. Their high school received its conversion charter status five years ago, which means it is up for renewal this year, 2020.

Education: Cedar Ridge School District now has an app, free and available to the public. And a new website.

Lifestyle: A new summer festival is coming to Batesville in July of 2020. To read more, click here.

Business: Arkansas-based Walmart opened a beef packaging facility in Georgia, in order to have more control over its products. To read the press release, click here. Walmart previously opened a milk processing plant in Indiana in 2016. In other news from Walmart, they recently started using a robot named Alphabot in New Hampshire to bring items from storage to associates to expedite online grocery pickup orders. To read more, click here and here.

Youth: The Independence County Spelling Bee was won by Alexander Tenace, an 8th grader at Batesville Junior High School. Second place was Brayden Vines, a 5th grader at Southside Middle School.

Youth: Sophia Strain at 14 is the youngest person to ever bowl a perfect 300 in Batesville. To read more about this, click here.


For 2019 YEAR IN REVIEW, click here.


DECEMBER 13, 2019

Tourism:

The City of Batesville has branded itself “Christmas Capital of Arkansas” due in large part to having the largest free Christmas lights display in Arkansas (more than 1.5 million lights attracting more than 100,000 tourists each year).

Business:

Walmart plans to use more than 1.1 million cubic feet of mass timber, grown and produced in Arkansas, to build its new home office campus in Bentonville. Arkansas currently has no production facility able to manufacture such a large project; therefore, Walmart has invested money to bring Canadian-based Structurlam to the center of the state and its 19 million acres of forest. This move will create 130 new jobs in Conway according to this press release. And the growth continues for Conway.

Noted:

Energy bills will increase by an average of $15/month starting next month for residential customers of Entergy Arkansas due to a tax credit expiration.

A bridge over the White River connecting Stone & Izard counties was named in memory of Sgt. Mike Stephen, who worked for the Stone County Sheriff’s Department and lost his life in the line of duty this past summer (2019). To read more, click here. History in the making.

The Pew Research Center released some findings for 2019, the most notable being that for the first time in history, the Hispanic population in the United States is projected to be the largest minority group to vote in 2020. Interesting. Did you know Batesville School District at 16 percent has one of the highest percentages of English Learners of all school districts in the state (top 7 percent).

Sports:

The Arkansas Razorbacks hired a new head coach, Sam Pittman from Georgia. The former Razorback coach, Chad Morris, was hired by Gus Malzahn to be his offensive coordinator for Auburn.

DECEMBER 7, 2019

Lifestyle:

A new organization has emerged in Batesville to provide support for new foster parents and children to help with the transition. To watch a three-minute video explaining their mission, click here. To follow them on social media, click here. The organizers of the group are: Amber Ellis, Meeta Foster, Brooke Cherry, and Taylor Cox. What an excellent and practical way to help area foster moms. Keep up the good work!

A local football coach published a book, available for purchase on Amazon. It currently has 3 reviews. To hear his interview on White River Now, click here.

A deer in Oil Trough tested positive for chronic wasting disease this week, according to the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. To read more about chronic wasting disease in Arkansas, click here. As of now, chronic wasting disease has not spread to humans; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains the World Health Organization’s recommendation: “it is important to keep the agents of all known prion diseases from entering the human food chain.”

Education:

The Internal Medicine Residency Program at White River Medical Center was 1 of 20 throughout the nation to receive a grant from the Society of General Internal Medicine (and American College of Physicians). The money will be used to fund a Proud To Be GIM event, for the promotion of the Internal Medicine profession. One of the other programs to receive the grant was the Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care / The Massachusetts Chapter of the ACP. To see a list of all grantees, click here.

Youth:

Myers Davis Life Coaching & Business Consulting recently hosted Cookbook Wars between the students in the school districts where their transition class is offered. The class trains students who qualify, and helps them locate work-study jobs that are a good fit. It is offered currently in 11 area schools.

