Local headlines – reflections & thoughts…



Southside High School Boys Bowling Team won the 3A-4A State Championship, led by Caleb Patterson bowling a 222.

Batesville High School Girls Basketball Team won the 4A-3 Conference Championship Friday night, Feb 21, defeating Southside.


Social media in Batesville is blowing up with millage talk this past week. Batesville School District is holding a series of public meetings and tours at its facilities to demonstrate why it is asking for a millage increase in a special election on Apr 14. The deadline to register to vote in this election is Mar 16.


A Bentonville man joined Citizens Bank Board of Directors. Mark S. Forbis is a recent retiree from Jack Henry & Associates, where he was Chief Technology Officer. Forbis is also on the board at IncredibleBank in Wisconsin and 3E Software, Inc. in Springdale, according to his public social media profile.

Statewide news with local relevance:

A former state representative is trying to find 71,321 registered voters collectively from at least 15 counties in Arkansas to sign a petition to get used cars exempt from sales tax. Currently, buyers have to pay sales tax on any used car costing more than $4,000. The proposal would move it to any used car costing more than $20,000. Read this story in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette (requires subscription).


White River Health System is being sued for alleged age discrimination, according to a news source. Meanwhile, they have been recognized as an “Age-Friendly Health System” participant, according to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. This status is valid for one year. To see the other 270 health systems that have been recognized as participants as of Jan 2020, click here. A quick review of the list revealed WRHS is the only hospital in Arkansas to participate in this program.

Gary Huskey and William Ball (Stellar Sun in Little Rock) say they want to install community solar energy centers in Strawberry, Ark., and Evening Shade, Ark., to provide power to 11 counties, including Independence County, according to a news source. The centers will be paid for by customers, who will lease the land, according to Ball. Customers affected are those of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative and Craighead Electric Cooperative. They are planning a public meeting to discuss the project and answer questions.

A new bank opened in town. The Bank of England Mortgage opened a branch at 1501 Harrison Street in Batesville. The Bank of England was started in 1898 in England, Ark., and according to its website, it is “Arkansas’s oldest and largest lender,” with more than 1000 employees and 99 locations in 39 states.

A local lawyer is now also selling real estate. Johnathan Burgess joined Crye-Leike as a sales associate, according to a local news source. According to Crye-Leike’s website, they have 11 total agents in the Batesville area.

FNBC Community Bankers paid $100,000 for naming rights for the Ozarka College Technical Center in Ash Flat, Ark. To read more, click here. I wonder how this will translate to naming rights for Batesville’s proposed new facilities...

The County terminated its recycling agreement with the City of Batesville. To read more click here and here. I wonder how many people in town are still recycling, and who is buying the recycled goods...

The Southside High School Bowling Team, led by Caleb Patterson who bowled a 222, won the state tournament for 3A-4A. To read more, click here.

Want to know what a local priest has to say about Valentine’s Day? Click here.

Statewide news with local relevance:

The closest water park to Batesville is going up for auction on April 14 (same day as the special election for the Batesville School District millage), according to a news source. Starting bid for Wild River Country is the unpaid taxes owed ($282,000). The property is 62 acres in North Little Rock. Another Arkansas theme park is up for auction soon. The 400-acre Dogpatch theme park in Jasper, which last sold in 2014 for $2 million, will be auctioned on March 3 because the current owners owe more than $1 million and are behind on payments. The bidding for this property will start at $1 million, according to an article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette published on Jan 24.

In case you missed it –> Currently, state parks do not allow use of all-terrain vehicles on state forest roads. This limits Arkansas’s all-terrain vehicle tourism potential. And affects Batesville, because if that industry grows, so will one of our home grown companies, Intimidator. In 2019, the state legislature passed ACT 671 for there to be a study conducted called the ATV Tourism and Trail Expansion Study, and from the study should come recommendations for a “statewide all-terrain vehicle trails system,” with intentions of using state forest roads as connectors. To read more about ACT 671, click here. To read more about ATV tourism, click here. To see a list of ATV tourism destinations in Arkansas, click here.

