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The Lead Nov. 23, 2021: The county will keep federal money; 3 things we learned from the fire chief

The Kerr County Commissioner's Court meets for more than 4 hours on Monday.


We are one day closer to turkey day! Are you excited? We are.


The sister act of Emily Simpson and Stephanie Seefeldt will join us to talk about Cartewheels — a cafe and catering company. Simpson is the owner after buying the business from their mother, while Seefelft manages the restaurant and events. By the way, somebody over there makes the best gluten-free dessert in the Hill Country.


We had a great conversation with Kerrville Fire Department Chief Eric Maloney on Monday. We had him on under the auspices that we talked about the dangers of deep-fried turkeys. He had simple advice: Leave the oil alone and just smoke it — solid advice. Turkey-related fires cause more than $19 million a year in damage, according to one study. We'd have to agree that Texas smoked turkey is a true delight. Here are three takeaways from that conversation:

Paramedic shortage

The country is experiencing a paramedic shortage, and that is trickling into Kerrville. Maloney, who started in the fire service as a paramedic, said he's concerned by turnover, and finding replacements is a challenge.

"We are still struggling," Maloney said when it comes to finding emergency medical workers. "It's across the board. It's not just Kerrville; it's across the state and a nationwide issue. Really it leads with the paramedics. It's the challenge to find the paramedics. There is a significant decrease in the number of paramedics out there."

The department is busier than ever

In 2020, the fire department responded to more than 10,000 calls for the first time in its history. "The call volumes are there, and they're difficult because you're running calls back to back," Maloney said.

COVID-19's personal toll

Maloney had the virus earlier this year — just before vaccines were available. Maloney said after five days, he was ready to go to Peterson Regional Medical Center's emergency room for care but started feeling better. However, Maloney said the underreported story are those who suffer from the long-term effects of the virus — still something being closely studied.

"I think that's one of the biggest non-talking points right now, and you're going to see it," Maloney said. "It's like what Chicken Pox is to shingles."


Commissioners will keep the money — for now

The Kerr County Commissioners Court met on Monday — always a good time. The big item on the agenda was whether or not to accept federal funding related to COVID-19 relief. There have been a long and sometimes menacing group of speakers at the previous meetings, drawing rebukes from Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly. Ultimately the commissioners moved to accept the money after Precinct 1 Commissioner Harley David Belew's motion to give the money back failed. The county has already received $5.1 million of the $10 million from the American Recovery Plan Act of 2021.

What's the concern?

In deeply red Kerr County, there's suspicion about the federal government's reach — or overreach. Driving fears is that money is a way to gain federal control of Kerr County or Texas or "enslave" people, as one speaker suggested. Belew said he doesn't trust President Joe Biden or the federal government — calling them liars.

Connecting the dots

The conspiratorial-driven Belew criticized Peterson Health's decision to mandate vaccines for its workers following one of President Biden's executive orders that hospitals that accept medicare payments must-have vaccine requirements. Belew argued that was an example of federal overreach. Of course, he also argued people don't need the vaccine.

Need more?

Here's the link to our story from the meeting:

COVID-19 in Kerr County

The numbers continue to look good when it comes to getting past COVID-19 in Kerr County. On Monday, Peterson Health reported three new cases, two hospitalizations, including one in the intensive care unit. Peterson announced that it won't update its numbers until Nov. 29 — due to the Thanksgiving holiday. In 2020, Thanksgiving proved to be the beginning of the surge of cases — leading to more than 80 deaths in December and January.


For the better part of two years, Anabel and Daniel Medrano have carefully built their barbershop along Jefferson Street — growing it beyond just a place to get a haircut.

The couple, who call Center Point home, have expanded their La Escondida 1962 bar into an events space, relocated their 1962 Barbering Co. in an adjacent building, and then added a tenant in their new building — all within the last year.

But it's their role as an economic incubator that caught our attention. Consider these three examples:

Hat shaper and cleaner Carlos Cabrera set up his mobile hat cleaning and re-fitting business at the bar on certain nights. Cabrera's plan is to expand his Cabrera Hatters into a retail operation in the next year.

Eyelash specialist Valarie Lozano is one of the Medrano's tenants, and she took an entrepreneurial leap and opened her beauty studio — at the urging of Anabel Medrano. To read more about Lozano, click here:

Then there's Joel Yetter, an unsuspecting soap maker. Yetter loves heavy metal music, especially Pantera, but he also doesn't care for dry skin. So, Yetter, who now calls Harper home, has built a promising skincare business called Yetter's Betters. Donning a Pantera beanie, you might think that Yetter is the last person to care about quality soaps, but he's a passionate believer — and salesman. He sells his soaps in at least 10 stores across the Hill Country, including in 1962.


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