2021 – Another year with COVID

Posted 12/30/21

Let’s try this again.

While 2020 will long be remembered as the year of COVID-19 and a worldwide pandemic, 2021 was in many ways more of the same, but also a year in which so many things tried to return to normal.

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2021 – Another year with COVID


Let’s try this again.

While 2020 will long be remembered as the year of COVID-19 and a worldwide pandemic, 2021 was in many ways more of the same, but also a year in which so many things tried to return to normal.

But even that was waylaid by a winter storm of historic proportions.

Only to be reminded that the pandemic did not go away, with a big surge in late summer-early fall, just as schools were trying to resume.

The surge was courtesy of a new variant of the coronavirus known as Delta, and proved to be more communicable and more deadly than the original wave.

And it continued to spread in the face of rising numbers of vaccinations – something the world did not have as a tool to fight with during 2020.

As the year ended yet another letter of the Greek alphabet emerged as the next variant – Omicron – more transmissible but in the early stages apparently not as severe as Delta.


The year started as most in odd-numbered years with the swearing in of new county officials, elected during the November general election, though they were technically chosen by voters during the spring Republican primary with no opposition from the Democrats.

New office holders included District Judge Brad McCampbell and Sheriff Kelly Cole, both of whom defeated incumbents.

The Wood County Economic Development Commission also introduced a new face with the hiring of Christophe Trahan as executive director.

The year also began with high numbers of COVID-19 cases locally with the holiday surge.

Snowfall in January portended things to come.

In school news Mineola proposed a new schedule that would include more class days while Alba-Golden announced its high school principal, Michael Mize, would be leaving at the conclusion of the school year.

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in Mineola switched to a parade instead of a march, ending at the Mineola Civic Center for an outdoor ceremony.

A record four Mineola High School band members made all-state, while their school mate, Trevion Sneed, was named to the Texas Football Super Team.

As filing got underway for city and school elections, two Mineola council members, Sue Jones and Jayne Lankford, announced they would seek to replace Mayor Kevin White, who did not seek another term.

The Quitman council removed the interim tag for Police Chief John Farmer, who was promoted when Kelly Cole became the sheriff.

The Mineola council purchased land across from the train depot, and by year-end plans to turn it into a Youth Empowerment Zone were in the works by the Flint and Steel Coalition.

The Mineola School Board approved final phase plans for a new high school band hall.


By February COVID-19 case numbers were finally beginning to decline while opportunities to get the vaccines began to surface slowly in the area.

The Alba-Golden School Board OK’d plans for a new ag-science facility.

Wood County and surrounding areas finally fell below the 15% threshold for COVID-19 hospitalizations that allowed some restrictions to be lifted or altered, such as 75% capacity for businesses, up from 50%.

The winter storm that crippled most of the state hit with a vengeance on Feb. 14, forcing schools to shut for a week and virtually all activities to be curtailed.

The county said good-bye to popular drug dog Juma, who succumbed to Addison’s disease.

In a move that surprised her, former Quitman Development Corp. director Denea Hudman learned she had been investigated by the Wood County Grand Jury and had been no-billed.

A fatality related to the storm was recorded at Lake Fork when a vehicle slid into the lake on Feb. 16.


County commissioners joined local officials throughout the state opposing legislation they said would limit their ability to lobby the state legislature on behalf of local constituents concerning matters that could impact citizens. The bill did not pass.

Mineola Post Office customers found a new entrance when a vehicle jumped the curb and smashed through the west wall. No one was injured.

Kacey Musgraves donated a signed guitar as a fundraiser for Kindness Kottage, an effort that had been postponed by the pandemic.

Mineola residents learned a concrete batch plant was proposed to be located on Loop 564 on the corner of the road that accesses the Mineola Nature Preserve.

Schools began looking at health and safety protocols after the governor removed the statewide mask mandate, almost a year after the pandemic first hit.

Owners of pine trees damaged during the winter storm played the waiting game to see if they would recover. Most did.

A Mineola dog and owner won the national obedience competition.

The Wood County Economic Development Commission asked county residents to let them know what needs improving.

Mineola grad Sabria Dean was named the Southland Conference’s freshmen of the year in girls basketball playing at Lamar University.

Federal COVID relief funds began to make their way to local city and county governments.

An agreement with the city of Mineola and a builder promised to bring 20 to 30 new homes to the south part of the city.

Adam Moore and Ali Galaz announced a new baseball/softball training facility just east of Mineola.


Citizens rallied to protect the Mineola Nature Preserve from the impact of a concrete batch plant planned nearby.

The Mineola Foundation asked the school district to make its plans known regarding a regional career and technical education hub.

In-person hearings resumed in district court after being on hold for a year.

The state announced it would hold a public hearing concerning the proposed concrete batch plant, following citizen requests.