Nationwide news with local relevance:

The Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl Sunday night, Feb 2, 2020. They defeated the San Francisco 49ers, who hired the first female to coach a team in the Super Bowl. Katie Sowers is an offensive assistant for the 49ers.

FEBRUARY 2, 2020

Statewide news with local relevance:

Applications opened yesterday, Feb 1, 2020, for HealthTech Arkansas, which is an accelerator program for five new healthcare companies each year. Startups get $75,000 upfront and pilot projects with at least two Arkansas healthcare providers. There are currently ten providers associated with the program: Arkansas Heart Hospital, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Arkansas Urology, Baptist Health, CHI St. Vincent, Conway Regional, Mercy, St. Bernards Healthcare, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), and Washington Regional Medical Center. The director of HealthTech Arkansas is Jeff Stinson, MBA. He is also involved in the Fund for Arkansas’ Future. To read more about the program, click here.

There were 85 human trafficking cases in Arkansas reported to the national human trafficking hotline in 2018, a big jump from 46 in 2017. There were 41 cases reported to the hotline in the first half of 2019. To read more, click here.

In case you missed it, in order to enter a federal building or board a commercial airplane after Oct 1, 2020, you are required to have a “Real ID.” The large amount of paperwork could be harder to compile than you think because of name discrepancies on documents. Therefore, starting the process now is recommended.

Local headlines:

A tea shop opened Wednesday, Jan 29, located across from the Citizen’s Bank headquarters on St. Louis Street. The Tea Crate is owned by Nathan and Shaelyn Ellyson, and the structure that houses it is built out of stacked shipping containers. The shop opened with already 2,348 Facebook likes. To see a menu, click here (requires a Facebook account).

Citizen’s Bank promoted Helen Shaw to Vice President – Corporate Security Officer and Facilities Manager. To read more, click here.

Brian Emison is the new Chief Deposit Officer at First Community Bank in Batesville. To read more, click here.

Great article about a local writer in the Batesville Daily Guard this week – Madeline Pyle. With a Master of Arts degree in Applied Communication from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, she is currently the Associate Director of Communications for Lyon College, and freelances for the Batesville Daily Guard and White River Now.

JANUARY 26, 2020


One of the local Internal Medicine residents, Ron Varghese, MD, was accepted into an endocrinology fellowship program in Maryland. To read more, click here.


The Batesville School Board voted this week to put a millage increase before voters on April 14. The board is requesting voters to approve a $49 million, 8.4 millage increase, which would put the total school millage at 47.15. To read more about the plan, click here.

Nationwide news with local relevance:

Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash today (1-26-2020). Bryant was a legend in the basketball world. His last tweet was congratulating LaBron James for surpassing his third place spot in the National Basketball Association’s All-Time Scoring List. Bryant scored 33,643 points in the NBA, and currently is the second-highest paid NBA player in history at $323.3 million.

JANUARY 20, 2020


It took many years for the Ozark Folk Center State Park to be built. It now struggles to fill seats at concerts. According to an article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, it loses $2 million per year. To read more about this issue, click here.

White River Now has an app. This is good news because…now there are fewer barriers for me to access local stories. Fewer clicks and fewer distractions. And aligns with my habits already built into my daily routine of clicking on apps on my phone.


Local yogi Roman Plaks is offering locals the chance to become Registered Yoga Teachers (RYT®s). To achieve certification, enrollees are required to attend the course one weekend per month for eight months at his studio, Yoga7, located beside BodyFit. The certification, offered by the Yoga Alliance, is widely recognized, and requires no prior yoga experience to enroll. According to Plaks, many who register do not intend to use the certification to become yoga instructors. To see what they plan to use it for, click here.


The lights display brought in $64,893 from the riverfront activities, which included $29,158 in donations. A year prior, White River Wonderland brought in $55,346, which included $25,410 in donations, according to city council minutes. (They estimated 174,000 visitors in 2018.)


The municipal golf course’s new green fees are now in effect. The increased rates were compiled by the newly formed Batesville Municipal Golf Association. The creation of the association is an attempt to save the golf course from being repurposed by the city. The motivation to repurpose was due to the course being $100,000 shy of meeting its 2018 budget. The new single rate is $540 annually, and $600 for a family. To see a list of all the new rates, click here.

