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Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Ex-Mayor vs. Present Mayor and First Lady


Happier Days?  Ex-Many Mayor Ken Freeman, right, is shown with Mayor Robert Hable and First Lady Crystal Hable on Election night in March 2021.

 

Ken Freeman served 32 years as Many Mayor.  He served another 4 years on the Town Council before that.  He retired as mayor, and Robert Hable ran for office and took over the job in July 2021. 


On the evening of Jan. 17, Ken went to the Many Council meeting to discuss the El Camino Real, East-West four-laning of Hwy. 6 project.  He never got around to discussing that project before he left, but he did get into some other matters.  He wrote about the meeting on his Facebook page, as follows:


While there, he participated in some of the discussion and told Streets and Water Supt. Jeremy Koss that there was a bad pothole in front of All Hours Fitness Center. Jeremy told him it had been fixed. Ken said he drove by the spot after leaving the meeting and found some sand and rock had been thrown in the hole, but it had washed away due to the heavy rains.


Suzanne Williams, Grant Writer for the Town and All-Around-Do-What-is-Necessary-Lady, next gave her report and Ken asked her what she did, how many grants she was working on and the dates when she would know whether the grants had been approved. He said Suzanne said, “Two," then explained what they were.  He replied, “Two grants?!” as if incredulous.


Ken said Mayor Hable then interrupted him by asking, “Mr. Freeman, what is your point?” Ken responded, “What do you think the point I am trying to make is?”  Robert replied, “You seem to be trying to say something negative about her work.  If Suzanne Williams put down all she does for Many, it would take many, many more pages.”  In his Facebook commentary, Ken wrote, “Now, I know why people call her MAYOR WILLIAMS.”  He said he told Robert that he was just asking questions as a citizen who wanted to know.


Apparently peeved, the Mayor moved on with the agenda, and Ken left the meeting.  But before leaving, Ken told the Mayor he apologized “If I offended you.”  He added that he understood that Suzanne had [verbally] attacked a City Councilwoman in a Council meeting.  Freeman said to Mayor Hable, “You allowed this unprofessional display to take place.”  Mayor Hable pointed out to Freeman that Suzanne is an elected official, and Freeman said she serves as a Council Member in Florien, not Many.  He wrote, “She is not an elected official of Many, although she thinks she is.”  Ken added, “I hired Mrs. Williams to write grants, as her job description, not run the Town.”


Not to let the matter rest, Mayor Hable later responded by saying during his two and a half years as mayor, he has tried to empower his co-workers in the Town to do the best job they could.


Then he let the hammer down: “The former Mayor, who I’ve respected my whole 25 years living here, in my opinion has undermined my efforts in helping Many grow.  Our grant writer (who Ken Freeman hired) does more behind the scenes than most give her credit for.” He continued, “You have the nerve to ask ‘what does she do?’”  As for you being offended by the way she addressed an elected official, it’s a two-way street.  I’m sure she did not appreciate being cursed at in public either.”



Now, the back story on a couple of matters that were mentioned:


Ken said he encouraged Robert to run for Mayor and that he, in fact, gave him a $1,000 campaign donation. He said he continues to support him, although he takes issue with him on many matters.



THE POTHOLE



On Jan. 25, Mayor Hable posted a picture of the pothole in front of All Hours Fitness saying it was temporarily repaired until the rain stopped [and it could be repaired further].  He labeled it “PotHole Gate.”  As we counted, 55 persons commented on the post; 11 took a strong stand for Mayor Hable, and six were vocal against Ken.



It is interesting to note the conflict between Ken and Robert may have started shortly after Robert took office and promised to appoint Ken as a member of the Sabine Parish Tourist Commission and then reneged.  As more than one noted to Observations during the brouhaha of this past week, “Ken needs something to do.”




Alderwoman at Large Mary Brocato, left, and Town of Many grants writer Suzanne Williams, right


Another underlying conflict that may have played into the latest event is the struggle between Alderwoman at Large Mary Beth Brocato and Town of Many grants writer Suzanne Williams that has been going on ever since the new administration took office.


Mary Beth was peeved because Suzanne, with the Mayor’s blessing, did away with most of the museum that Mary had put together in the old Many Depot.  Mrs. Brocato just about had the museum ready to open when Ken left office, she said.  She commented that Suzanne took down all the wooden doors that Mary Beth had custom made to copy the old depot doors that had been replaced.  We think they were replaced with metal doors. 


