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The Lead Oct. 19, 2022: Emails tell the story of banned book week; Sheriff Leitha has a big fundraising night

Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing announces it has filled 70 jobs in Kerrville.

Good morning, Kerr County!

The weather is going to be pleasant. Not too hot, not too cold. Just perfect. Not exactly fall, but things look good for the rest of the week and into the weekend! So, enjoy it.

On today's The Lead Live!

You may want to look away today if you have a problem with sweets. That's right, it's dessert day on The Lead Live! We've got the following dessert entries today:

  • 323 Bakery
  • Wild Flour Bakery at Cafe at the Ridge
  • Pax
  • Vecinos
  • Cartewheels
  • Betty Trejo, a home baker
  • Billy Gene's
  • Pint and Plow
  • Cardoshinsky Confections
  • Shimna Gammack, a home baker
  • Paul Segovia, a home baker
  • Skinny Legs Provisions
  • Delayne Sigerman, a home baker

Join us at 9 a.m. today for more from "Be Our Guest Week," which is sponsored by the Kerrville Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Museum of Western Art and Pint and Plow Brewing Co.

Today's events

Live music

  • Cosy Sheridan and Charlie Koch — Trailhead Beer Garden at Schreiner University, 7 p.m. Information: The details: Cosy Sheridan first appeared on the national folk scene in 1992 when she won the songwriting contests at The Kerrville Folk Festival and The Telluride Bluegrass Festival. The Boston Globe wrote:" she is now being called one of the best new singer/songwriters."

Science and Nature

  • Star Party — Doyle School Community Center, 7-9 p.m. Learn about the stars by looking through a telescope, or learn how to use your own.

Markets and sales

  • Kerr County Produce Market Day — The Big Red Barn, 10 a.m., Information: 830-896-7330 The details: Kerr County Produce Market Day (The Big Red Barn). Local Hill Country wholesale warehouse distributor for the finest fruits and vegetables. Open to the public.
  • Friends of the Library Book Sale — Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, 1–3 p.m. Information: The details: Looking for a great read? Or better yet, come down and support the work of Friends of the Library. Maybe find a banned book? That sounds like a fun day to us.

Coming Thursday!

Tivy Homecoming

  • Parade — Along Water Street from Hugo Street east to Earl Garrett Street, 5:30 p.m.


  • Ciders and Succulents — The Ridge Marketplace, 5:15 p.m. Information: The details: Get your friends together and come out and make a beautiful succulent planter in a pumpkin or a pot. $40 gets you a planter, a succulent starter pack, and two glasses of cider. Call for reservations — 830-896-0430.

Chamber's Big Night

  • Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce Centennial Awards — Happy State Bank Expo Hall, 5:30 p.m. The details: The Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce celebrates its 100th anniversary with its annual awards banquet.

Live music

Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing hits job targets; breaks ground on new factory

Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing gave a tour of its temporary manufacturing plant to community and business leaders on Tuesday.

If everything goes according to plan, Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing will be in its new Kerrville Plant late next year. Still, right now, the company is making progress at a temporary location.

On Tuesday, the North Dakota-based aerospace supplier looked inside its Kerrville operations sequestered in a leased building on Cobbler Lane. At the same time, a new factory across from the Kerrville-Kerr County Airport is under construction.

This wasn't quite a groundbreaking ceremony, but it was definitely a celebration of the quiet achievements the company has made since its announced arrival in 2020. Problems with an initial contractor that led to financing complications, supply-chain issues and the coronavirus pandemic that nearly sank aviation worldwide haven't helped.

Kerrville Mayor Judy Eychner spoke about the importance of Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing's arrival in Kerrville.

However, Killdeer celebrated that it now has 70 employees in Kerrville, who are churning out wire harness assemblies for aircraft — mainly for Boeing. Some of those employees are now making $26 per hour, company officials said.

"Our expansion into Texas helped KMM fuel our growth, not just for the Kerrville facility, but for our family of companies in North Dakota," said Erika Bauer, the president of the company's operations. "The excellent workforce, close proximity to customers and exceptional support

from various organizations and government agencies has made the Texas Hill Country the ideal second home for KMM."

The report of 70 jobs, many attracted by flexible work schedules, puts the company ahead of its planned 50 jobs by the end of the year. Boeing, part of that growth, consumes about 80% of the company's production capacity.

While Killdeer's work in Kerrville may not look glamorous, it's intensive and crucial for the avionics of airplanes manufactured by Boeing and others. Company employees worked in three-person teams during a tour to ensure correct wiring. As one employee put it, there's no margin for a mistake in this work.

