New faces in leading officials’ seats were among the top headlines for 2008 as the Shawnee City Commission swore in two new commissioners and a mayor, and a new Pottawatomie County sheriff was elected.

The city had turnovers in two major management positions — city manager and police chief. Former City Manager Jim Collard was terminated June 16, and city commissioners named Phyllis Loftis interim city manager.

City commissioners wasted no time in searching for a replacement. They received 34 applications for the position. The commission established a search committee to review the applications and narrow the search.


New faces in leading officials’ seats were among the top headlines for 2008 as the Shawnee City Commission swore in two new commissioners and a mayor, and a new Pottawatomie County sheriff was elected.
The city had turnovers in two major management positions — city manager and police chief. Former City Manager Jim Collard was terminated June 16, and city commissioners named Phyllis Loftis interim city manager.
City commissioners wasted no time in searching for a replacement. They received 34 applications for the position. The commission established a search committee to review the applications and narrow the search.
Commissioners interviewed two candidates — Brian McDougal and Gary Dumas. Following lengthy discussions in executive session, commissioners offered McDougal the position.
Shawnee residents also saw a new face in the police chief’s office as former Police Chief Bill Mathis was terminated Sept. 5 because of an internal personnel investigation. Lt. Russell Frantz was named interim police chief, and he was later named police chief Nov. 21.
The police department faced turmoil in early 2008 as the local police union stood its ground on the 2007-08 bargaining agreement for Shawnee officers. The dispute resulted in a special election where residents decided to back the city. Shawnee officers received a 7-percent pay increase.
The police union and city officials were able to reach an understanding for the 2008-09 bargaining agreement in September. The officers received the same agreement as the year before.
The city commission transformed as new residents took their seats. James Harrod defeated incumbent Marva O’Neal for the Ward 3 seat, and Frank Sims defeated Jerry Chastain in a run-off election to fill Ward 2 seat, which was filled by Tom Schrzan.
Linda Peterson changed seats on the commission. She moved from being Ward 5 Commissioner to mayor. She defeated Linda Agee in a run-off election. Commissioners appointed John Winterringer to the Ward 5 seat, and he will be sworn in Jan. 5.
The county will have a new sheriff in January when Mike Booth, Democrat, takes office. He defeated incumbent Kurt Shirey and Jerry Farris, Republican.
Long-time County Clerk Nancy Bryce held her position during the 2008 election season as she faced Alicia Warner.
Pottawatomie County made headlines with the opening of a county enhanced 911 dispatch center in Tecumseh and by asking voters to make the 1-cent county sales tax permanent.
County voters, excluding Shawnee, approved the change from 911 to enhanced 911, which allows residents in the southern part of the county to receive emergency assistance.
The change required the county to have a central dispatch location, excluding Shawnee, because the city already had enhanced services. The central dispatch and switch to enhanced 911 began in August. Shortly after, county officials began upgrading to enhanced wireless 911 services, which allows emergency personnel to pinpoint wireless callers.
Melvin Potter was named the 911 director for Pottawatomie County.
In August, county voters put their seal of approval on making the 1-cent sales tax permanent, but the permanency will not go into effect until 2013. The tax was put in place in 1998 for five years and was renewed for another 10 years.
The tax has generated about $6.3 million with it being divided among several county services, including roads/bridges, Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center, emergency services and others.
Shawnee saw several new businesses constructed, including the Troy and Dollie Smith YMCA. The new building, located on Saratoga, replaced the previous YMCA building.
In the same area, Shawnee Public Schools opened the new Early Childhood Center. The center was part of a multi-million dollar bond issue in 2005. The bond was for building the childhood center, a new gymnasium and auditorium and renovating the track at Jim Thorpe Stadium.
The center was opened before the 2008-09 school year, and the other projects neared completion November 2008.
In the summer, Tecumseh made headlines with a computer crash, resulting in Tecumseh residents receiving duplicate utility bills. The duplication came after residents were already paying higher rates on utilities, a decision made by city officials in 2007.
Tecumseh officials said the crash happened Aug. 8, forcing the city to use July (one of the hottest months) figures for billing purposes.
In other news in Tecumseh, a lengthy legal battle ended with a former city manager being ordered to return a $30,000 award offered to him at the time of his 2006 resignation.
Several city residents objected to the monetary award, and a district judge concluded that former city manager David Johnson had been deceptive in obtaining the funds. This conclusion, the judge said, was based on a private meeting Johnson held with then-Tecumseh Mayor Greg Wilson, former Tecumseh City Council member Don Holland and Tecumseh City Council member Trace Brown.
