Year in review


As with every year, 2017 had its ups and downs, happiness and heartache.

By far, the biggest news of 2017 was the hurricanes that slammed into the coasts, particularly Harvey, which caused so much devastation in Houston and surrounding areas, and soaked Madison County with upwards of 15 inches of rain.

Things weren’t all bad, though, and all things considered, 2017 was a pretty good year.

Here are some of the more significant stories from the year.

County skips worst of Harvey

Hurricane Harvey missed Madison County, but still managed to dump more than 15 inches of rain over that weekend in August.

The weather had a good side effect, though, in that many of Madison County’s resident jumped in to help our neighbors down south recover, and in many cases, escape, from the nightmare that was Harvey.

The residents of Madisonville found themselves calm, collected and prepared as a whole, even as there were shortages of water, food staples and even gasoline.

For Madisonville, like many Texas towns, the main concern ultimately was flooding.

“This is really the first hurricane we’ve had to worry about near our town since Hurricane Ike in 2008 and, of course, Katrina in ’05,” said Shelly Butts, emergency management coordinator for Madison County, back in August. “We’ve had our partners meeting and planning for this. We’ve been working with the state, local schools and businesses to make sure all the necessary supplies are in place and ready to go. We also had to worry about significant flooding twice in the last couple of years.”

The county as a whole was lucky enough to miss the worst of the initial storm, but dealt with heavy rain over the next couple of days.

Despit that, numerous county and city residents didn’t hesitate, and started donation drives for necessary items, and many headed south with boats to help with rescue efforts.

Madisonville and North Zulch school districts were closed due to the storm and road conditions for two days, which were supposed to be the first days of the new semester. After the hurricane, Fire Chief Thom Jones said the Madisonville Fire Department said several church groups from Madisonville sent boats down, as well as one of his volunteer firefighters.

Capt. Richard Morris of the Madisonville PD and Sheriff Travis Nealy kept officers busy with traffic and flooding issues.

Nealy said then he had officers and jailers help with the water rescue.

Normangee police chief

Normangee Police Chief Charles Herford was charged with one count of felony (third degree) deadly conduct and one count of felony (third degree) evading with a motor vehicle in March after a standoff and chase.

Herford was arrested Wednesday morning after arguing with his wife, discharging a weapon to threaten her, and fleeing from their home in an effort to evade arrest.

In a sworn statement by Texas Ranger, Steven Jeter, he states that he received a telephone call from the Leon County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) requesting assistance with a shooting investigation, which involved Normangee Police Chief, Charles Herford, and his wife, Holly Herford.

Madison County Sheriff’s 911 Dispatchers received a call from Herford’s wife crying, concerned about the family’s safety. The initial conversation, however, got disconnected.

At approximately 1:55 a.m. on Wednesday, March 22nd, LCSO was dispatched to a “shots fired and possible suicide call” at the Herford’s Fourth Street residence, according to official statement. While deputies were in route to the scene, Herford left his home in his patrol car. LCSO Deputies observed Herford’s marked patrol car speeding away and attempted to make a traffic stop on Herford.

According to the responding officers, Herford “blacked out his lights” (turned off his headlights) and a short vehicle pursuit ensued, with Herford eventually evading deputies. Herford’s whereabouts were unknown for several hours after the pursuit.

However, contact was made with him via the LCSO communications primary police channel. Police officers with the Madisonville Police Department then talked with Herford over the police radio.

Normangee ISD was notified of the situation and school was subsequently cancelled at 6:30 a.m.

After lengthy negotiations, Herford agreed to peacefully surrender to authorities and at approximately 7 a.m., Herford surrendered himself to Texas Ranger, Steven Jeter, along with several other LCSO deputies. Herford was arrested on the street in front of his residence with no further incident.

Bicycle festival kicks off

Cycling, selling, music, food and children’s activities were the fare as cyclists set out for the inaugural Tour de’ Madison Bicycle Ride Festival.

Cyclists went on one of four routes, from two miles to 40, with even more events that included health, pep rallies and others, all showcasing the best of Madison County.

For a first-time event, 61 riders answered the call, and between them and the numerous sponsors, quite a lot of funds were raised for Madisonville parks.

Plans are already in the works to carry out another Tour de’ Madison festival next year, possibly adding another longer, 60-mile route for the most advanced of riders.

Laura Lawrenz, director of Marketing and Tourism for Madisonville, was impressed that the festival went as well as it did for a first-time event

Filming documentaries

Madisonville was the scene of some filming, as Arrowhead Films of Austin shot footage for a documentary on human trafficking.

The crews were in town because of a 2013 Madison County felony case involving prostitution was a wake-up call that such things as forcing drug dependency on people and using them as prostitutes can happen anywhere, including Madisonville.

Jennifer Kelly, a mid-30s Madisonville resident convicted on prostitution and trafficking in 2013 after nine-month investigation by the Madisonville Police Department.

Reports indicated that Kelly contacted impoverished girls who were searching for help, offered them a place to stay, gave the girls methamphetamines, and then set up prostitution engagements. Investigators found one victim had been working for Kelly since the age of 14.

Arrowhead Films sought to expose the reality that still lingers in even the smallest, most welcoming, kind-hearted country towns across America.

New health care facility

The BIS (Bedias, Iola, Singleton) Clinic, the brainchild of Elizabeth Ellis, DNP, RN, opened its doors in September, providing health care in an area that is largely underserved.

The clinic will provide full primary care for people of all ages — acute visits, chronic visits, well visits, sports physicals and vaccines for adults and children. Even home visits will be part of the services offered.

Dr. Mary Helen Morrow of Madisonville and Dr. Russell Bacak of Bryan-College Station will provide oversight and work with Ellis.