In addition, she said Suzanne took up the old bricks underneath the depot's west end portico that were imprinted with the tracks of long-ago railroad cargo buggies and replaced them.


All that cost a lot wasted money, according to Mrs. Brocato.


In addition, the town, under Mayor Freeman, had taken up funds in the community to remodel the old Sabine Theater, now called the Many Community Center.  In a post, he said Suzanne came in and spent $25,000 on additional work that was not needed.  It was contended that it, too, was a waste of taxpayers’ money.


Their differences were further escalated last Fall when Mrs. Brocato sponsored a Political Forum at the theater.  Mrs. Williams was to set the stage but did not prepare it to Mrs. Brocato’s liking.  Suzanne reported that Mary Beth dropped the “f-bomb” on her during the event. 


Later at a Town Council meeting, Mrs. Williams dropped a “verbal bomb” on Mrs. Brocato about her being disrespectful.  She said Mary Beth did not respond nor did she apologize.



It has been proposed that maybe Mrs. Brocato and Mrs. Williams could settle their problems in an old-fashioned wrestling match at Sabine Theater, with proceeds going to the town.  We feel there would be enough interest it might could be an ongoing multi-night production, and if it were promoted correctly, people would come from near and far to see it.


Observations asked Suzanne about the proposal, and she shook her head positively, but did not answer verbally.  She did say several years ago a wrestler came to Fisher Sawmill Days and wanted someone from the public to wrestle.  Suzanne said she wanted to volunteer, but her husband prevented her participation.


We take it that Mayor Hable is a wrestling fan, as he posted a “Remembering Wrestling & Divas” memory on social media last week.  We believe he would jump in and support the project.  Who knows? He might just take on the job of referee. Of course, he might prefer to coach. Each wrestler would need a good coach in her corner, and we can think of no better pairings than former Mayor Freeman in Mary Beth’s corner, and Mayor Hable in Suzanne’s corner.


We are told this was suggested because both of these ladies have brought many wonderful programs to the Many Community Center.



After the Ex-Mayor and Mayor posted their remarks, Facebook lit up with comments. According to our count, which may not be complete, there were about 175 comments.  Most of them favored Mayor Hable and his wife, Crystal.  Freeman responded to most of them that were negative to his position.  As he continued to answer posts, Maressa Brant wrote, “Go to bed, Ken, it’s not worth it.”  Lesley Anne Jordan wrote, “Robert, you and Crystal have done more for the town in the 2.5 years you’ve been mayor than has been done in the DECADES prior.”



OTHER INTERESTING REMARKS (Wish we had room for more as there were a lot of them):


Freeman:  “Mayor Williams is the highest paid employee in Many, around $22,000, and she can also be paid from some grants for managing the grants.  Maybe if she were not running the Town, she might have more time to write more grants.”


Maressa Brant brought up about the time Freeman left City Hall in handcuffs.  Freeman said as Mayor he was attempting to stop an illegal arrest.  He said the people involved in the case successfully sued the town and were paid around $15,000.


Picture from the Past


A called meeting of the Many Town Council on June 27, 2019, ended with then-Mayor Ken Freeman being arrested, handcuffed, led to a waiting patrol car and booked. We stand by our original observation that without question, it was a sham for show. Rumors had swirled prior something was going to happen, and KSLA-TV mysteriously showed up to cover the meeting that day. Freeman was gracious throughout and retained his composure as the event unfolded. Some 42 days after disobeying a stop sign and speeding 48 in a 30 to prevent an unlawful arrest, then-Mayor Ken Freeman was publicly arrested after the late June Council Meeting. He paid his fine of $500, “as I would expect any citizen to do,” he said at the time. And the subject of the unlawful arrest, which Ken had tried to prevent, went on to successfully sue the Town of Many.


Addison Hable:   “There’s not a negative thing to say about Dad.  Not one.  I see firsthand just how much he and my mom pour their heart and soul into this town.  And they’re doing a hell of a job.”


Allie Sparks [to former Mayor Freeman]:  “Please get off your soapbox and grow up.  There hasn’t been this much Facebook drama since your last dramatic Facebook event.”


Robert Hable to Freeman:  “The election for Mayor is March 2025.  If you are unhappy with the current administration, throw your hat in the ring.”  Freeman said he is retired and would not run.


John David Scaife Sr.:  “Mayor Freeman was one of the best mayors our town has ever had.”


Ashley Lowery:  “I think we can all agree that Mayor Hable and Crystal have been so good for our town.”