Noted:

General Election Day has been set: Nov 3, 2020. Mark your calendars.


NOVEMBER 30, 2019

Business:

Urban Forge in Mountain View designed and created 300 twenty-foot-tall metal holiday trees and stars for a holiday festival in Houston, Tex., attended by more than 100,000 people. The trees have integrated choreographed lighting and an app that can stream music. To see the trees in action, click here. Congratulations to this local company for its innovation, creativity, and successful execution.

First Community Bank announced this week its plans to build a three-story operations center next to its main branch at the corner of St. Louis and Harrison streets in Batesville. It is projected to be completed by the end of 2020 and will house 125 employees.

Education:

Lyon College inducted four people into its Athletic Hall of Fame last Saturday. Aubrey Bell, ’72; John Harvey, ’01; Steven Wright, ’07; and Maribeth (Waters) Richards, ’09 made up the 2019 class of inductees. Read about it here.

Among all the community colleges in Arkansas, University of Arkansas Community College in Batesville (UACCB) saw the highest enrollment increase, at 12 percent, since 2014, according to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. Other community colleges in the state decreased an average 14 percent since 2014 . To read why, click here.

In other news, the college is building a new 15,000-sq ft facility, to be completed by the end of the year, that will house an industrial technology program and a MAKERSPACE with 3D printers and a variety of metal and woodworking tools from hand tools to CNC mills and lathes. Congratulations, UACCB!


NOVEMBER 23, 2019

Business:

First Community Bank expanded to Conway, Ark., and Harrison, Ark., this month (and Newport last month). Where will they go next? Russellville?

Noted:

The Independence County Budget Committee budgeted a five percent raise for all county employees for 2020. The raise was to prepare for the rising minimum wage to $10/hour in 2020 and $11/hour in 2021.

Youth:

Batesville High School senior, Veronica Laslo, who was announced as a National Merit Semi-finalist in September, was named a Coca-Cola Scholar Semi-finalist this week. She is one of 22 semi-finalists from Arkansas, and one of 1,928 high school seniors nationwide who were selected from more than 93,000 applicants. The Coca-Cola Scholars Program is an achievement-based $20,000 scholarship awarded to 150 students each year. In 2019, four of the scholarship recipients were from Arkansas. To see a list of all 2020 semi-finalists, click here.


NOVEMBER 16, 2019

Tourism:

Local businessmen bought Ramsey Mountain for $125,000 this week, and are working with local authorities to make sure the land is preserved in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Cave City Mayor Jonas Anderson dedicated a new monument in Veteran’s Park yesterday, Nov 15. He thanked Council member Ed Turnbough for the idea, and showed appreciation for the mayors, county judges, state representatives, and senators in attendance. According to Anderson’s social media post, “There are now almost 300 names etched into those granite slabs. Five of them belong to my own family; grandparents, uncles, a step-dad.” Pay attention to this young mayor. He continues to impress.

Youth:

Thirteen local choir students were accepted into the SWACDA regional honor choir. Congratulations to Sarah Barber, Stephanie Barber, Alexis Bulger, Sophia Cole, Eli Dockins, Nate McDonald , Brandon Grant , Julia Gross, Larkin Jones, Josh Narramore, Caroline Russell , Emma Russell, Claire Simmons, and Cole Weaver.

Batesville and Southside high school football teams both lost Friday night.


NOVEMBER 9, 2019

Business:

Intimidator announced its 2020 Spartan Mower. To see owner Robert Foster discuss his newest mower, with a 7-gauge deck system, click here.

White River Medical Center (WRMC) was given a safety grade of C from The Leapfrog Group on Thursday, Nov 7, on a grading scale of A to F. Leapfrog also gave a C to other nearby hospitals, the two owned by Unity Health, one in Searcy and the other in Newport. St. Bernards Medical Center in Jonesboro earned an A. To read more about this safety grading system, click here. (Leapfrog performs twice-yearly assessments, and has given WRMC a C grade 5 out of the last 7 times. The other 2 times, in the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018, the hospital earned a B.)

