Tag Archives: Farmersville

‘Lights’ make us smile

(File photo.)

We are engaged fully now in the holiday season where we seek joy and fulfillment at the end of the year … and this year — just like the previous one — has given us plenty of reason to search for reasons to smile.

I want to call attention to a celebration that is occurring about seven miles east of where my wife and I live. It’s in Farmersville, Texas. They call it “Farmersville Lights.” It was the creation that came from the heart and mind of the mayor, Bryon Wiebold.

The year 2020 was tough on everyone. Community events closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Americans everywhere were down in the dumps. We were anxious. Some of us were afraid. Too many of us were sickened by the virus and too many of us clearly died from it.

Wiebold wanted to give visitors to his city a reason to smile. He came up with an idea to light up Farmersville Parkway, a thoroughfare that runs from Texas Highway 78 eastward into downtown Farmersville. The lights would decorate the parkway and the downtown square.

It proved to be a big hit. City officials estimated that 50,000 vehicles traveled along the Parkway to view the lights. This year they expect even more folks to take them in; they also expect an increase in out-of-town visitors, too. As Wiebold told me a year ago, “Hey, it’s Christmas! How can we not try this out?”

Farmersville Lights runs for the month of December. They light ’em up on the first day of the month and douse them on the final day.

One cannot help but smile when you see the splendor of the lights.

I want to take a moment with this brief blog post to offer a salute to the creativity that Mayor Wiebold exhibited by coming up with the idea for Farmersville Lights. He wants to make it an annual event. I suspect quite strongly he will have accomplished that mission.

May they continue to shine brightly even after we get past the pandemic and emerge from what feels like a permanent state of grumpiness.


The love lives on for Audie Murphy

How proud are they of Audie Leon Murphy in Farmersville, Texas?

They are so proud of their favorite son that they wouldn’t dare let an international medical pandemic — which has shut down ceremonies and outdoor events around the world — stop them from honoring the most decorated soldier to serve during World War II.

They cut the ceremony short, but it took place today as scheduled on the 75th anniversary of the day he returned home to Farmersville after receiving the Medal of Honor and 32 other medals on battlefields in Africa and Europe. When he arrived in Farmersville for a major homecoming, he was asked to speak to the crowd of about 5,000 that had gathered to cheer their hero. He told a reporter that he’d rather face an “enemy machine gun nest” than speak before a crowd. Indeed, he did wipe out an enemy machine emplacement, an action that brought him the Medal of Honor in 1945.

Audie Murphy Day occurs every June 15 in Farmersville, where Murphy had listed as his hometown when he entered the Army during the height of World War II. It’s usually a big blowout of an affair, but the pandemic forced the city to scale it back.

Still, a crowd of about 200 residents gathered in the downtown square next to the gazebo that sits just west of the Freedom Plaza Memorial.

I caught up with Murphy’s sister, Nadine Murphy Lokey, who now lives in Princeton, but who is a fixture at the annual Audie Murphy Day event.

“We were living in an orphanage when Audie went into the Army,” Lokey told me, “but he wanted to be a soldier his whole life. But, oh boy, he was scared to death over there.”

Lokey said her brother “had a lot of people praying for him. I was one of them who prayed every day and every night for him. It was a miracle that he survived the war.”

Speakers at the gazebo told of how Murphy wore dog tags with his uniform inscribed with “Farmersville, Texas.” They noted that a section of U.S. Highway 380 that runs through Farmersville is named the Audie Murphy Parkway and that the Northeast Texas Trail that begins in Farmersville is designated as the Audie Murphy Trailhead.

Yes, he was a key member of this community. Murphy died in a plane crash in 1971 at the age of 45. He wasn’t able to grow old, unlike his baby sister, Nadine.

The memory of his battlefield exploits live on forever … as does the love expressed today for this American hero.

We’re in good hands

Socrates, the great Greek philosopher, was a brilliant thinker to be sure. He also was dead wrong as he sought to forecast the future of civilization.

The quote you see attached to this blog is attributed to Socrates, who died more than 300 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. He lamented the disrespect shown by young people. If we were to take what the great man said to the bank, we would indeed be in a world of hurt.

I, though, remain an eternal optimist. Two young women I spoke with today give me ample reason to attest to what many of us know already: that we are going to leave this good Earth in the best of hands.

The women — Savannah Sisk and Aubrie Rich — are Farmersville High School seniors. They are the valedictorian and salutatorian of the Class of 2020. I spoke to them to gather information for a story I am writing for the Farmersville Times, so I will not divulge what they said; I do not want to scoop the newspaper.

However, I want to declare that these two young women symbolize great young people all across this land of ours. Their stories are far from unique. Indeed, similar stories can be told everywhere, in every city and town in this country.

My boss assigned me this story thinking I would like to take a break from the sausage grinder of politics and public policy. Brother, was she correct. Speaking to these two individuals filled me with optimism and hope. They offered clear visions of where they intend to go, what they intend to do with the rest of their lives. They spoke with wisdom and clarity about the challenges they faced during their senior year at Farmersville High School; they were challenges that none of them saw coming as their school was essentially shut down because of a worldwide pandemic.

I told both of these two young folks — neither of whom I have met face to face — how proud I am of them. To be sure, I am proud of all the young achievers who have finished one chapter of their lives and are ready to open the next one.

Do they disrespect their elders, are they tyrants of their households, do they display bad manners? No. They prepare to do great things.

I’ll get back to the humdrum of politics in due course. At this moment, I merely want to salute what well could be the next “greatest generation.”