Kresha Matkin issued a long post praising the Hables, saying, “It would seem that certain people are threatened by their enormous success.  Don’t let the negative comments from someone that had decades of opportunity to do the same, but didn’t, take away from the brilliant job the Hables have done.”


Ken Freeman:   “The reason I asked the question about the grants was to see if grants were written to fund the moving of the water intake out to the deeper channel of Toledo Bend.”


Ken Freeman:  “I did call Robert and was attached [sic, attacked], [and] called a hypocrite.  I attended a City Council meeting and was attached [sic].  It is now apparent to me that he doesn’t want to hear or be questioned about anything he approves of.” He continued, “’Love the Hables?’  Mary and I thought the Hables and us were friends.  Over the past three years, it is apparent to us, that we are far better friends to the Hables than you have been to us.”


Hunter Malmay responded:  “’Attached’ is what you are to Robert's a**.  How about you get off it.”                                        



And “Can’t Quit Ken” was at it again Saturday.  The big Mardi Gras Parade and festival the Hables and Town of Many Events Committee have worked hard on was held this past Saturday night.  That morning Ken wrote, “If the Hables had been successful in approving public drinking town at Many events, [it] would have created public safety and lawsuits, not to mention what approving public drinking would say to our children?  A year ago, when I heard about this issue, I called Mayor Hable about this issue, he attached [sic] me and calling me a Hypocrite.  Yes, I drink heck, Mayor Hable and I have been drinking together.  I also eat bacon, but I do not want a Pig Pen in my living room.  I did and do appreciate the City Council voting NO TO PUBLIC DRINKING.”


Observations was sent this image that showed up on social media during all the ruckus. The name of the person who posted it was not included, and we are told that shortly after it went up, it came down.

 

Freeman came back later and wrote:  “I hear people are being encouraged to bring their liquor in a cup.  I would warn against this because I know Many Police will do their job and enforce the city ordinance prohibiting public drinking unless they have been instructed to do otherwise.”


Crystal Hable noted:  “I’m sorry, this was not ‘the Hables.’  This was discussed and brought up in the Events Committee meeting asking the town if it thought it would be good, and it was presented before the Council like it’s supposed to be.  It was voted on and voted ‘no.’  Please move on.  That was last year’s news.”


Crystal Hable also responded to Ken’s ongoing comments at one point:  “Ken Freeman, please what are you trying to accomplish?  If you have any issues with us, you have both our numbers.  Facebook is not the place.  I said I would never comment to you on this mess, but I’ve never seen someone that claims to ‘love the Hables’ spew so much mess.”


By Sunday afternoon, both Ken and Crystal had deleted their remarks on the matter from Facebook. Mayor Hable’s humorous “pothole gate” post remained as did his response to Ken’s initial post.


Former Mayor Ken Freeman is shown at Bayou Crawfish promoting the Town of Many on KTBS-TV during his last term in office. He is the second-longest serving mayor in the state.


During his exchanges with folks who were commenting on the different posts, Ex-Mayor Freeman many times pointed to the positive accomplishments that were achieved while he was mayor. In addition, he shared a Natchitoches Parish Journal news story from when he was promoted during his time with MidSouth Bank.



In closing, Observations must say this was way too much to digest in one meal, but we have tried to hit the highlights for our readers.




A side-by-side comparison of Sabine Parish tax revenues of 2022 and 2023


December 2023 tax revenue as compared to December 2022 saw an increase of $51,599.60.


Wanda Rivers, Sabine Parish Sales/Use Tax Administrator, recently released a chart which shows total sales taxes collected in 2022 as compared to 2023, and also the report for December.


The year’s total report showed almost a million dollars more was collected in 2023 over 2022.  The amount collected in 2023 was $33,823,495.88, compared to $32,867,404.11 collected in 2022.  That is $966,991.77 more for last year than the year before.


The December report showed an increase of $51,599.60 in 2023 over 2022.




Ken and Phyllis Simmons


Best wishes to longtime friends Ken and Phyllis Simmons of Shreveport who recently celebrated their 59th Wedding Anniversary. At one time they lived in Many where Ken practiced. He served on the Louisiana Sabine River Authority for several years. Ken is a native of Converse, where his father, W. G. Simmons, was principal of Converse High School.



Parade-goers packed San Antonio Ave. at Saturday night's Many Gras Parade and festival in downtown Many.