The Wood County Junior Livestock Show attracted a crowd and lively bidding.

Quitman announced the Sunday Market in the Park to be held at Jim Hogg Park. The first one drew a good crowd.

The concrete batch plant permit was pulled by the company.

The monthly sales tax report from the state showed the impact of the February storm on retail sales.

The Mineola School Board approved expenses to have demographic and facility studies completed.

The Quitman Police Dept. scrambled to fill positions, several of which were related to Kelly Cole’s election as sheriff.

The Mineola Rotary Club named Cody Mize, school superintendent, as its citizen of the year. The award is normally presented at the annual chamber of commerce banquet, which was canceled for the second straight year.

Voters around the county headed to the polls for city and school elections, including contested races for mayor in Quitman and Mineola.

The Mineola Education Foundation distributed $32,000 in innovative teacher grants.


Mineola elected Jayne Lankford as mayor while Quitman Mayor Randy Dunn earned reelection and Alba got a new mayor, Don Heinert, who had been serving on the city council.

The county accepted a bid to build a new tax office southwest of the courthouse in Quitman.

The Mineola Economic Development Corp. set a public hearing for the potential sale of the lot that formerly housed the 1888 building.

Preliminary property values showed increases across the county, as expected after real estate prices escalated during the pandemic.

High schools announced top graduates including Bella Crawford and Cameron Galyean at Alba-Golden and Brooke Barrett and Sarahi Martinez at Yantis.

Top Quitman grads were Kaitlynn Barnett and Lucy Brannon. Valerie Garcia and Jonah Fischer led Mineola’s Class of 2021.

Mineola ISD announced the Tyler Junior College Promise that will allow any Mineola graduate, beginning in 2025, to attend the college for no cost.

The Quitman City Council approved a grant to assist the Minuteman Ordnance Co.’s plans to build a larger retail store and indoor gun range on the north side of the square.

Weather threw one more curve at the MHS Class of 2021, moving graduation ceremonies indoors.

Military veterans organizations opted to cancel the annual Memorial Day ceremony at the courthouse.


COVID-19 cases continued their decline in the county and across the region.

The Kid Fish event sponsored by the county sheriff’s office returned to Lake Fork after canceling in 2020.

Trials resumed in district court after 15 months of no juries, which created quite a backlog.

The Alba City Council worked to negotiate better rates for trash service after getting bids from three companies.

Mineola school trustees got the lowdown on district facility needs, including many needs for the ag facilities and elementary school.

The district also learned that, although no official state ratings would be announced this year, the district would have achieved a significant improvement as an “A” district.

The Quitman City Council adopted a junk vehicle ordinance.


Among the events canceled in 2020, the Mineola Fire Dept. rodeo returned to large crowds.

The Flint and Steel Coalition launched its plans to benefit the youth of the community, especially those who might feel disenfranchised. The coalition stemmed from efforts to make improvements at the community skate park.

Quitman hosted Local Heroes Day to pay tribute to first responders.

The Old Settlers Reunion in Quitman also made a comeback with a condensed three-day schedule of events.

A request to operate a tattoo parlor in Mineola gained approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The every-decade signup to renew animal brands prepared to start in the county clerk’s office.

As with the preliminary values, the final property values announced by the Wood County Appraisal District rose more than 10 percent in the past year.

A deal to bring a Holiday Inn Express was announced by the city of Mineola, to be adjacent to the Best Western.


County justices of the peace renewed their pleas to have their clerks paid on the same level as clerks in other county offices, during budget workshops held by county commissioners. Again the effort met with futility.

As with the area and the nation, the surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Delta variant hit Wood County.

The juvenile arrested in the Delaiah Cooksy murder case pleaded guilty and was assessed two 20-year sentences.

Those higher property values translated into lower property tax rates proposed by local schools, cities and the county.

Though property has been acquired to build an overpass at U.S. Hwy 69 and FM 779 just east of Golden, the state department of transportation still had no funding set aside for the $31 million project.

The 2020 U.S. census figures were finally released and showed Wood County grew by 2,879 residents in the past decade to reach 44,843.

The community mourned the passing of John DeFoore, guitar teacher to many, including two area women who made it big, Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves.

Alba-Golden named its new ag facility for Hugh Ragsdale.

Presentations by a pair of community leaders detailed some of the impacts of COVID-19. UT Health Quitman CEO Jared Smith spoke of the impact on staffing and also outlined the benefits of vaccination.

Mineola ISD Superintendent Cody Mize talked about the numerous ways the pandemic affected the past school year as well as the challenges still ahead.

Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Nikki Wright resigned her position following a single-vehicle crash near Quitman.


The Mineola chamber of commerce worked on plans for the Iron Horse Festival, which had to be canceled in 2020.

The new owners of the historic Beckham Hotel in Mineola revealed the renovations to bring back the facility.