The Stage store in the Eagle Mountain Shopping Center is closing, and being replaced by a Gordmans.

Education:

Batesville School District proposed a millage to build an auditorium and a new basketball gym, as well as update some existing facilities. Three plans were proposed, and the district wants feedback. Also this week, the state gave Sulphur Rock Elementary $14,200, which is $50 per student, for being a top 6-10 percent performer. Closest school to also earn was Concord, who received $20,100 for being in the top 5 percentage for showing growth on test scores.

Lifestyle:

Many people in Batesville woke up alone this morning, because their spouses and maybe children were in the woods hunting deer. Today marks the first day of this year’s modern gun season.

The Independence County Parks and Recreation Committee voted this week to bid on Ramsey Mountain this coming Tuesday, Nov 12.

Local mother of six, Rachel Kelly, published a book, and held a signing at Lyon College this week. To buy her book, visit her blog.

Noted:

Local politician Stu Smith filed this week to run for the State House of Representatives in 2020. To see who else filed, click here.

UPDATE ON NOV 10: Arkansas fired their head football coach, Chad Morris for obvious reasons.

Youth:

Batesville High School & Southside High School football teams both lost last night.


NOVEMBER 2, 2019

Tourism:

Discover Arkansas of THV11 featured Batesville’s own Maxfield Park in a video this week. To see the video click here. As of Nov 2, the video had 144 views. (Update: As of Nov 10, 195 views.)

Education:

Lyon announced it is offering a fermentation science course in the Spring of 2020, taught by Alexander Beeser, PhD, available for students aged 21 and older. Students will learn about the processes of making beer and kombucha. Maybe they were inspired by the University of Arkansas, which began offering a Certificate of Proficiency in Brewing Science earlier this year. This industry is certainly growing in our state. According to the Brewers Association, Arkansas has 40 craft breweries, up from 6 in 2011, which have a $838 million impact on the state’s economy. To read more, click here. The course would also be of interest to future winery professionals. The Arkansas Association of Grape Growers held their annual meeting in Fayetteville this weekend.

Health:

An Advanced Overdose Investigation Course was held in Little Rock this weekend. In September, the federal government announced $18.5M for Arkansas to use to gather and report data on overdose deaths in order to identify patterns. Arkansas has a long way to go to address this issue. Its providers write an average of one opioid prescription per person, double the national average. In response to this national directive, the state pharmacy board collaborated with law enforcement to offer the course. Batesville’s own Steve Bryant, P.D., is one of six pharmacists on the Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy. Gary Bridgeman featured the opioid crisis on a three-part series on The Official Word in August of 2019. To listen to Part One of the series, click here.

Youth:

The Batesville High School & Southside High School football teams won last night. The Pioneers made the 5A playoffs.


OCTOBER 26, 2019

Business:

Two local non-profit organizations named new directors recently. The Alpha Center has named Danielle Adams, former Spanish teacher for Batesville School District, as its new director, to replace Amanda Steel. The Humane Society of Independence County named Megan Trail as its new director, to replace Nanci Solis.

Lifestyle:

Despite the rain, there were two races in Batesville on Saturday, October 26. The first one was The White River 4-Mile Classic, and it took place downtown. In its 41st year, a 41-year old male from Maumelle, Brian Sieczkowski, won the event with a 5:43 pace. Highest placing Batesville resident was a 25-year-old female, Logan Bishop, who finished 5th overall with a 6:12 pace. She turned around and won the local hospital’s 5K race that night at a faster pace of 6:05. To see results from both races, click here and here.

Local radio personality Gary Bridgeman was featured in October’s issue of Next Door Magazine, by the Batesville Daily Guard’s former Managing Editor, Angelia Roberts. To read Roberts’ story on Gary B, click here.

Ducks Unlimited donated 40 acres to the Earl Buss Bayou Deview WMA, a nearby hunting spot for local duck hunters.