That’s how you handle inter-legislative district affairs

I attended a public hearing this week that featured something that, in the moment, I didn’t consider all that significant. I gave it some thought and have decided that I watched a display of inter-legislative district cooperation.

State Rep. Jeff Leach is a Plano Republican who came to the Texas Environmental Quality Commission public hearing in Farmersville to speak against a proposed concrete batch plant for Farmersville. Leach said he there to represent other members of the region’s legislative delegation, all of whom also opposed the plant application.

Farmersville is actually represented in the House by Justin Holland of Rockwall. Holland wasn’t there. Leach carried his water.

Why is this interesting to me? Because once upon a time I witnessed two legislators go at each other’s throats because one of them thought he needed to intervene on a matter affecting his colleague’s legislative district.

It happened in the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Texas.

One of the legislators there, the late Rep. Al Price, D-Beaumont, was an ardent foe of Lamar University’s hiring practices. He railed constantly against Lamar because, in his mind, it didn’t hire enough African-Americans to fill administrative positions; Price, of course, was an African-American.

Then came his fellow Democratic colleague, Mark Stiles, also of Beaumont, who interceded for Lamar, pushing through some funding legislation that the university thought it needed.

Prices’ reaction? Was he thrilled that his colleague went to bat for Lamar? Oh, heavens no! We went ballistic! He accused Stiles of meddling in affairs that weren’t his concern. He threatened to derail whatever it was that Stiles sought to do on Lamar’s behalf.

I said at the time that Stiles was concerned that LU, which drew students from his legislative district as well as from Price’s, needed the money and that it was a regional concern that transcended legislative boundaries.

He was correct. Price was wrong to react as he did.

I have thought about encounter since visiting briefly Tuesday evening with Jeff Leach and hearing how he would speak for his legislative colleagues regarding an issue that is important to all of them and the constituents they represent.

That’s how it should work.

Time of My Life, Part 45: Back to where it began

I am positive you’ve heard it said that there are some things you always remember knowing how to do.

Riding a bicycle comes to mind.

Well, I spent the bulk of my journalism career writing opinion pieces for newspapers in Oregon and Texas. However, like most ink-stained wretches, I got started covering news events, or writing features, chronicling the events that made our community tick.

I am now retired from the daily grind. However, I have been given a chance to return to where it began for me. I am a freelance reporter for a weekly newspaper near where my wife and now reside.

I asked for this gig when we took out a subscription to the Princeton Herald, a weekly publication that is delivered via mail every Thursday. The publisher of the Herald, C&S Media, also publishes papers in other communities nearby. Farmersville is one of them.

The “S” in C&S Media is Sonia Duggan. She asked me recently if I would be interested in covering Farmersville, which is about seven miles east of Princeton. I said yes. So I am back in the game.

I attend Farmersville City Council meetings twice a month, reporting on what transpires at City Hall. I get to write the occasional feature story about Farmersville, a growing community in Collin County, Texas.

The most rewarding part of it, though, is getting to know the people who make the city. I am developing sources, becoming familiar with the community’s unique qualities. I am making my presence known at council meeting.

Man, it’s just like it’s always been.

Moreover, I get to cover these stories straight up, without injecting my own opinion into any of the text I write for the newspaper.

My boss knows, too, that my wife and I might not be available all the time to cover every story that comes along. Given that we’re retired, we have the luxury of traveling in our recreational vehicle, which we do during peak driving season in North Texas. That’s OK, she says, expressing her keen understanding that a freelance gig enables us to operate without too many burdensome requirements.

I just have to say, though, that learning about a new community fills me with great joy and, yes, even a bit of anxiousness. I expect the joy to remain even as I grow less anxious over what I discover about Farmersville.

City’s transparency a result of an ‘abundance of caution’

You want transparency in local government? You want to see how a certain city in North Texas handles any potential questions about whether its elected governing body is meeting in “secret,” or conducting public business “illegally”?

Farmersville, a Collin County community of roughly 3,500 residents, exercises what City Attorney Alan Lathrom describes as an “abundance of caution” in alerting residents of a “potential quorum” of elected City Council members.

The city posts a “notice of potential quorum” in advance of any event that might draw more than a majority of City Council members into the same room. That includes, as it did in November and December, an announcement of planned Thanksgiving and Christmas parties.

The city’s website contained under its “Council Meetings” tab announcements of those events. The city is not required under state law to post such events, Lathrom. “We just do it out of an abundance of caution,” he said, citing the possibility that inquiring minds might want to know if council members were discussing public business in a setting other than a called public meeting.

Lathrom said the Texas Open Meetings Act makes specific exemptions for social events. Council members are allowed to gather at holiday parties, for example, without it being posted in advance by City Hall, he said.

Lathrom said the city simply is trying to be as transparent as possible by posting these notices of potential quorum.

I stumbled upon the Christmas party notice recently while perusing the Farmersville website in search of some contact information. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised at my discovery. I told Lathrom of my surprise in a phone conversation.

He doesn’t ascribe much in the way of a need to cover the city’s backside. Lathrom simply employs this strategy because, well, it’s the right thing to do.

I have covered many local government bodies over many years as a print journalist. This is the first example I’ve ever seen of a governing entity taking such a proactive posture toward transparency.

We hear occasional gripes from residents that government seeks to do too much of the public’s business improperly or even illegally. Do notices such as this generate a lot of public interest? That’s not likely. At least Farmersville City Hall can declare that it warned residents of a “potential quorum” of City Council members.

I consider that a fairly see-through approach to local government.