It has been a big year in Runnels County with changes throughout the county, improvements to services, restoration projects, accomplishments with local agriculture and the procurement of a water supply for Ballinger for years to come.

Editor's note: This is the first of two stories for the Runnels County 2017 Year in Review. The next installment will be published Jan. 4, 2018.

It has been a big year in Runnels County with changes throughout the county, improvements to services, restoration projects, accomplishments with local agriculture and the procurement of a water supply for Ballinger for years to come.

The year started off with changes to this publication as the Ballinger Ledger established as the Ballinger Fullein in 1888 and the Winters Enterprise, established in 1905, officially merged, with the first issue published on Jan. 12. The two papers had been in publication in Runnels County in some form for the past 130 years. In the past year, the Runnels County Register has covered news all corners of the county including Ballinger, Winters, Miles, Olfen and Rowena.

January 2017 a new year

January saw the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as president. Trump received a majority of the votes in Runnels County in the election. The month would be bad one for Tim and Angela Gau, who’s home burned to the ground. The community rallied around the family to help them restore their lives. January was also about achievement for students across Runnels County, particularly Team Denominator, of Winters ISD who won second place in the Lego Mindstorm Competition held in Ballinger.

January also saw hundreds of youth flock to the Ballinger Community Center for the 16th Annual Runnels County Junior Livestock Show. The show featured 400 projects and 130 entries from 4-H and FFA students in Ballinger, Winters, Rowena and Miles.

Also in January, City Manager Bryan Grimes announced that the Lake Fort Phantom Water Project was underway after being approved for a $3 million grant from the Texas Water Development Board. This was an issue the Register covered throughout the year.

Meanwhile the cotton crop was late due to up and down weather and in January, area gins were ginning around the clock.

A busy February 2017

February began with a much needed donation of a van for the Meals on Wheels program in Runnels County. Meals on Wheels Plus of Abilene took over the senior meals program Oct. 1, 2016 after the county commissioners voted to no longer fund the program. The 2004 Chevrolet Ventura van was donated by Sterling Robertson of Abilene and is permanently stationed in Winters.

The Mid-West Texas Artist Guild embarked on their mural project in February, which culminated in the delivery of two murals which depict landmarks both across the county and in Ballinger. The murals were dedicated to the community in October.

The Ballinger City Council rejected a proposal by the Texas Department of Transportation to close the 10th Street railroad crossing in February. Work also continued on three bridge projects which have since been completed.

Also in February, a Concho County man was tried in the 119th District Court and sentenced to 13 years in prison for domestic abuse. Quintin McCleery, 33, was found guilty of abusing his wife on multiple occasions and threatening to “feed her alive” to his hogs.

In February, the Runnels County commissioners approved the acquisition of the COPSync program to upgrade Runnels County Sheriff’s Office vehicles, with new soft

In February, the Runnels County Register’s new website went live officially. Readers can go to for the latest news.

Remembering March 2017

In March, Ballinger Memorial Hospital welcomed Dr. Alan Hardwicke and his wife Sarah to the community with a reception. Hardwicke an internal medicine physician, began working in January.

Also in March, The Crossing Travel Market opened in Winters on U.S. Highway 83 and U.S. Highway 153. The newest business in Winters, the travel market owned by the Wheat family, offers amenities to truckers and customers alike.

The Wingate Baptist Church celebrated their 125th Anniversary with a day of celebration and worship.

The first week of March, the paper featured a story about the members of the Runnels County Sheriff’s Office mourning the loss of “Yoie” the K-9 deputy who died from a severe infection.

On the crime front in March, a Ballinger man was arrested for online solicitation of a minor. Howard Alexander Plumley, 28, of Ballinger was booked into the Tom Green County Jail after an arrest in San Angelo.

Also in March, the Ballinger City Council approved a $90,000 upgrade to the COPSync program. Plus, the Veterans Gas Day was held at Stripes in Ballinger thanks to a grant from Central Texas Opportunities. In addition, Paula Geyer, was named chief of police in Winters. The Winters City Council unanimously voted to make it official during their meeting in March.

Planning continued in March for the the first ever “Music for Meals” event to benefit the senior meals programs in Runnels County.

Also in March, the North Runnels Hospital in Winters welcomed Dr. Hetal Gandhi to the staff.

The passing of Ballinger native and legendary Texas Tech Coach Spyke Dykes was covered in the April 13 issue. Dykes, who was born in Lubbock and raised in Ballinger died April 10, at the age of 79. One of his first coaching jobs was in Ballinger where he was revered as a friend and mentor to all who knew him.

April marks activities

On Thursday, April 20, a group of Patriot Guard Riders from the Panhandle road through Runnels County while escorting five unaccompanied and unclaimed veteran’s cremains from Amarillo to the Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio.