Arkansas hunters killed 84 alligators this season, according to Arkansas Game and Fish. To read more, click here.

Education:

Henderson State University announced this week it will join Arkansas State University system. Local Batesville professionals who attended Henderson State University include local radio personality, Big Daddy Randy, Randy Seale, and White River Academy Director, Mary Eary,

Announced October 9, a Mountain View Pharmacist received the first and only Director’s Choice Award from the UAMS Arkansas Saves Stroke Program for her advocacy for affordability of the stroke medicine, Activase, in rural areas. She reported to Kaiser Health News in 2017 the small Mountain View hospital paid $8,010 for one dose of Activase while the larger Batesville hospital, located one hour away, paid $1,600 per dose. To hear Langston talk more about the issue, click here. To see all of UAMS’s stroke program award recipients, click here.

Noted:

Ramsey Mountain is up for auction.

Youth:

Batesville High School and Southside High School football teams both won Friday night.


OCTOBER 20, 2019

Lifestyle:

Southside received its first liquor license request this week since incorporating in 2014. There are currently 13 liquor licenses in the Batesville area. To see who requested, click here.

The Chamber released results from the HeART Your Community Meeting held in September. Ninety percent of the more than 150 attendees wanted to see the riverfront more developed. For more, click here and here.

Business:

Bad Boy released 2019 Plant Tour Video on Friday. To sneak a peek inside the operation, watch here.


OCTOBER 12, 2019

Lifestyle:

Maxfield Park officially opened on Friday, thanks to the vision and efforts of Batesville’s own Danny Dozier. To find out more, click here and here.

More than 2,200 people from across the state descended upon Batesville last weekend for the Acts 1:8 One-Day Mission Trip. More than 30 Batesville organizations participated. To see a video of the event, click here.

Some local teachers started a new non-profit organization called Grand Hands which offers support to grandparents raising their grandchildren.

Youth:

Local youth artists, Donna Terrell and Gareth Brookshire, won the Artoberfest Sidewalk Chalk Competitions last weekend. This is Terrell’s fourth time to win, which makes her a legend. Calling all artists for next year’s contest to start practicing now.

Everything has been “coming up aces” for the Batesville High School music organizations lately. This week BHS announced three of their students, Erin Seymore, Sarah Johnson, and Brandon Grant, earned spots in the All-Region Orchestra and performed in Little Rock on September 21. Last weekend, Batesville Junior High Choir earned a 95 percent acceptance rate into All-Region Choir, and Canon Chaffin earned First Chair. Meanwhile in Jonesboro, the high school band won a marching contest (1st place 4A, 8th overall).

The Southside Southerner football team won last night, and the Batesville Pioneers lost.

Money:

ASU-Newport received a grant called Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities worth $379,443 from the US Dept of Labor and the Delta Regional Authority. Great job, Newport for continuing to pursue money for our region. For more details, click here.

Noted:

After weeks of discussing a new open burn ordinance, the city council voted to stick with the 2015 adoption of the state fire code as its ordinance. To read more, click here.


OCTOBER 5, 2019

An espresso machine at a local downtown coffee shop broke this week. It took only four days for 84 of the regulars to raise $4,500 for the owners to purchase a new machine (Update on 10-8-19: 105 donors and $5,275). What this tells me: the locals really like the owners, Brice and Haley Stephens, they really like lattes, and the right people announced this fundraiser at the right time on the right medium.

I noticed the National Merit Semi-finalists hit the local papers this week. It was announced mid-September that two students in Batesville achieved this high honor. One was 16-year old Zach McClain, one of only two homeschool students in the state this year to achieve this honor. The other local semi-finalist was Batesville High School senior Veronica Laslo.

The Arkansas Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve Committee awarded First Community Bank the highest honor of its kind in the state, the Pro Patria Award, for its supportive personnel policies.