The county (Independence) filed a lawsuit against the city (Batesville) on January 10. Lawyers on the case are Daniel Haney for the County and Tim Meitzen for the City. To read more, click here.

Statewide news with local relevance:

Arkansas is one of four states to partner with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Because of this, 39,000 books are delivered EVERY MONTH to Arkansas children (1.4 million nationwide) who are enrolled in the program. The program is free for the family receiving the books, they just have to sign up. Which more and more families are doing, 87 percent more in the past two year. Independence County children ages 5 and under are eligible. To sign up, click here.

Primaries in Arkansas will take place on Tuesday, March 3.

A summary of Arkansas laws changed in 2019: Due to Act 182, more than half a million taxpayers in Arkansas will have reduced income tax. Act 822 will lower tax rates for businesses, and will allow them to carry net operating losses eventually up to 10 years. Act 190 restructured the state government, reducing the number of cabinet-level agencies from 42 to 15. To read more, click here.

Last year, only 30 percent of low income students in Arkansas scored at grade level on the ACT Aspire Test (57.2 percent of non-low income scored at grade level). That is a big difference. To read more, click here.

JANUARY 13, 2020


Southside Junior High School received a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, who awarded Arkansas Public School Resource Center $42.53 Million to fund charter school programs. Their high school received its conversion charter status five years ago, which means it is up for renewal this year, 2020.

Cedar Ridge School District now has an app, free and available to the public. And a new website.


A new summer festival is coming to Batesville in July of 2020. To read more, click here.


Arkansas-based Walmart opened a beef packaging facility in Georgia, in order to have more control over its products. To read the press release, click here. Walmart previously opened a milk processing plant in Indiana in 2016. In other news from Walmart, they recently started using a robot named Alphabot in New Hampshire to bring items from storage to associates to expedite online grocery pickup orders. To read more, click here and here.


The Independence County Spelling Bee was won by Alexander Tenace, an 8th grader at Batesville Junior High School. Second place was Brayden Vines, a 5th grader at Southside Middle School.

Sophia Strain at 14 is the youngest person to ever bowl a perfect 300 in Batesville. To read more about this, click here.

Got news tips? Get in touch.

For 2019 YEAR IN REVIEW, click here.

DECEMBER 13, 2019


The City of Batesville has branded itself “Christmas Capital of Arkansas” due in large part to having the largest free Christmas lights display in Arkansas (more than 1.5 million lights attracting more than 100,000 tourists each year).


Walmart plans to use more than 1.1 million cubic feet of mass timber, grown and produced in Arkansas, to build its new home office campus in Bentonville. Arkansas currently has no production facility able to manufacture such a large project; therefore, Walmart has invested money to bring Canadian-based Structurlam to the center of the state and its 19 million acres of forest. This move will create 130 new jobs in Conway according to this press release. And the growth continues for Conway.


Energy bills will increase by an average of $15/month starting next month for residential customers of Entergy Arkansas due to a tax credit expiration.

A bridge over the White River connecting Stone & Izard counties was named in memory of Sgt. Mike Stephen, who worked for the Stone County Sheriff’s Department and lost his life in the line of duty this past summer (2019). To read more, click here. History in the making.

The Pew Research Center released some findings for 2019, the most notable being that for the first time in history, the Hispanic population in the United States is projected to be the largest minority group to vote in 2020. Interesting. Did you know Batesville School District at 16 percent has one of the highest percentages of English Learners of all school districts in the state (top 7 percent).


The Arkansas Razorbacks hired a new head coach, Sam Pittman from Georgia. The former Razorback coach, Chad Morris, was hired by Gus Malzahn to be his offensive coordinator for Auburn.

DECEMBER 7, 2019


A new organization has emerged in Batesville to provide support for new foster parents and children to help with the transition. To watch a three-minute video explaining their mission, click here. To follow them on social media, click here. The organizers of the group are: Amber Ellis, Meeta Foster, Brooke Cherry, and Taylor Cox. What an excellent and practical way to help area foster moms. Keep up the good work!

A local football coach published a book, available for purchase on Amazon. It currently has 3 reviews. To hear his interview on White River Now, click here.