It was quite the “Many Gras” Saturday night, Jan. 27. San Antonio Avenue was full of festive parade-goers who looked to be having a great time.


The Town of Many worked hard on the event, which included a lighted, after-dark parade, and downtown festival with music, food, dancing and more.


Yours Truly, my wife Laurie, daughter Amber and granddaughter Bree rode in the parade as guests of Kevin Kelley and Ramona Guin. Their “big buggy” was a lot of fun, and they had it loaded to the gills with all kinds of lighted throws, including light-up hula hoops, chickens, pigs, bouncy balls, squishees and more.


They graciously hung Pink Sisters of Sabine banners on both sides of their unit and Ginger Jordan, a founding member of the group, was invited to ride as a special guest. Also on board were the MeGees, friends of Ramona and Kevin from Natchitoches.


Riding right behind us was a Monster Truck owned by Kevin's daughter, Charly Broadway, and her husband, Shannon. Riding in it were none other than Sheriff Aaron Mitchell and wife Leigh Anne. They looked to be having as much fun as we were.


At the old Boyens Hardware store, Kevin stopped the big rig long enough for Ramona to climb down and present Miss Georjann Boyens with an oversized teddy bear. They hugged necks, and Georjann looked very happy with her prize.




Last Friday morning, Jan. 26, Sabine Sheriff Aaron Mitchell reported the arrest of a 15-year-old student who attends Florien School. The student was arrested for bringing a handgun to the school campus on Thursday evening, Jan. 18.


Florien schoolteacher Stacey Renee Chesher, age 51, of Leesville was also arrested for her involvement in the case. Chesher has taught in Sabine Parish for the past six years.


The arrests resulted after Sabine Parish Sheriff School Resource Officers and Detectives began an investigation following a post on social media of a video of a male Florien student with a gun on school property.


The video allegedly showed the student with a handgun in a holster in his waistband in the parking lot of Florien School. School video surveillance footage captured images of the student with a gun in his waistband while he was inside the school during a basketball game that night.


The next day, Friday, Jan. 19, the teacher, Ms. Chesher, became involved when she learned the student had a gun at school and that there was a video of it on social media. Chesher allegedly pressured students to delete the video of the student with the gun and she also did not report the incident to school officials or local law enforcement.


The 15-year-old was charged with Carrying a firearm by a student on school property, at school-sponsored functions, or in a firearm-free zone and Illegal possession of a handgun by a juvenile.


Chesher was booked into the Sabine Parish Women’s Jail for Obstruction of justice.


Sheriff Mitchell said the Number One goal of the Sheriff’s Office and School Board is to keep Sabine Parish students and teachers safe. If a student or teacher violates state law and jeopardizes the safety of a school, they will be arrested.


School teachers and staff, along with Sheriff’s Deputies, receive hours of training and conduct several drills throughout the school year to keep school campuses safe.


The Sabine Parish Sheriff’s Office works closely with the Sabine Parish School Board to ensure the safety of students and teachers every day.


(Special thanks to Det. D. W. Seegers for the above report.)



Following the arrests of a Florien student and teacher related to a gun on school property, the Sabine Parish School Board office issued this statement:


“In light of recent events associated with Florien High School, we cannot stress enough the importance placed upon the safety of our students and staff. Upon knowledge of this event, Supt. Wright collaborated with the Sabine Parish Sheriff’s Office and Florien High School administration to ensure a thorough investigation of the matter. During the course of the ongoing investigation, he was not at liberty to make public comments and/or statements.


“Supt. Wright places a high priority on the well-being of all Sabine students and takes all matters regarding threats to student safety very seriously. He wishes to assure the public that all applicable district policies and state laws have been and will be followed regarding employee and student involvement.


“The Sabine Parish School Board thanks the Sabine Parish Sheriff’s Office and local law enforcement for their continued partnership and dedication to keeping all Sabine Parish Schools safe.


“As a reminder, any student or parent is at liberty and encouraged to report knowledge of any threat or matter that compromises the welfare and safety of students and/or staff via our webpage or the Safe Schools App.”




This rainbow was visible in Many at about 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 26. It looks like the piece of equipment at Red Line Rentals on San Antonio Ave. was trying to pull the rainbow just a little higher in the sky.




Ms. Evelyn Bush of Many


Every good wish to Ms. Evelyn Bush of Many who recently celebrated her 99th Birthday. She has been very active and interested in community life for years. We are proud to call her our friend and look forward to helping her celebrate 100. It will be here before you know it.


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