Southside Junior High School started a fishing club. Congrats to them for getting local students interested in this growing sport.


New summer festival coming to Batesville: “Big Fun on the Bayou”

Twenty-five volunteers from a cross-section of Batesville, many with personal stories to share of happy times spent on the bayou over the years, gathered today to begin creating a festival centered around the Poke Bayou.

The concept, introduced and spearheaded by Bob Carius and the Main Street Batesville organization, will be a day-long series of events on the bayou on July 26, culminating in an evening concert by ‘Trout Fishing in America’ at Maxfield Park. The band plays comedic songs for kids, as well as adult friendly music.

The recently finished Maxfield Park has been the first development on the bayou, an under-utilized asset for the town according the Carius, and provides a jumping-off point to more bayou activities.

The theme of the event, “Big Fun on the Bayou”, is drawn from the 1952 Hank Williams song ‘Jambalaya’.

“And there are a lot of things we can do with that besides just of course play the song,” Carius explained of the theme chosen by an initial working group, adding that watersports and triathlon-type contest could be part of the plan, but that “right now the slate is completely clean”.

A piece of property along the bayou near Maxfield Park will also be in play for the festival, thanks to its donation to the City of Batesville for such public-use development.

“The mayor and I visited the area about two weeks ago and it’s very overgrown,” Carius described of the work to be done. In the past, inmates have been utilized to clean up the bayou and could possibly be again for this particular parcel.


Anyone interested in being involved with planning “Big Fun on the Bayou” activities are invited to join the committee by contacting Main Street Batesville at mainstreetbatesville@gmail.com

County’s transparency ranking drops from 17th to 71st

The rankings and scores are determined by “how much financial, political and administrative information their websites contain.”

Independence County went from a transparency ranking of 17th in the state in 2018 to 71st in the state in 2019, decreasing from a score of 0.231 down to 0.029 for transparency of important public information online, according to a report published by the Arkansas Center for Research in Economics at the University of Central Arkansas.

The rankings and scores are determined by “how much financial, political and administrative information their websites contain.”

Currently, the county’s website gives an error when accessed.

“We are having our website rebuilt,” said County Judge Robert Griffin. “It had too little function and was obsolete. When finished, we will have better access to different offices and be able to publish documents. “

Per the report, Jefferson County improved the most due to a new stand-alone county-owned website.

What is the minimum required by law?

An Arkansas state law passed in March of 2019 requires all Arkansas counties to post their annual budget on a website owned or maintained by the county, the state, or the Association of Arkansas Counties beginning on Jan 1, 2020.

Independence County posted a scanned document of their 2019 budget on a website provided by the Association of Arkansas Counties.

Shopping local for Christmas: BirdCage Vintage Market

Sunday afternoon I needed to “run errands”…

birdcage vintage.jpg In November of 2018, Paul and Dorajo McDonald opened The Birdcage Vintage Market, which has more than 10,000 square feet of goods for sale. Though vintage is in the name, they also have new home decor, boutique clothing, and handcrafted items, offered by more than 75 vendors.

Dorajo commented she has been grateful for the local support she has experienced and the help she continues to get from her family and church friends.

IMG_3022Sunday afternoon I needed to “run errands”…

My phrase for: I need to get out of the house but not spend any money.  I’m just going to look.

My husband’s phrase for: she will undoubtedly come back with bags in hand.

I “ran errands” at The BirdCage Vintage Market, and well, I came back with bags full of ornaments and a piece of furniture in the back of the SUV.

Before I could even get in the house door I was yelling warnings like, “These ornaments were too cheap and too sweet not to get!  Christmas memories, right?!”

Husband:  What is that in the back of the car? Me: Silence… “I love Christmas! Here, just LOOK at these ornaments.”

CHRISTMAS ITEMS

IMG_3033IMG_3032

Someone grab this vintage beauty!

Then put on your finest garb, grab your gloves and strike a pose like these anonymous legends:

These women know how to do Christmas!

