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Top Ten of 2018


Another year in the books! With the close of 2018, the Independent looks back at the top 10 stories we covered during the year while looking forward to all the changes to come in 2019.

1. Election 2018
This year was the year of some change, local politics-wise. In the general election, Magoffin voted in a new county judge-executive (Matthew Wireman), and a new District 3 magistrate (Joe Bailey) to take his place on the fiscal court. District 1 Magistrate Darrel Ray Howard, who was appointed by the governor earlier this year to fill the unexpired term of Gary “Rooster” Risner, who was convicted of vote buying, secured his spot on the court for another four years, and District 2 Magistrate Pernell “Buck” Lemaster narrowly won his reelection, again. The tightest race was that of Sheriff Carson Montgomery’s reelection, winning by only 16 votes. In the city, Mayor James “Pete” Shepherd, also won his reelection, as did the four incumbent council members that ran, again. Two newcomers, Jarrod Howard and Paul Montgomery, were also elected to the council. 

2. Fatal Wrecks
-Middle school teacher, ordained preacher and volunteer firefighter, Jason Channing Tackett, was pronounced deceased at Pikeville Medical Center after being flown out from a two-vehicle accident on Lick Creek. According to the reports, fellow volunteer firefighter Austin Caudill was traveling the opposite direction when his truck had a mechanical failure, crossing the center line and hitting Tackett’s small SUV. 

- On March 8 police and rescue crews responded to an overturned pickup truck on KY 404. Reportedly, Billy Ray Wagers, Jr., 39 of Salyersville, was traveling west on KY 404 when his vehicle left the right shoulder of the highway and struck a drain pipe. The truck then flipped on its side, ejecting Wagers. He was found deceased under the truck. 

- Lisa Hurley, 39, from Salyersville, was traveling westbound on the Mountain Parkway in Powell County on March 20 when she struck the trailer of a commercial vehicle. She was transported to Clark Regional Hospital, where she was pronounced deceased. Hurley’s mother and juvenile daughter were also injured in the wreck.

- Five were killed in a series of West Virginia wrecks on March 24, including Beatrice Patrick, 77, of Salyersville. Patrick, who had recently been released from the hospital, was traveling in the wrong lane when she struck a car head-on. Patrick, the two people in the car she struck, and two volunteer firefighters that wrecked while responding to the accident, all passed away due to the wrecks. 

3. Notable Deaths
- Jim Mortimer, 81, formerly of Salyersville, passed away on January 16, 2018. Former city council member, veteran, business owner and active Kiwanis member, Mortimer was an avid public servant.

- We lost two community writers this year, with Betty Risner Brown passing away on January 13, 2018, at the age of 86. Brown wrote the column “Betty’s Blackboard,” and later on renamed “Around the Block with Betty,” for several decades. 

- Hedy Blanton passed away on November 21, 2018, at the age of 73. She had written the column “Seitz News” for many, many years, taking over after her mom had to step down due to health reasons. She always recognized birthdays, anniversaries and accomplishments, as well as asked for prayers for the sick.

4. WWII hero Albert Patrick honored
Albert Patrick, now 100 years old, of Salyersville, was honored in April with a Bronze Star Medal, as well as the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three bronze stars, and a World War II Victory Medal. The fiscal court even renamed the Magoffin County Court House building after the war hero. In November, the community came together to celebrate Patrick’s 100th birthday in style! 

5. Naked man arrested, claimed to be Jesus
In June an Indiana man, identified as Austin Johnson, 31, was arrested on Johnson Fork after law enforcement received several complaints about a naked male behind a residence. When they arrived on the scene, police found Johnson lying in the grass near the home. The man told police he “may be Jesus,” but the homeowner advised that he had actually tried to set their home on fire. The case has not been resolved at court to date. 

6. Biggest meth case of the year goes to…
On February 13 local law enforcement made their largest meth bust in the county’s history, confiscating 145 grams of methamphetamine and 15 grams of cocaine. Kenneth Lee Hayden is still facing several felony drug charges concerning this case.

7. Jury awards $15 million in mineral rights case
In the largest bad faith verdict in Magoffin’s history, a jury awarded a family over $15 million in an 11-year-old civil case. We’re not going to attempt to explain the complicated case in these few lines, but this ruling was huge, with Greenwich Insurance Company ordered to pay $15.134 million to the Salyer family. The 52 plaintiffs of the case were heirs of Ben and Lillian Salyer, and they collectively owned the mineral rights to the property where J.D. Carty Resources (insured by Greenwich) had – without permission – drilled a humdinger of a natural gas well. The family never saw any revenue from the gas well and this case was basically regarding the insurance claims. Of course, the ruling is now being appealed, so it will be some time before the case can be put to rest. 

8. Hepatitis A Outbreak
While Magoffin has not been hit as hard as other areas of the state, there have been several cases of Hepatitis A involving food service workers in the county. With increased availabilities of the vaccine, there have been fewer cases reported in the last two weeks, leading officials to believe they may be about to gain control over the “outbreak.” 

9. Mountain Parkway Changes
While the Mountain Parkway Expansion is still ongoing, this year we saw Restaurant Row get really complicated during construction. The mess was (mostly) resolved when the two access roads opened up, providing access to many of the businesses located on the main strip through Salyersville, though it is still a work in progress. 

10. Editor’s Favorite Features
- A Town with a Parkway and No Way Out: Local groups try to bring awareness to the growing homelessness problem. This article attempted to tackle how homelessness affects Magoffin County and provide those in need with resources to get help.

- Overcoming Addiction: The Randall Craft Story. This inspiring feature told the story of Randall Craft and how he turned his life around. He now is an active father and works in a treatment facility, helping addicts find their own road to recovery. 

- Faith & Family: Cravens saved by organ donation. Cory Cravens sat down with the Independent, candidly talking about his liver disease, organ transplant and how he’s using his second chance at life. 

- Weekend Welders making sparks. This story highlighted the nine students that went through the Magoffin County Career and Technical Center’s program, taking evening and weekend classes to earn their certifications for welding. This fun group of men and women were working toward beefing up their resumes so they could find employment, many of which we’re told have gone on to work in the field, now! 

- Rebecca Lynn & band tour with Steven Tyler: this story followed an interview Ritt Mortimer did with Rebecca Lynn Howard. The Magoffin native has been around the world, performing with the legendary Steven Tyler, and has quite the story to tell! 

- Local photographer Jim Arnett takes photos of every sports team, most games, Grand March, and most local events, so when his expensive lens decided to go on the fritz, the community stepped up, and collected enough money to cover the equipment in less than two days. 
Happy 2019, everyone, and thanks for reading the paper!


Heather Oney

ARH Top 10 Employers