A deer in Oil Trough tested positive for chronic wasting disease this week, according to the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. To read more about chronic wasting disease in Arkansas, click here. As of now, chronic wasting disease has not spread to humans; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains the World Health Organization’s recommendation: “it is important to keep the agents of all known prion diseases from entering the human food chain.”


The Internal Medicine Residency Program at White River Medical Center was 1 of 20 throughout the nation to receive a grant from the Society of General Internal Medicine (and American College of Physicians). The money will be used to fund a Proud To Be GIM event, for the promotion of the Internal Medicine profession. One of the other programs to receive the grant was the Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care / The Massachusetts Chapter of the ACP. To see a list of all grantees, click here.


Myers Davis Life Coaching & Business Consulting recently hosted Cookbook Wars between the students in the school districts where their transition class is offered. The class trains students who qualify, and helps them locate work-study jobs that are a good fit. It is offered currently in 11 area schools.


General Election Day has been set: Nov 3, 2020. Mark your calendars.

NOVEMBER 30, 2019


Urban Forge in Mountain View designed and created 300 twenty-foot-tall metal holiday trees and stars for a holiday festival in Houston, Tex., attended by more than 100,000 people. The trees have integrated choreographed lighting and an app that can stream music. To see the trees in action, click here. Congratulations to this local company for its innovation, creativity, and successful execution.

First Community Bank announced this week its plans to build a three-story operations center next to its main branch at the corner of St. Louis and Harrison streets in Batesville. It is projected to be completed by the end of 2020 and will house 125 employees.


Lyon College inducted four people into its Athletic Hall of Fame last Saturday. Aubrey Bell, ’72; John Harvey, ’01; Steven Wright, ’07; and Maribeth (Waters) Richards, ’09 made up the 2019 class of inductees. Read about it here.

Among all the community colleges in Arkansas, University of Arkansas Community College in Batesville (UACCB) saw the highest enrollment increase, at 12 percent, since 2014, according to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. Other community colleges in the state decreased an average 14 percent since 2014 . To read why, click here.

In other news, the college is building a new 15,000-sq ft facility, to be completed by the end of the year, that will house an industrial technology program and a MAKERSPACE with 3D printers and a variety of metal and woodworking tools from hand tools to CNC mills and lathes. Congratulations, UACCB!

NOVEMBER 23, 2019


First Community Bank expanded to Conway, Ark., and Harrison, Ark., this month (and Newport last month). Where will they go next? Russellville?


The Independence County Budget Committee budgeted a five percent raise for all county employees for 2020. The raise was to prepare for the rising minimum wage to $10/hour in 2020 and $11/hour in 2021.


Batesville High School senior, Veronica Laslo, who was announced as a National Merit Semi-finalist in September, was named a Coca-Cola Scholar Semi-finalist this week. She is one of 22 semi-finalists from Arkansas, and one of 1,928 high school seniors nationwide who were selected from more than 93,000 applicants. The Coca-Cola Scholars Program is an achievement-based $20,000 scholarship awarded to 150 students each year. In 2019, four of the scholarship recipients were from Arkansas. To see a list of all 2020 semi-finalists, click here.

NOVEMBER 16, 2019


Local businessmen bought Ramsey Mountain for $125,000 this week, and are working with local authorities to make sure the land is preserved in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Cave City Mayor Jonas Anderson dedicated a new monument in Veteran’s Park yesterday, Nov 15. He thanked Council member Ed Turnbough for the idea, and showed appreciation for the mayors, county judges, state representatives, and senators in attendance. According to Anderson’s social media post, “There are now almost 300 names etched into those granite slabs. Five of them belong to my own family; grandparents, uncles, a step-dad.” Pay attention to this young mayor. He continues to impress.


Thirteen local choir students were accepted into the SWACDA regional honor choir. Congratulations to Sarah Barber, Stephanie Barber, Alexis Bulger, Sophia Cole, Eli Dockins, Nate McDonald , Brandon Grant , Julia Gross, Larkin Jones, Josh Narramore, Caroline Russell , Emma Russell, Claire Simmons, and Cole Weaver.