The 485-mile escort started in Amarillo and traveled through Lubbock, Sweetwater, Winters, Ballinger, Menard, Boerne and ended in San Antonio.

Also in April, Runnels County Commissioners approved technical upgrades to the Runnels County Jail, which included a new camera system and upgrades to the jail security system.

Country music star Aaron Watson played to a huge crowd in the field next to The Crossing Travel Market in Winters.

On April 1, a tornado loomed over Runnels County, but did not cause any damage.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes of Abilene honored Ballinger Noon Lions Club Past International President Ebb Grindstaff for participating in the 20th Annual Golf Tournament, by presenting him with the painting “Influenced,” by Arch Unruh. The original hangs in the FCA National Headquarters in Kansas City, MO.

Winters was put on the map once again by native son, comedian, writer and movie maker Dell Shores, who was busy screening the “A Very Sordid Wedding” the sequel to his 1990s movie, “Sordid Lives,” which was set in Winters.

Also in April, the 42nd Texas State Festival of Ethnic Cultures got off to a chilly start Saturday as a cold front passed over Ballinger threatening to blow the annual festival off of the grounds of the Runnels County Courthouse. The Lone Star Market also attracted many visitors to Ballinger that weekend.

April marked the resignation of Ballinger head coach and Athletic Director David Jones. During his two-year tenure, he posted a record of 9-12 including two play-off appearances.

A complete overhaul of Ballinger Memorial Hospital was well underway due to water damage at the facility.

The last weekend in April the Mid-West Texas Artist Guild welcomed miniature artwork from artists across the area during the 10th Annual Miniature Art Show and Sale held Saturday, April 29 at the Do-Art Studio.

May 2017 happenings

In May Ballinger ISD Superintendent announced that Chuck Lipsey had been hired as the district’s new head coach and athletic director. Lipsey came to Ballinger after a two-year stint in Brady, where he was 11-11 with a couple of playoff appearances.

In May, it was announced that students in Ballinger and Winters had netted almost $2 million in scholarships overall.

Also in May, the first Music for Meals event was held to raise funds for the Meals on Wheels programs in Runnels County. Musician, guitarist extraordinaire and singer songwriter Brad Davis and his bandmate Tom Glossup performed. The inaugural event raised almost $30,000 for Meals on Wheels which serves more than 100 meals a day in Runnels County.

Tornadoes were forming around Runnels County on Friday, May 19, prompting city officials in Winters and Ballinger to sound the emergency sirens. This funnel cloud was spotted two miles north of Winters on Highway 83.

Veterans from across Runnels County drove to Winters on Wednesday, May 24 to fill up at the The Crossing Travel Market thanks to the Veterans Assistance Program offered through Central Texas Opportunities and organized by Runnels County Veterans Service Officer Sandra Van Zant.

Just a week prior, Van Zant and her husband Junior had been participants in the Permian Basin Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. which she called a trip of a lifetime.

Here comes June 2017

The first week of June, Tyler Smith submitted a request for a petition for the sale of alcohol and mixed drinks for businesses inside the city limits. Voters approved the measure on Nov. 7.

Around the county the wheat harvest was almost complete.

Also in June, the Ballinger Rotary Club earned a very special distinction – the club was recently recognized as a 100 percent Paul Harris Club. That means all of the members are now Paul Harris Fellows. The Paul Harris Fellow recognition acknowledges individuals who contribute, or whom have contributions made in their name, of $1,000 to The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.

On the crime front, a high speed chase that began in on Highway 83 Winters, ended when a man drove off a cliff at Crows Nest Creek in Tom Green County, officials with the Runnels County Sheriff ’s Office reported. The chase continued through Ballinger where two Ballinger police officers joined the pursuit. Speeds of between 97 and 110 miles per hour were clocked during the chase.

Also in June, fire totally destroyed the historic 12 Mile Bridge in Runnels County Sunday, officials with the Ballinger Fire Department reported. Firefighters returned Monday to put out hot spots at the bridge.

Construction started on a crude oil pipeline, which is cutting a path right through Runnels County. The Enterprise pipeline construction began few miles north of Rowena on Highway 67. Twenty-five miles of the pipeline is to go through Runnels County.

Also in June, the CEO of the North Runnels Hospital Judy Espitia officially submitted her resignation to the board of North Runnels Hospital on Monday, June 19.

On the heels of the 100th Anniversary of Lions Club, Past International President Ebb Grindstaff completed a second volume of history titled “Texas Lions: Celebrating 100 years.” The book chronicles the accomplishments of the 16 districts in the state of Texas from 1967 to now.

The board of trustees of the Winters Independent School District passed a $6.6 million balanced budget in June, prior to the beginning of their fiscal year, which began July 1.