COVID case numbers remained high in Wood County and the region.

A Lake Fork man recalled his role in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon as an Arlington, Va. fireman.

Mineola EDC pledged $200,000 to help bring a new hotel to town.

Local post offices announced plans to add local delivery services for same or next-day packages.

High coronavirus case counts led Mineola schools to close campuses to visitors.

The Alba library and museum celebrated 10 years of operations, just a little late after being delayed.

Quitman UT Health Hospital CEO Jared Smith said the virus has created a crisis in health care as increased cases stretch staff and facilities to the breaking point.

Former District Judge Jeff Fletcher was denied a motion to have his replacement, Brad McCampbell, recused from hearing cases of Fletcher’s in the district court.

The Mineola Hay Show set a record of donations topping $40,000.

The Mineola Elementary School campus shed its failing grade as assessed through state standards and became acceptable.

Some area high schools combined forces to offer each other’s students career and technical education.

Mineola prepared to host the national dutch oven cookoff.


The new Congressional lines drawn after the 2020 US Census put all of Wood County in one US House district. It had formerly been split between two districts.

Mineola freshmen signed the Tyler Junior College Promise that can yield them two free years of college.

A Hainesville fireman was arrested on arson charges.

Two charges against Jerry Boone, who was serving time for a shooting on his property that led to indictments against the former sheriff and chief deputy, were dismissed.

The Quitman Development Corp. considered improving downtown sidewalks.

The Mineola Landmark Commission sought funds from the Economic Development Corp. to build a depot for the Iron Horse Square mini-train.

The Mineola ISD district improvement plan targeted three key areas for student success: reading, algebra and college and career/military readiness.

Alba found its newest patrol officer not far from home, David Tibbs, who had been with the sheriff’s department.

The Mineola High School Sound of the Swarm marching band qualified for the state marching championship and a chance to defend its two-time state title.

Wood County government won’t have to redraw county commissioner precinct lines after the 2020 Census showed less than a 10% population variation among the precincts.

Jade Kruse was crowned Miss Golden Sweet Potato during the annual festival which drew large crowds.

St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Mineola celebrated its 150th anniversary.


Quitman High School senior Bobby Irwin won the FFA national talent competition with his rendition of “Hallelujah.”

In an effort to help preserve city streets, the Alba City Council approved a truck route ordinance.

At its annual meeting, which was not held in 2020, the Wood County Airport board revealed continued expansion plans along with statistics showing the economic benefits the facility brings to the county.

The Mineola Sound of the Swarm high school marching band brought back its third consecutive state marching championship with its performance “Hometown,” which captivated audiences.

A depot to cover riders on the Iron Horse Square Park mini-train was approved by the Mineola Economic Development Corp.

Mineola school trustees met with a financial consultant to learn the costs and steps toward a future building project.

Filing for the 2022 party primaries got under way.

County school districts put on programs to honor area veterans.

The Quitman City Council approved a $361,453 contract with Fritcher Construction Services for improvements to drainage on Tomie Street.

The Mineola City Council approved a storage container at Cafe U under the condition that it first receive a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustments.

The Wood County Economic Development Commission worked on plans for major fishing tournaments on Lake Fork in 2022.


Mineola City Council considered how it will spend the federal COVID relief funds under the American Rescue Plan, including the possibility of constructing restrooms with electronic charging stations on the site of the old 1888 building at Johnson and Commerce.

Alba-Golden ISD dedicated its new top-flight agriculture education facility, named after longtime educator Hugh Ragsdale.

The holiday season kicked off with Quitman’s tree lighting on the courthouse square and Mineola’s plans for its lighted parade.

Mineola learned it will need to redraw the boundaries of its system of three city council wards after the 2020 census reveals two of the wards are out of balance.

The Mineola FFA agriculture advocacy team won the state championship, and three other schools placed teams in the top 10 in various FFA leadership events.

The chamber of commerce in Quitman chose Christine Thomas as its new manager.

Former District Attorney Jim Wheeler, who resigned in late 2018 after an allegation of sexual harassment on the job, filed to run for election in the Republican primary against Angela Albers, who was appointed following Wheeler and subsequently won the unexpired term – and was the target of the alleged harassment.

District Clerk Donna Huston resigned with a year left on her term, citing a hostile atmosphere in the county courthouse.

Mineola Civic Center shelved its plans for a major renovation in favor of smaller projects.

The Mineola City Council adopted new boundary lines for city council wards to comply with requirements of the voting rights act after the census showed changes in representation.

The Wood County Economic Development Commission discussed helping businesses and schools trying to find truck and bus drivers with commercial licenses.

The Alba-Golden ISD facility committee completed its work and prepared to make its recommendations to the school board.

The year ended with record-breaking high temperatures on Christmas Day.