2005 was momentous for Pauls Valley and Garvin County in a variety of ways.
This area had three new state legislators begin new terms in the Oklahoma Legislature; a widely publicized crime spree; the grand opening of the highly anticipated Toy and Action Figure Museum; and a full year of arts activities from the Pauls Valley Arts Council.
Here is a list of the top newsmakers of 2005. These individuals, groups or “things” aren’t ranked in any order but they sure made life interesting for all of us in 2005.
Fiery Start and Finish
The year started and ended with major fires grabbing the headlines of the Daily Democrat.
In late February Pauls Valley firefighters were called to two large structure fires in town. The first blaze was the home of Danny and Tamara Thompson. The house suffered approximately $25,000 in damages.
A few days later, a second blaze totally destroyed a home on South Ash street. Then in July firefighters were called to a fire in the 700 block of East Grant.
The Grant Street fire started in a detached garage then spread to the attic of the house. Damages from the fire were estimated between $40-50,000.
Recent grass fires have kept area firefighters busy. In November Garvin County was one of 15 counties where wildfires were rampant with nearly 5,000 acres believed to have been scorched here alone.
The worst of the wildfires in Garvin County came just north of Elmore City where about 4,000 acres burned and at least two houses, a mobile home and several outbuildings were destroyed. Officials deemed this fire suspicious in nature, believing it was intentionally set.
A discarded cigarette from a motorist on I-35 is believed to be the cause of the most recent rash of wild fires. The Tuesday, Dec. 27, blaze started in the median on I-35 just south of Pauls Valley and quickly spread due to the high winds and dry vegetation.
These recent fires scorched approximately 2,500 acres and forced the staff and residents of the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center to evacuate the facility as flames got dangerously close to their campus. Firefighters were still putting out hot spots late last week on those blazes.
Some of the blazes this year, such as the Elmore City grass fire, were suspicious in nature. Firefighters were called to the local Homeland Store in late October concerning a fire that was started in the women’s restroom.
“Somebody intentionally set this fire,” said Pauls Valley Fire Chief Joe Eddy.
As it turned out, it was two 15-year old girls who started the fire. Mary Stockman of Pauls Valley and Jessica McBroom of Elmore City were charged as youthful offenders in the case.
Another arson case was wrapped up in November when a former Paoli volunteer firefighter pleaded no contest to the arson charges against him.
Jeffery James Wood was charged for the September 13 fire at a home near Paoli. Wood allegedly told his wife he didn’t know why he started the blaze.
Toy and Action Figure Museum
What started as a vision for the future of Pauls Valley six years ago became a reality in 2005 as the worlds first and only toy museum dedicated to the action figure industry opened its doors to the public on October 15.
Pauls Valley’s Toy and Action Figure Museum was the culmination of thousands of volunteer hours. The end result was a major tourist attraction for Pauls Valley which has caught the eye of state tourism officials and action figure collectors around the nation and world.
Over 4,500 people have toured the facility since the museum’s opening weekend. Tourists from Nome, Alaska, to Stamford, Conn., and several points in between have come to Pauls Valley to tour the facility.
Crime and Punishment
From forged checks to drug busts to a serial robber, Garvin County law enforcement officials had a host of villains to deal with in 2005. Here are some of the more noted cases:
•James Willeford — Known as the “Ball Cap Bandit” to local police, Willeford started his crime spree in April with the robbery of a Lindsay grocery store by calling in a false accident report to the Lindsay Police to draw them out of town during his robbery.
Willeford eventually was caught in June and confessed to nine area robberies in a three county area. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison for each of the robberies.
•Nancy Ann Gilstrap — It was a grisly scene last October when Maysville Police officers arrived at the home of Gilstrap’s mother-in-law and found one woman brutally beat to death with a hammer. Gilstrap had called the police earlier and said she had just killed her mother-in-law, 72-year-old Rosemary Avila.
Gilstrap was held on a $1 million bond and ordered to undergo a mental evaluation. She was later deemed incompetent to be tried for the murder.
•Dudley Powell and Brian Spears — Both Powell and Spears were convicted in March 1991 of first-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Jimmy Dewayne Thompson of Maysville and were sentenced to death by lethal injection.
Both returned to Garvin County court in 2005 after their death penalty sentences were overturned based on questionable photographs of Thompson’s body were introduced during the sentencing phase of their original trial.
New trials scheduled for both men never took place after prosecutors offered agreements that will keep them in prison for the rest of their lives.
•Amanda Dawn Spivey — During a courtroom scene that invoked images of “Silence of the Lambs,” county officials had to restrain Spivey by handcuffing her to a wheelchair, complete with leg irons and a mask covering her face.
The 22-year old Wayne resident was arrested earlier on a public intoxication charge by Garvin County officials. Spivey was so volatile during her arrest and booking she allegedly fought with police and tried to spit on the jailer as he was booking her into the Garvin County jail.
•IBC Bank robber — No suspects have been identified or arrested for the June robbery of the IBC Bank branch in Pauls Valley. The robbery took place shortly after 9 a.m. on June 2.
According to police reports, an unidentified man waited in line at one of the teller windows at the bank and when it was his turn in line handed the teller a note demanding money.
•Counterfeiters — An investigation is ongoing by local police and the Secret Service concerning a number of fake 10 and 20 dollar bills that have been passed at area stores.