I feel like this was the era where the woman had to be photographed by her tree and man had to be photographed by his car.

So many great Christmas ornaments and decorations.

EVERY DAY ITEMS

I would put every one of these items in my home.  I’m drawn to anything that looks like it would pair well with a cigar or pipe.

And you might need to know, they have a great selection of brass!

I carried home a large collection of brass candlestick holders that included the candle sticks that our household now lights every night for the Advent season.

This booth has the cutest handcrafted, wooden toys.

This is the booth where my youngest son shops, and with the variety of flavors of taffy and his struggle to make decisions,  I can walk through the whole market and find him still not ready to check out.

If you have yet to make it out to The BirdCage Vintage Market, then seriously, grab a friend and go “run errands”.

The BirdCage Vintage Market: a community of vendors who specialize in old & new, home decor, fashion, handmade goods, & much more.  Located 3 miles north of Batesville, AR on Hwy 167, at 3470 N. Saint Louis St.

Lyon students learn the job of ‘influencer’

Since September, these local influencers have been busy promoting both the college and Batesville in general, mostly on Instagram.

Influencer marketing is expected to more than double in size in one year, to $10 billion in 2019, according to this article in Edelman.

Lyon College noticed.

During the past summer, its marketing department announced a new Influencer Program and for the 2019-20 school year, five out of twenty applicants were chosen in September to represent the school as influencers for Lyon on social media.

“The purpose of the program is to not only help our influencers develop their skills but also to reach prospective students through the authentic voices of our Lyon Influencers,” Madeline Pyle of the marketing department explained. “Our influencers are ambassadors for the College and serve as another way for prospective students to learn about Lyon. If the program is successful, our office would like to expand it.”

Now, as the program’s inaugural semester wraps up, both Lyon and the students involved can attest to its benefits.

One of the five chosen was Michael Jorgensen, a sophomore biology and chemistry major from Manila, Ark. Michael said he wanted to be a Lyon influencer to connect with and reach more people.

“Before, all I was doing was class and baseball,” he said, and he wanted more. “I had not felt I had joined in as much.”

“Now I am a person others can rely on to know what’s happening around campus. People definitely know who I am.”

Not just current students, either. Potential students have also reached out to Michael to find out more about what there is to do in and around the campus.

Does Michael want to pursue being an influencer outside of college? An influencer, yes, “but not on social media,” he says. He wants to be a doctor and influence people to be healthy.

Others chosen were Batesville native, Haley Cormican, a junior art major who is also serving as the Student Government Association President, Katherine Jeane, “KJ”, a junior psychology major, from Wooster, Ark., Alexandria Denton, “LeeLee”, a junior business major, from Cabot, Ark., and Marcos Fernandez, a sophomore economics and business major from Argentina.

Since September, these local influencers have been busy promoting both the college and Batesville in general, mostly on Instagram.  

Why Instagram? Because influencer marketing happens on Instagram, say 92 percent of marketers, according to a 2018 study by Linqia, a leading platform for influencers. The study also concluded that engagement and number of clicks are effective measures for return on investment when hiring an influencer.

For those with a mild interest in growing their influence on social media, consider the following.

According to this article in Forbes, people who are most effective influencers are those who are able to obtain and maintain trust of those they are influencing. This can take time, especially if the only interactions are happening online. Those social media users who are saturated with hundreds of thousands of followers have trouble keeping up logistically, and are therefore rendered less effective in their ability to influence.  

This leaves the door open for micro-influencers, or those with roughly 3,000 to 30,000 followers on Instagram. 

According to this article on Whalar, one of the leading companies for influencer insights, marketers are now hiring micro-influencers because they have better engagement — more effective influence — with their followers.

With access to a good editor, becoming a micro-influencer on social media as a side hustle is a realistic goal for someone who has expertise in an area and is willing to post about it online. Even in a small town.

To see what the Lyon College influencers have been posting to attract potential students, click here.