Batesville and Southside high school football teams both lost Friday night.

NOVEMBER 9, 2019


Intimidator announced its 2020 Spartan Mower. To see owner Robert Foster discuss his newest mower, with a 7-gauge deck system, click here.

White River Medical Center (WRMC) was given a safety grade of C from The Leapfrog Group on Thursday, Nov 7, on a grading scale of A to F. Leapfrog also gave a C to other nearby hospitals, the two owned by Unity Health, one in Searcy and the other in Newport. St. Bernards Medical Center in Jonesboro earned an A. To read more about this safety grading system, click here. (Leapfrog performs twice-yearly assessments, and has given WRMC a C grade 5 out of the last 7 times. The other 2 times, in the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018, the hospital earned a B.)

The Stage store in the Eagle Mountain Shopping Center is closing, and being replaced by a Gordmans.


Batesville School District proposed a millage to build an auditorium and a new basketball gym, as well as update some existing facilities. Three plans were proposed, and the district wants feedback. Also this week, the state gave Sulphur Rock Elementary $14,200, which is $50 per student, for being a top 6-10 percent performer. Closest school to also earn was Concord, who received $20,100 for being in the top 5 percentage for showing growth on test scores.


Many people in Batesville woke up alone this morning, because their spouses and maybe children were in the woods hunting deer. Today marks the first day of this year’s modern gun season.

The Independence County Parks and Recreation Committee voted this week to bid on Ramsey Mountain this coming Tuesday, Nov 12.

Local mother of six, Rachel Kelly, published a book, and held a signing at Lyon College this week. To buy her book, visit her blog.


Local politician Stu Smith filed this week to run for the State House of Representatives in 2020. To see who else filed, click here.

UPDATE ON NOV 10: Arkansas fired their head football coach, Chad Morris for obvious reasons.


Batesville High School & Southside High School football teams both lost last night.

NOVEMBER 2, 2019


Discover Arkansas of THV11 featured Batesville’s own Maxfield Park in a video this week. To see the video click here. As of Nov 2, the video had 144 views. (Update: As of Nov 10, 195 views.)


Lyon announced it is offering a fermentation science course in the Spring of 2020, taught by Alexander Beeser, PhD, available for students aged 21 and older. Students will learn about the processes of making beer and kombucha. Maybe they were inspired by the University of Arkansas, which began offering a Certificate of Proficiency in Brewing Science earlier this year. This industry is certainly growing in our state. According to the Brewers Association, Arkansas has 40 craft breweries, up from 6 in 2011, which have a $838 million impact on the state’s economy. To read more, click here. The course would also be of interest to future winery professionals. The Arkansas Association of Grape Growers held their annual meeting in Fayetteville this weekend.


An Advanced Overdose Investigation Course was held in Little Rock this weekend. In September, the federal government announced $18.5M for Arkansas to use to gather and report data on overdose deaths in order to identify patterns. Arkansas has a long way to go to address this issue. Its providers write an average of one opioid prescription per person, double the national average. In response to this national directive, the state pharmacy board collaborated with law enforcement to offer the course. Batesville’s own Steve Bryant, P.D., is one of six pharmacists on the Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy. Gary Bridgeman featured the opioid crisis on a three-part series on The Official Word in August of 2019. To listen to Part One of the series, click here.


The Batesville High School & Southside High School football teams won last night. The Pioneers made the 5A playoffs.

OCTOBER 26, 2019


Two local non-profit organizations named new directors recently. The Alpha Center has named Danielle Adams, former Spanish teacher for Batesville School District, as its new director, to replace Amanda Steel. The Humane Society of Independence County named Megan Trail as its new director, to replace Nanci Solis.


Despite the rain, there were two races in Batesville on Saturday, October 26. The first one was The White River 4-Mile Classic, and it took place downtown. In its 41st year, a 41-year old male from Maumelle, Brian Sieczkowski, won the event with a 5:43 pace. Highest placing Batesville resident was a 25-year-old female, Logan Bishop, who finished 5th overall with a 6:12 pace. She turned around and won the local hospital’s 5K race that night at a faster pace of 6:05. To see results from both races, click here and here.