Pauls Valley Arts Council
Formed in mid-2004, the PVAC has brought a variety of cultural events to Pauls Valley and the surrounding area. 2005 was a banner year for the Arts Council. Here are some of the highlights:
•Wacker Park After Dark summer concerts;
•Two theatrical productions (Born to be Blue and Story Theatre);
•Winning the first Arts Power Award from a state arts association;
•The first PVAC Prism Award given to Pam McGee for her many years of work in bringing the Missoula Children’s Theatre to Pauls Valley each year;
•From Paseo to Pauls Valley...An Exhibition. This was the first art show in southern Oklahoma featuring the artists from the Paseo Arts District in Oklahoma City;
•Valley of the Arts weekend of arts workshops, featuring noted Broadway and Hollywood actor Obba Babatunde’;
•Recognizing the literary arts by hosting a book signing for Bill and Cindy Paul, authors of Shadow of an Indian Star. The book signing was in conjunction with the national release of the novel;
•Sponsoring the U.S. Air Force Jazz Band concert last April; and
•Bringing in the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Christmas concert, A Very Merry Pops.
The PVAC also began working with the City of Pauls Valley on preliminary plans for an arts and cultural center to be located in the current City Hall building, once the city moves to it’s new location on Paul and Chickasaw.
Garvin County welcomed three new legislators and Pauls Valley had two new city council members take office in 2005.
Representatives Lisa Billy and Wes Hilliard started serving this area in the House of Representatives while Sen. Susan Paddack began her tenure in the Oklahoma Senate. All three won their seats in the Legislature in the November 2004 General Election.
Locally, two new city council members joined the Pauls Valley City Council after the resignations of council members Richard Kennedy and Jim Dehart.
Kennedy announced his resignation prior to the candidate filing period for city offices. The only candidate to file for his post was Pauls Valley educator and coach Gary Alfred, who took over the council seat in May.
Jocelyn Rushing accepted the appointment to fill Dehart’s council seat after Dehart resigned so he could devote more time and energy to his church and ministry.
2005 also brought City Hall closer to moving to a new location as the First United Bank moved to its new site on Grant Street.
In a land swap finalized in 2004, the bank and city traded land so First United could build a new facility on land owned by the city. In return, the city would have the bank’s building located on Paul and Chickasaw as a new site for City Hall.
In October First United moved to the new building on Grant Street, leaving city officials with the task of preparing to move to the new City Hall site. Near the end of the year city council members approved a plan to bring the building in line with federal handicap regulations, but no definite moving date has been set.
Riding the Rails
The Heartland Flyer marked its sixth anniversary of passenger rail service in Oklahoma and it was the sweetest birthday ever for the Amtrak train.
At the beginning of the year there were serious fears the Oklahoma Legislature wouldn’t fund the train and this would be the last year the Heartland Flyer would be making stops in Pauls Valley and other cities between OKC and Fort Worth.
Supporters began a strong campaign to keep the Flyer going and, with a little help from Gov. Brad Henry, the Flyer gained at least one more year of funding from the Oklahoma Legislature.
A new study on the Flyer also brought good news for supporters as the Carter-Burgess report revealed the Flyer was making a positive economic impact on Oklahoma and was bringing more tourists from Texas into Oklahoma. The report rebutted opponents of the train who said the Flyer was taking tourism dollars away from the state.
Here are a few other names that made headlines in 2005.
Karl Burkhardt became the new Pauls Valley Chamber of Commerce Director after Chris Pool resigned as Chamber Director to return to banking.
Local authors Bill and Cindy Paul published their first novel, Shadow of an Indian Star, which gained immediate state and national attention. Bill is a direct descendant of Smith Paul, the founder of Pauls Valley. At year’s end there was talk of turning the book into a motion picture or television mini-series.
Another Smith Paul descendant and OKC attorney Bill Paul was appointed to the state’s new lottery commission in March of 2005.
After months of searching, the Main Street Pauls Valley Board of Directors chose Tania Landers as the new MSPV Director in September. She replaced Della Wilson, who left the MSPV in May to become the new Toy and Action Figure Museum’s Director.
Whether he was working as Board President for MSPV, a consultant for the Toy and Action Figure Museum or working on the Pauls Valley Arts Council to make the Paseo art show a reality, Kevin Stark was definitely involved in making Pauls Valley a showcase community. The local artist and community volunteer was named the Chamber’s Citizen of the Year in April.
In 2004, Don Fincher made news headlines as the new Pauls Valley Airport Manager. He was working on several improvements to the airport when he was, according to Fincher, forced to resign in May of 2005. He alleged the members of the Pauls Valley Airport Authority were out to “protect the good ole boy system” the airport has had for years.
Pauls Valley National Bank celebrated its 100th anniversary all year long.
The Pauls Valley Rotary Club also celebrated it’s centennial by dedicating a monument in Wacker Park to honor Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor, the author of the Rotary Four Way Test and former Pauls Valley Rotary President. The monument is part of the new Rotary Rose Garden at the park, which was also a centennial project for the club.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita pounded the Gulf Coast, causing millions of dollars in damages and an outpouring of charity from Garvin County residents. Pauls Valley, Garvin County and much of the southern Oklahoma region was the refuge for several individuals and families who were displaced due to the hurricanes. The hurricanes also caused gas prices to soar to record levels.
2005 was momentous for Pauls Valley and Garvin County in a variety of ways.