#1 COVID –19 AND THE CHALLENGES IT CAUSED 

COVID- 19 and things related to it made headlines in the Wharton Journal Spectator a minimum of 31 times in 2021.  The year started with 141 new cases and the COVID grip continued. by January 26, it topped headlines with deaths, vaccinations, and hospitalizations. By February 3, the death toll was at 70 and the hospitalization rate dropped. A month later, Governor Greg Abbott lifted the mask mandate, but school districts continued with the TEA protocol. Remote classroom learning came to an end in March and vaccinations became more widely available. In April, COVID spiked, but vaccinations became abundant. COVID led to WCJC having commencement message pre-recorded in May. 

A few of the summer months went by without COVID taking center stage, but in August, the hospitalization rate reached 15% as COVID concerns returned. September found 176 new positive COVID cases with many youth being affected. School districts began monitoring COVID cases in October and a lottery for immunized students at WCJC, and in November, the Feds considered funding $8million for COVID. As of the Christmas edition of WJS, COVID was not a headliner as it had been for many months throughout the year.  

#2 THE FEBRUARY FREEZE 

On Friday, February 12, three weather systems were working their way through Wharton County and temperatures dropped into the teens with predictions of freezing rain, sleet, snow, or a combination of all three events wreaking havoc in almost all areas of life. the weather system lasted for seventy-two hours and caused over 600 million dollars in damage to agriculture, plus water systems and industry. Schools were shut down and the electrical power was disrupted. Many people lost plants and some lost livestock. Texas was declared a disaster area because of the problematic weather and took many weeks to return to a semblance of normal.  

#3 WISD STUDENTS ARRESTED 

A locker room fight took place during an October 8th football game, resulting in three students beating assistant football coach Jayden Jennings. The students, Jaylik Versean Knight, 17-year-old Allyn Michael Perez, and 17-year-old Omarian Dpree Marks, were all from Wharton. Assault of a public servant is a third-degree felony in Texas.  

#4 WISD TEACHERS ARRESTED 

Thirty-year-old Sean Michael Pursley of Wharton was arrested on three counts of indecency with a child in February. He had been with Wharton ISD since 2017 and resigned shortly after he was arrested.  

Two Wharton ISD educators were arrested for marijuana possession on November 6. Forty-two-year-old Marcus Andre Chandler served as an assistant football coach. He is brother of Wharton High School Principal Richard Chandler. Twenty-nine-year-old Shasha Rene Baldwin was a special ed teacher at Wharton Junior High. Both were arrested at the same time. 

#5 WHARTON FLOOD REDUCTION LEVEE PROJECT 

As of January 22, Wharton had 36 total property owners who were involved in acquisition and relocation due to the levee project that is planned for the Colorado River in Wharton. Thirteen more residences are being relocated. This is proposed to be a $27.4 million system which will include system of levees, sumps, drainage features, and control structures to protect the city and citizens from flooding.  

#6 EMS DIRECTOR JOHN KOWALIK PASSES AWAY  

Wharton Emergency Services director, fifty-five-year-old John Kowalik, passed away unexpectedly on July 18, 2021. Kowalik, who was born and raised in Rockport, Texas, spent thirty-four years in the medical field in Wharton, where he started out as a paramedic. His assistant, Christy Gonzales, was named as his successor. 

#7 TAX INCENTIVE FOR REFINERY IN EL CAMPO

Wharton County commissioners met in closed session to discuss potential tax abatement for Southern Rock Energy Company. The $3 billion clean energy refinery is expected to bring 400 high paying jobs to the county. 

 

#8 NEW HIRES IN WHARTON AND BOLING 

Wharton High School Principal Richard Chandler 

Wharton Junior High Principal Frank Brown 

Wharton ISD Athletic Director – search continues after AD Chad Butler gives resignation 

Boling ISD new superintendent Keith Jedlicka takes over January 3, 2022 after previous superintendent Wade Stidevent told of his resignation effective at the end of 2021 

City Manager Andres Garza announced in January that he would resign. The search for a replacement led to Joseph Pace being unanimously selected as his replacement. Pace started his role on June 15.  

#9 WHARTON STREET PROJECTS DELAYED 

Rain delayed street improvements in Wharton at the beginning of the year. 29.69 inches of rain fell, causing the project to push back its originally scheduled date of July 31. The freeze in February added to the problem.  

#10 FATAL TRAIN WRECK 

A teen-age son drove the car that collided with a train, resulting in the death of his mother, Mariana Isable Amaya. The accident took place on September 12, 2021. the driver, Jairo Amaya, and another passenger, Telma Arqueta, both survived. There are no crossbars for the track which is located at the intersection of County Road 214 and Highway 59. 

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