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The Lead Dec. 29, 2021: Eychner weighs run for mayor; COVID-19 runs amok across the U.S.

Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn will not seek re-election.


We are halfway there to the weekend and saying so long to the fun-filled 2021. Will 2022 be any better? That's a great question. It's one we'll try to forecast a bit on Friday in our 2022 outlook. We looked back on what we thought would be the key storylines, at least for Kerrville, for 2021, and some of those will carry over into the new year. Those include:

  • Lennar has broken ground on its housing development on Loop 534, but does that mean another large-scale production builder will come to Kerrville?
  • The long-awaited Spring Hill Suites Hotel is expected to be built at Spring and Water streets, but so far, crickets. While Marriott figures out what to do in downtown Kerrville, savvy short-term rental entrepreneurs are busily adding to the city's hospitality inventory.

If you want to read more of our 2021 outlook, visit our old blogging site:


Do you have an opinion about the biggest issues facing Kerrville and Kerr County in 2020? If so, send us an email at


In the words of Pct. 4 Commissioner Don Harris, "we sure could use some rain." However, the National Weather Service tells us that a chance of rain is slight for Friday night — about a 20% chance. The mild weather will continue through next week, but we can expect some heavy winds on Saturday — like 35 MPH gusts.


We don't seem to do much for New Year's here in Kerrville, like drop an apple, an acorn or some other type of fruit or nut from the sky, but we'd like to propose the first-ever cedar pollen dispersal drop. Probably a better idea is a pecan drop. Let's work on that for 2023.

In the light that's there no dropping of stuff from the sky — and shooting your rifle into the sky doesn't count — we have compiled a list of New Year's Eve events.

  • Bridget's Basket in Hunt is hosting a dinner and fireworks show. Look for ambiance and great food; Bridget's Basket is hard to beat. Add in a special menu and fireworks, and we're sold. However, you're going to need reservations for this gala. Call them at (830) 238-3737 to reserve your spot.
  • Moon Shadow Haven, a slick new events venue in Mountain Home, will play host to a 21-and-over event to benefit the Hill Country Youth Ranch. There will be live music, drinks and dancing. For more information, visit their e-invite.
  • Gravity Check Saloon and Arena will play host to a masquerade ball on Friday night. The event starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 for general admission, $40 per couple. Reservations are required; for tickets, visit the event site.


The Lead Live will return on Jan. 5 at Pint and Plow. If you're interested in being a guest on the show in the coming weeks, feel free to send us a note.


Photography is a big part of our effort at The Lead, and we compiled some of our favorite images from the last 90 days of 2021 — lots of smiles. Check out our e-Edition here:


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The race for the Kerrville City Council and the mayor's seat will begin in earnest on Monday. In what will be one of the most consequential elections in recent Kerrville history, not only will leadership change, but the voters could approve a general obligation bond to pay for a new public safety building.

Current Place 3 City Councilwoman Judy Eychner will likely move to succeed Bill Blackburn as mayor when applications are submitted. Eychner told The Lead she was considering a candidacy for mayor, but that decision would also open Place 3 for a new member of the City Council. Blackburn confirmed to The Lead that he would not seek a third term as mayor.

The city's charter requires that if a councilmember runs for mayor, they have to resign their seat — no matter the outcome — after the election results are complete.

Place 4 Councilwoman Brenda Hughes told The Lead that she would run for re-election. In the 2020 general election, Hughes received more than 7,000 votes in her first campaign.

The municipal election is May 7. The first day for returning an application and filing a petition is Jan. 19, 2022, and the last day to return and file is 5 p.m. on Feb. 18, 2022.


The Kerr County Commissioners Court didn't have a large agenda on Tuesday — mostly catching up on end-of-year activity — but it was also a foreshadowing of what should be a busy 2022 with development.

Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly has said the court would face unprecedented development issues in the coming months. He reiterated that during a discussion about subdivision variances, plats and access roads for public safety and health.

The biggest discussion was around variances to subdivision guidelines, one of the few tools commissioners have in controlling some of the anticipated county growth. Kerr County Engineer Charlie Hastings wanted those requesting variances to do it as an agenda item rather than a public hearing. The applicants would follow the county-set guidelines, and if a variance is requested, they would have to explain the specifics.

The county provides a simple checklist of items that must be adhered to under its subdivision rules. Still, many developments request a variance for many reasons, from access roads to changing land use because it may cause an undue burden on the property owner.

For the county commissioners, it's also an opportunity to review some projects that may otherwise gain immediate approval. However, Kelly said he wanted to ensure tightening procedure in anticipation of an estimated 600 preliminary plats in the coming months of 2022.


COVID-19 hospitalizations at Peterson Regional Medical Center jumped up to 11 people on Tuesday morning — the most since October. Two people are in the intensive care unit. Tuesday proved to be a lot of rapid news about the omicron variant. Just some of what we learned:

  • In Kerr County, unvaccinated people drove the rise in hospitalizations, according to Peterson Health officials. Nine were unvaccinated of the 11 people admitted to Peterson Regional Medical Center.
  • The hospital reported 27 new cases, including 12 vaccinated. It continued the trend of breakthrough cases of vaccinated people contracting the omicron variant of COVID-19. Peterson reported 66 new cases in two days, but 43% were vaccinated.
  • The two-day total of 66 cases rivals the numbers during the delta variant surge in September. After Labor Day, Peterson reported 74 cases on Sept. 7. However, after Labor Day, there were few back-to-back days to compare what Peterson just reported. To make things even more challenging is that in-home testing does not require notification to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
  • Kerrville's Walgreens, H-E-B and CVS sold out of COVID-19 testing kits. H-E-B's Main Street store had a sign taped to its window saying the kits were gone. CVS said they had no idea when they would receive more.
  • Peterson Health officials said they do not test for particular variants of COVID-19. Instead, they leave that to Texas DSHS. Peterson Regional Medical Center focuses on treating those sickened — no matter the variant. "We know how to treat it," Peterson spokeswoman Lisa Winter said.
  • While people were rushing to get the home testing kits built off the antigen test, the federal Food and Drug Administration said the kits might not detect the omicron variant resulting in a false negative. "Early data suggest that antigen tests do detect the omicron variant but may have reduced sensitivity," the FDA wrote on its website. "The FDA will continue to collaborate with the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) RADx program to further evaluate the performance of antigen tests using patient samples with live virus."
  • It turns out that Delta Airlines may have been behind the CDC's decision to reduce isolation from 10 days to five days for asymptomatic people with COVID-19. In a letter obtained by Boston's GBH News, Delta argued that with the increased transmissibility of omicron, but the lesser virulence, the 10-day isolation period could negatively disrupt the companies business.

See @Tori_Bedford's post on Twitter.

  • When it comes to airlines, the number of canceled flights continued to climb, including at least 12 flights canceled from and to San Antonio International Airport. There were 46 delayed flights — more than half belonging to Southwest Airlines. Across the country, there were more than 2,900 cancellations and more than 4,600 delays. Traveling has become a bear as airlines wrestle to find flight crews.


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