Following the ordeal, Brown accused city attorney Ben McCullar of allowing the council to violate the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act, and made a motion to have his position terminated. The motion died for lack of a second, but McCullar has resigned as city attorney, citing family reasons.
In December, Tecumseh and Shawnee were able to come to terms on an 18-year-old contract for the Wes Watkins Reservoir. The two entities, along with Pottawatomie County Development Authority, were able to settle the dispute and find ways for Tecumseh to access its 15 percent of raw water from the reservoir.
On the crime scene, area residents saw a state official convicted, two murders related to domestic abuse and a local lawyer sentenced for lewd molestation.
In April, Gary Jay was sentenced to a combined term of 24 years behind bars for two cases involving incidents with juvenile clients. Jay’s case began in January 2007 when he was arrested at a garage apartment behind his home on North Broadway. Jay was contracted as a court-appointed attorney for juvenile delinquents at the time of his arrest.
In June, former Oklahoma State Auditor Jeff McMahan and his wife, Lori, were convicted in a federal court of conspiracy and accepting bribes.
McMahan was indicted by a federal grand jury in January for accepting gifts, trips and excessive campaign contributions to McMahan’s 2002 political campaign from Steve Phipps in exchange for favorable treatment of Phipps’ abstract companies, which were once regulated by McMahan’s office.
In August and September, the Shawnee area had two domestic abuse-related murder cases with one resulting in a murder-suicide.
In August, Edwin Scoby, 48, was charged with first-degree murder of his wife, Nina Scoby, 48.
According to police reports, an apparent domestic-related incident led to the shooting death of Nina Scoby. His preliminary hearing will be in January.
In late September, two bodies were  found in a Bethel area home. The bodies were of Sonja Leann Sparks, 32, and Ryan Benjamin Jackson, 28. Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office said it was an apparent murder-suicide and the two were reported being a couple.
In January, a police chase involving a Seminole police officer and a Seminole County escapee ended in gunfire and a woman’s death.
The brief chase came to a end as the suspect’s vehicle crashed near SH 3 and SH 99A in Pottawatomie County, and the driver, identified as Kenneth Gayler, opened fire on the police officer. The officer returned fire, and 23-year-old Jenny Chaffin was caught in the crossfire and killed, officials said.
The officer, Adam Good, was struck in the leg, stomach and face by shotgun blasts, and Gayler suffered a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the leg, officials said.
An investigation continues to identify skeletal remains discovered near Earlsboro in April, and officials have thus far determined the remains are those of a Hispanic or Native American male between 17 and 23 years of age.
Officials believe the man had been dead between one and five years prior to the discovery of the bones, and missing persons files from the last 25 years are being examined.
Four young men were rescued following a mishap during a float trip in June. The Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office said the victims, ranging in age from 16 to 21, began their trip in the North Canadian River near Garrett’s Lake and Brangus roads early one afternoon.
The men were carried too far downstream and were forced to take shelter in a hole dug in a sandbar overnight.
The incident occurred a little more than a year after a boat with three men capsized in the same river. Two of the men were rescued, while the body of Meeker resident Wesley Davis was never found.
Dry weather contributed to a number of grass fires early in the year in the Tri-County area, and in January Gov. Brad Henry issued a statewide burn ban. A grass fire in February destroyed Sallateeska Baptist Church on Garrett’s Lake Road east of SH 18, and a new church facility has since been built on the site.
Two historic structures destroyed by fire in 2008 — the Rock Hotel in Shawnee and the Rock Cafe in Stroud.
The Rock Hotel, built around 1900 at 211 S. Union Street, burned in February. All that remained following the blaze was a corner and back wall.
Over the years, the structure was believed to have operated as the Rock Hotel, the Linden Hotel and a brothel and bar. The building had been abandoned for many years prior to the fire.
The Rock Cafe, 114 W. Main Street in Stroud, caught fire in May. Owned by Dawn Welch since 1993, the cafe has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2001.
The rocks used to cover the cafe’s outside walls — which were all that remained after the fire was extinguished — were unearthed during the construction of Route 66 in the 1930s.
Welch, who was the direct inspiration for the character “Sally” the Porche in the Disney-Pixar animated movie “Cars,” told friends at the scene that she plans to rebuild the cafe.
In early January, a Tecumseh couple died in an early-morning house fire at 19311 Gordon Cooper Drive.
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SNS Writer Kim Morava contributed to this report.
Amanda Gire may be reached at 214-3934.
Jason Smith may be reached at 214-3932.