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1996: A new sheriff in town - Odessa American: 75th Anniversary

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1996: A new sheriff in town

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Posted: Monday, September 14, 2015 6:00 am

Election history: Reggie Yearwood, 67, was elected sheriff in November, defeating four-term incumbent Bob Brookshire. Yearwood, a Democrat, became the first black sheriff of Ector County, receiving 53 percent of the vote. Brookshire's campaign was dogged by controversy over his dismissal of Sheriff's Capt. Eldon Blount, after Blount challenged his boss in the Republican Primary election. Blount sued Ector County and the sheriff's department and won a $381,214 judgment in December.

PBRPC flap: After a state investigation revealed that the executive director of the Permian Basin Regional Planning Commission had spent tax money at topless bars, a subsequent investigation by the Odessa American found that more than $26,000 had been spent on food and alcohol over the previous four years. Executive Director Ernie Crawford explained that the spending was on behalf of the Permian Basin. He added: "I can't say every bit of (the spending) was good for the region, but some of it was." He later apologized for what he characterized as "bad judgment" and repaid the $700 topless tab. A Midland County grand jury looked into the spending, but found no basis for an indictment. The planning commission board later prohibited its members from using taxpayer money for alcohol and personal entertainment.

Cheerleader controversy: Callie Smartt, an Andrews High School student with cerebral palsy who lost her spot on the cheerleading squad because of her illness, became world news after the Odessa American told her story. Smart, 15, had been an honorary member of the freshman squad. However, as a sophomore with the junior varsity, the motorized wheelchair in which she was confined posed a safety problem to herself and others, school officials decided. Her role as an honorary squad member was sharply restricted as a result. The story attracted the interest of the Justice Department, which wanted to see if the decision violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The story was reported in the London Times, on the front page of the Washington Post, in People magazine and by television and radio networks. The following January the school district allowed Callie to try out for the varsity squad, but she decided instead to become a member of the school pep squad.

Economy improves: Sales tax rebates grew, new retail stores opened for business and industry expanded during 1996. For the fiscal year from Oct. 1, 1995 to Sept. 30, 1996, rebates rose 3.3 percent over the previous year, for a total of $9,243,005.40. New businesses included Chili's restaurant, which opened in September with 120 employees, Sitel Corporation, a telemarketing company which opened in December and would eventually employ up to 200 people, Office Depot, scheduled to open in January 1997 with a staff of 40, and HEB supermarket, set to open February 1997. A three-year expansion project at Rexene Corporation's plastic resin manufacturing plant would involve $300 million in capital expenditures and employ around 1,000 construction workers. While industrial expansion boosted the local economy, some Odessans reaped more than others during 1996. Two were 78 year old Horace Gummelt and his sister, 76 year old Eula Pearl Waddell, who won $12 million in the Texas lottery.

Headlines

  • Iraan won the Class 2A state football title, beating Groveton, 14-7. One of Iraan's toughest opponents in 1996 was district rival Stanton, which followed suit the next year by also winning the 2A championship, beating Rogers, 33-7.
  • Lisa Marie Presley divorces Michael Jackson.
  • The Dancing Baby gains popularity on the Internet.
  • Stephen King publishes “The Green Mile.”
  • Bin Laden declares war on the United States.
  • Prince Charles and Princess Diana divorce.
  • Danny Wuerffel wins the Heisman.

Information is drawn from news accounts, archives and other historical records.

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