AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — As we prepare for 2021 to come to a close, we take look back at what we have deemed the top four stories of 2021.
4. Amarillo Mayoral Election Recount:
The recount came at the request of candidate Claudette Smith., who claimed thousands contacted her with concerns over the integrity of the election.
Teams counted all ballots by hand on May 12.
The city found a net change of 10 votes during the process, but that did not change the outcome of the election.
The city said the total cost of the recount was $11,874.50, and under the Texas Election Code, assessable costs to Smith were $5,978.64. After she paid a $4,500 deposit prior to the recount, Smith owed a balance of $1,478.64.
The remaining nearly $5,900 worth of recount expenses will be footed by the City and taxpayers, although City Manager Jared Miller said the City budgets for situations like this.
Incumbent Mayor Ginger Nelson was sworn into office on May 25.
City officials say the recount was the first official recount they are aware of in recent city history.
3. The Latest in the Tom Brown Investigation:
It was perhaps the most in-depth look into Brown’s case we’ve seen.
In October, the Texas Attorney General’s Office released an investigation summary on the case.
The attorney general’s office noted in its introduction to the published report that, “this investigation has reached an impasse and should be suspended until such time as additional reliable evidence may be discovered.”
That report came in addition to a presentation by Klein Investigations and Consulting, a private investigation group hired by Brown’s family.
Klein proposed his version of the case’s timeline and information, but there were notable inconsistencies with the AG’s report.
2. The Historic Winter Storm
February saw a Texas-sized winter storm sweep across the Lone Star State.
The storms left so many across the state without power as temperatures reached the single digits.
Texas’ electric grid became the focal point after days of the dangerous temperatures left millions of Texans in the dark for days.
Most of the panhandle was spared from the long-term effects of the storm, thanks to being on a separate power grid from the rest of the state.
The Panhandle still had to do our part to keep our grid intact, including controlled rolling blackouts and schools canceling classes to help conserve energy.
1. The Coronavirus Pandemic:
The first of the year started off with hope in the battle against COVID-19 as more and more people were able to get vaccinated against the virus.
The Amarillo metro area was leading the nation in vaccination rates. According to covidactnow.gov, more than 10% of the metro area had their first shot by the end of January.
As the year progressed, hospitalizations and active cases seemed to be on a downward trend.
By mid-summer, the Delta variant became a new concern, and case numbers were once again on the uptick.
This time last year, more than 900 people on the High Plains had died from the virus. That number has now more than doubled.
The Delta variant is still dominant in our area as the new omicron variant makes its way through the country.
MyHighPlains.com’s Top 10 Stories of 2021
Below are the top stories of 2021 from MyHighPlains.com. The stories are ranked based on the number of page views.
In the wake of the historic winter storm that swept across Texas in February 2021, leaving millions to deal with prolonged power outages, the Panhandle remained mostly unscathed. This led many to question the differences between the Amarillo area’s energy infrastructure, compared to the rest of the state.
Texas Senator John Cornyn offered his thoughts on the January 6 Committee that was formed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, noting that he viewed part of the reason for the attack on the Capitol to be devastating because the police were not prepared.
During an operation focused on the online solicitation of minors, the Texas Department of Public Safety arrested seven people over the course of Aug. 31 through Sept. 3. The department said it worked alongside the Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, the Mount Pleasant Police Department, the Collin County Sheriff’s Office, and the Texarkana Federal Bureau of Investigations Field Office to make the arrests.
In late November, nearly 200 state legislators from across the US signed an open letter calling for “forensic audits” of the “corrupted 2020 election” and urging states to decertify electors “where it has been shown the elections were certified prematurely and inaccurately.”
The Texas Juvenile Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General arrested a former employee, Deena Riley, charged with Indecency with a Child. In January, she resigned from her position as a youth development coach at the McLennan County State Juvenile Facility in Mart.
Photos flooded social media accounts around the Amarillo area in November, featuring various individuals taking pictures with the stars of the upcoming “Yellowstone” spinoff at downtown Amarillo businesses. Officials confirmed that the Paramount Network was filming “1883,” a prequel to the series, in the region.
60-year-old Mark Herring refused to sell his Twitter handle, worth thousands of dollars, to an anonymous caller. Later that same day, he was the victim of a “swatting” phone call that sent authorities to his home and resulted in an incident that led to his death.
After the historic February 2021 storm, many were even more concerned with what the next winter would bring to their homes. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said there would be a 70% chance of La Nina returning between November 2021 and January 2022.
While the chances for all Americans to receive a fourth stimulus check was growing dim in August 2021, some states doled out their own payments for certain residents. Teachers, first responders or families in need were set to get extra money from states such as California, Florida, New Mexico, and Tennessee.
In a saga that shook the Texas Panhandle in January 2021, the Stinnett Police Chief Jason Collier not only resigned from his position after being placed on administrative leave by the city, but was arrested by the Texas Rangers. He was charged with tampering with a government document with the intent to defraud, a state felony, in the midst of a social media post going viral as a woman claiming to be his fiance said she learned he was already married.
Cecily Steinmetz, the original author of the viral post, alleged Collier sent her a fake annulment document; and that she posted to raise local awareness and hold Collier accountable.