Local radio personality Gary Bridgeman was featured in October’s issue of Next Door Magazine, by the Batesville Daily Guard’s former Managing Editor, Angelia Roberts. To read Roberts’ story on Gary B, click here.

Ducks Unlimited donated 40 acres to the Earl Buss Bayou Deview WMA, a nearby hunting spot for local duck hunters.

Arkansas hunters killed 84 alligators this season, according to Arkansas Game and Fish. To read more, click here.


Henderson State University announced this week it will join Arkansas State University system. Local Batesville professionals who attended Henderson State University include local radio personality, Big Daddy Randy, Randy Seale, and White River Academy Director, Mary Eary,

Announced October 9, a Mountain View Pharmacist received the first and only Director’s Choice Award from the UAMS Arkansas Saves Stroke Program for her advocacy for affordability of the stroke medicine, Activase, in rural areas. She reported to Kaiser Health News in 2017 the small Mountain View hospital paid $8,010 for one dose of Activase while the larger Batesville hospital, located one hour away, paid $1,600 per dose. To hear Langston talk more about the issue, click here. To see all of UAMS’s stroke program award recipients, click here.


Ramsey Mountain is up for auction.


Batesville High School and Southside High School football teams both won Friday night.

OCTOBER 20, 2019


Southside received its first liquor license request this week since incorporating in 2014. There are currently 13 liquor licenses in the Batesville area. To see who requested, click here.

The Chamber released results from the HeART Your Community Meeting held in September. Ninety percent of the more than 150 attendees wanted to see the riverfront more developed. For more, click here and here.


Bad Boy released 2019 Plant Tour Video on Friday. To sneak a peek inside the operation, watch here.

OCTOBER 12, 2019


Maxfield Park officially opened on Friday, thanks to the vision and efforts of Batesville’s own Danny Dozier. To find out more, click here and here.

More than 2,200 people from across the state descended upon Batesville last weekend for the Acts 1:8 One-Day Mission Trip. More than 30 Batesville organizations participated. To see a video of the event, click here.

Some local teachers started a new non-profit organization called Grand Hands which offers support to grandparents raising their grandchildren.


Local youth artists, Donna Terrell and Gareth Brookshire, won the Artoberfest Sidewalk Chalk Competitions last weekend. This is Terrell’s fourth time to win, which makes her a legend. Calling all artists for next year’s contest to start practicing now.

Everything has been “coming up aces” for the Batesville High School music organizations lately. This week BHS announced three of their students, Erin Seymore, Sarah Johnson, and Brandon Grant, earned spots in the All-Region Orchestra and performed in Little Rock on September 21. Last weekend, Batesville Junior High Choir earned a 95 percent acceptance rate into All-Region Choir, and Canon Chaffin earned First Chair. Meanwhile in Jonesboro, the high school band won a marching contest (1st place 4A, 8th overall).

The Southside Southerner football team won last night, and the Batesville Pioneers lost.


ASU-Newport received a grant called Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities worth $379,443 from the US Dept of Labor and the Delta Regional Authority. Great job, Newport for continuing to pursue money for our region. For more details, click here.


After weeks of discussing a new open burn ordinance, the city council voted to stick with the 2015 adoption of the state fire code as its ordinance. To read more, click here.

OCTOBER 5, 2019

An espresso machine at a local downtown coffee shop broke this week. It took only four days for 84 of the regulars to raise $4,500 for the owners to purchase a new machine (Update on 10-8-19: 105 donors and $5,275). What this tells me: the locals really like the owners, Brice and Haley Stephens, they really like lattes, and the right people announced this fundraiser at the right time on the right medium.

I noticed the National Merit Semi-finalists hit the local papers this week. It was announced mid-September that two students in Batesville achieved this high honor. One was 16-year old Zach McClain, one of only two homeschool students in the state this year to achieve this honor. The other local semi-finalist was Batesville High School senior Veronica Laslo.

The Arkansas Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve Committee awarded First Community Bank the highest honor of its kind in the state, the Pro Patria Award, for its supportive personnel policies.

Southside Junior High School started a fishing club. Congrats to them for getting local students interested in this growing sport.