It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Those lines penned by Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities still resonate and fit the 21st century as well as they did the 19th.
In Neosho, it was a year of triumphs and tragedies, the old land the new.
In the Neosho Daily News countdown of the top stories of the year, the death of Angel Hayes, a kindergarten teacher at Benton Elementary School ranks as number one. The 48-year old teacher was struck by a van during parent pickup time at the school at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 5. The van was driven by 88-year old Irwin Parker. Parker's foot became wedged between the brake and accelerator pedals. Attempts to free the foot caused the vehicle to accelerate. Hays died at the scene.
A vigil attended by hundreds of local residents was held to remember her on the Sunday evening following her death at Benton.
The first major expansion of the Neosho-Newton Library in decades took place in 2018 and ranks second on our list. After months of construction and a period of time when the library closed, the facility doubled in size. A new community room offering space for public events was added to the library along with an enlarged children's section, study rooms, more space for the genealogy department and much more.
At number three, a long anticipated groundbreaking ceremony took place in September for the Freeman Roughrider Fieldhouse at Crowder College in Neosho. When completed, the fieldhouse will be the first new structure on campus since 2010 and will also be the first fully donor funded structure on the campus.
The number 4 story of the year was a school bus crash on October 3 that occurred ten miles east of Neosho at 4:20 p.m. The accident occurred at the intersection of highways H and HH when a 1981 Chevrolet pickup truck traveling eastbound, driven by Thomas L. Austin, Harrison, AR, age 21, filed to stop for a stop sign and hit the bus broadside. According to the Missouri State Highway patrol, both vehicles traveled off the left road of the roadway and overturned. The bus came to rest on top of the pickup truck. Both vehicles were engulfed in flames Sherry Peavy, 50, of Neosho, driver of the bus, and 43-year old Bethany A. Thomasson, Neosho, suffered injuries and were transported to Mercy Hospital in Joplin. The two children who were on the bus were unhurt. Both the 1999 Bluebird school bus and the pickup were a total loss. Three Arkansas residents in the pickup truck died at the scene.
At number 5, the news that Missouri American Water of Joplin proposes to build a 1200-1500 acre reservoir that will hold approximately 12 billion gallons of water in one of two Newton County locations made headlines in November. One public meeting has been held and a second will take place in January. Missouri American Water expects to make a decision in early February and begin the process of filing for permits. The project is anticipated to take 5-6 years to complete. Both buy-outs of property and eminent domain are possibilities.
Making number 6 on the list of top stories, Interim Neosho City Manager and Director of Economic Development Dana Daniel announced his retirement effective November 1, 2018. Daniel served as interim city manager from November 2016 to September 2018. The City hired Leland Butcher as the new city manager.
Butcher holds an AS Degree in Law Enforcement from Napa Valley College, a BS in Criminal Justice from Roger Williams University and a Masters in Public Administration from Troy University.
He has an extensive background in public service beginning with a 20 year career in the US Navy. His Navy career was followed by service with the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office in Milton, Florida. During his time with the Sheriff’s Office, Leland also served as an Adjunct Instructor at the George Stone Criminal Justice Training Center and later at Pensacola State University. He and his wife, George Ann, have moved to Neosho.
At number seven, Neosho Superintendent of Schools Dan Decker was placed on administrative level in April and subsequently resigned his post. A Neosho alumni and former assistant superintendent, Dr. Jim Cummins, was hired to replace Decker and assumed the post in June. Cummins, a graduate of Neosho High School, took the reins of the district effective July 1. He previously served as Superintendent of Schools for the Seneca District. Cummins has also been Vice-President of Finance at Crowder College, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance for Neosho district, Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Carl Junction, and Superintendent of the Wheaton School District.
Another personnel change ranks at number 8, Crowder College President Dr. Jennifer Methvin announced her resignation to accept a position of Chancellor of Arkansas State University effective July 1. Dr. Thomas Burke took her place as interim president and after a presidential candidate search, the college board unanimously voted to hire Dr. Glenn Coltharp, who has served as Vice-President of Academic Affairs at Crowder College, to serve as president effective in 2019.
The November General Election and several hotly contested races ranks at number 9.
For United States representative to Congress from the 7th District, incumbent and Republican Billy Long won over Democrat Jamie Schoolcraft.
In the three way race for state senator from the 32nd district, Republican Bill White won overDemocrat Carolyn McGowan and Green Party candidate Conon Gillis.
For state representatives to the Missouri House, in the 159th district, Republican Dirk Deaton received won over Democrat Jerry Sparks. In the 160th district, Republican Ben Baker prevailed against Democrat Angela Thomas. In the 161st district, Lane Roberts, (R) won with 2,316 votes over Elizabeth Lundstrum (D)
In the sole contested Newton County race, for Associate Circuit Judge for Division III, Republican Kevin Selby won over independent Andy Wood.
Ranked at number 10 in a tie are two anniversaries. the Griffith Motor Company of Neosho celebrated 85 years in business. They have been owned by the same family for all 85 years and gave away a 2018 Chevrolet Equinox. Another Neosho firm also celebrated an anniversary. Scholastic of Neosho marked their 20th anniversary in Neosho.
At number 11, Judy Haas Smith donated a copy of local artist Doug Hall's painting o as a tile mural at the Neosho Newton County Library. The scene depicts the spring flowing from the bluff in Big Spring Park, in an era long before the town existed. The unveiling ceremony in September drew a large crowd. The mural is on permanent display outside the community room at the library.
Last but far from least, at number twelve,the long-awaited Newton Council Judicial Center, which opened last year, held a formal grand opening ceremony. Other major expansions in Neosho included a new assisted living center, Webwood, which is now open in Neosho and a new housing development from Schuber Mitchell Homes got underway, both located off Waldo Hatler Drive.
Many other newsworthy events and recognitions occurred during 2018.
We look forward to bringing you the breaking news, community events, local government coverage, school news and much more in the coming year.