A look back at some events from the past year
As we get ready to jump into 2015, we thought we would take a look back at some of the highlights of the past year. Although we were bombarded with politics this past year, some would even say tortured with excessive political advertising, the year was more than just politics.
We started the year with the retirement of our own David Lee, who led The Sun-Times with years of dedication. His exit from the newspaper signaled the end of an era for Cleburne County’s second oldest business still in operation. January also saw the beginning of the political season with candidates announcing their intention to run in the May primaries.
February saw another retirement, this one as a surprise. Sitting Sheriff Marty Moss announced his early retirement to pursue other opportunities. The retirement resulted in Alan Roberson being named interim Sheriff and blew open a contentious Sheriff race that would last until November. Local businessman Bill Lynch was inducted into the Hall of Honor at the annual Chamber of Commerce Banquet. This well deserved recognition was for his years of dedication to the community.
Sever winter storms raged in the County in March, causing not only ice damage, but flood damage to area properties as the precipitation melted into a watery mess. On a lighter note, March saw the Pangburn community rally together to help their own Jerry Haines through tragedy and hardship.
Cleburne County is full of festivals and April saw those kick off with the first annual Angler’s Expo held at the Heber Springs Community Center. Television’s Swamp People were at the event greeting those in attendance. April’s Springfest in Heber was one of the best in recent memory, and one of the driest as Mother Nature was kind enough to keep the rain away.
May was primary season for politics. A contentious and sometimes controversial Republican primary for Sheriff in the County finally ended while some races, such as Missy Irvin’s campaign for re-election to State Senate, were settled. May also held a tragic surprise for the county as the Sheriff’s Office discovered a double murder near Pangburn. Justin Nickelson was arrested and charged with capital murder in the deaths of his parents in that incident.
An earthquake that was centered a mile south of Fairfield Bay hit in June. The quake was registered a 3.8 and could be felt in Fairfield Bay, Clinton, and Greers Ferry, with some residents as far away as Drasco reporting they felt the tremor. A new farm family was announced in June with the Byler Bunch of Drasco being named the Cleburne County Farm Family of the Year.
The passing of William Carl Garner in July meant the end of an era for Cleburne County. Garner’s legacy is immeasurable for the County and will be felt for many years to come. The annual Wounded Warriors event was successfully held at Lobo Landing to honor those that have sacrificed for their country.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was the rage around the nation and swept into the County in August as people from all walks of life videoed themselves being dumped with buckets, and sometimes backhoes, full of freezing ice water to raise awareness for Lou Gehrig’s Disease. August also saw the end to the long and controversial case of ex-cheerleading instructor Matt Tinkle as he was convicted, not only on local charges but also on federal child pornography charges.
It was festival time again in September with the traditional Cleburne County Fair taking place at the fairgrounds. It was also a successful month for Relay for Life. This year included a wildly successful Mr. Relay pageant with local dignitaries and politicians participating in the womanless pageant to raise money in the fight against cancer.
Festival season wound down at the beginning of October with the second year of the re-imagined Ozark Trail Festival proving that its popularity continues to grow. Cleburne County also saw its second armed robbery in just under a year as the Sheriff’s Office reported 4 men had been arrested in connection with the armed robbery of a Dollar General store just outside Heber. The last armed robbery was in December 2013 when a man was arrested for robbing a McDonald’s employee at gunpoint.
The long, drawn-out political season finally came to a close in November and Republicans dominated the local, state, and national elections. It didn’t come to a close for all, however, as a crowded mayoral race and three-way Heber alderman race meant a runoff during Thanksgiving week. That runoff saw the election of Jimmy Clark as the new mayor of Heber Springs. November also saw history in the making for 11-year old Mason Harris as he made County history by becoming the youngest Volunteer Ambassador ever named by the Heber Springs Area Chamber of Commerce.
We ended the year celebrating the holidays as Santa made his rounds through the County and the giving spirit of Cleburne residents rose again to help their friends and neighbors in need have a better holiday season. Santa also gave residents a gift no one saw coming -- plummeting gas prices. With the price of gas rising ever year, residents saw that price sink lower and lower to the $2 mark, with most estimates predicting gas will be under $2 for the first time in years after the new year begins.
It was en eventful year. Some things we can look back to with fondness, others with regret. But the year is now in the annals of history and it is time to look for the new opportunities and beginnings that always come with a new year. The Sun-Times and its staff would like to wish our readers a very safe, happy, and prosperous 2015!