"We already see the economic impact KMM is having not only in our community, but in this region. In addition to the jobs they've created, there's local suppliers, vendors and small shops doing business with

KMM," said Kerr Economic Development Director Gilberto Salinas, who was instrumental in bringing the company to Kerrville. "It's creating an entire aerospace ecosystem, which we expect to continue growing and becoming more intricate in the next 5 to 10 years.

We're pretty certain the Sheriff's Foundation had a good night

Kerr County Sheriff Larry Leitha makes his fundraising case on Tuesday night.

When you auction off a book for $6,000, chances are you will have a good fundraising night, and that's exactly what appears to have happened Tuesday night.

The trendlines for the Kerr County Sheriff's Foundation's effort to raise $200,000 during an event at Arcadia Live certainly looked like they were within sight. With an estimated 200 people in attendance, the night's live auction seemed to be nearing $100,000 in purchases.

The foundation said it was still counting the money before we finished writing the newsletter. However, it was a big night for Sheriff Larry Leitha, who has proven to be a prodigious fundraiser during his first term in office.

A gold ring fetched more than $10,000 during a live auction at the Kerr County Sheriff's Foundation Fundraiser on Tuesday night at Arcadia Live.

Sheriff's deputies received a standing ovation from the audience on Tuesday night.

Leitha's plan was to use the money, paired with a $150,000 matching grant from the Cailloux Foundation, to purchase a $300,000 BearKat armored vehicle.

During his speech Tuesday, Leitha laid out his budgetary challenges thanks to inflation and other rising costs. While he credited the Kerr County Commissioner's Court for providing the needed funding to run his department, he urged those in attendance to continue investing in the office.

"Under my administration, we continue to be real aggressive," Leitha said. "We continue to be proactive. I think the public loves that. If you look at our Facebook, or you look at the media, we're at least in there once a week. One of the things I can't pay for is to be aggressive. That's why we're doing this."

Last year, this fundraiser generated more than $75,000 to help pay for a special operations team. The work of that unit was highlighted later in the night by Capt. Jason Waldrip, who leads that department. Waldrip's speech, which amplified Leitha's remarks, drew several ovations from the crowd, which then opened its wallet.

More context on library backlash over banned books

The seriousness of the backlash against the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library's banned book display came into greater focus after The Lead reviewed email and other communications between city staff and the police department.

It also revealed suspicion between the city and county over an interlocal agreement, a controversy stoked by an out-of-context image and a flurry of back-and-forth messages between city staff, librarians and the City Council in the wake of the banned books display.

Through a public records request, The Lead asked for all communications involving city staff, the City Council and the public regarding the banned book issue, which focused on a suggestion that librarians distributed child pornography.

Data sent by city staff did not include content from City Councilmember Roman Garcia. The Lead received communications from Mayor Judy Eychner and Councilmember Brenda Hughes in a difficult-to-decipher XML format.

However, most complaints went to the entire Council, City Manager E.A. Hoppe and other city staff. They complained about the content of at least three books with LGBTQ+ themes in their proximity to the children's section during the banned books week Sept. 18-24.

The first complaints appear to have gone to Councilmember Kim Clarkson on Sept. 21 — seemingly catching her off guard. Clarkson received an email from Courtney Compton, who attached a Facebook post by Zach Sumrall, a former candidate for the Kerrville Independent School District board of trustees. Sumrall used three photos to illustrate his point — two of the banned book display, a third he purported to be a banned book. According to the emails, Sumrall's wife checked out two of the books in an attempt to remove them from circulation.

"I know these are things that are such a part of our world now but I think these are each families discussions and not to be thrown in our faces, again my opinion and my beliefs," Compton wrote. "I'm just appalled that this would be out for little eyes to see."

However, at least one of the books wasn't banned and had no sex in it. Gay themes, but it was a romantic novel sequestered in the library's adult section.

From that point, the city started receiving calls and emails about the situation — specifically the book "Gender Queer," a comic book autobiography of the non-binary author. There is at least one graphic sex scene and other depictions of sexual contact in that book, but it quickly became a "child porn" issue. The other books questioned were "Two Boys Kissing" and "Sex is a Funny Word." Both books have LGBTQ+ representation.

The issue with Gender Queer is whether it's themed for teens or adults. The library keeps the book in the adult section, but the book does touch on many adolescent issues, including sexuality. However, the sex depicted in the book is between adults. And contextually, that scene is one where the author is filled with self-doubt about their actions.

The matter escalated on Sept. 23 when Kerr County Precinct 1 Commissioner Harley David Belew attacked the library staff by calling them "groomers" and promoting child porn during his morning radio show.

By Sept. 24, the library staff started receiving threatening phone calls, and a pair of protests were planned that afternoon in front of the library. The city staff was worried about "We The People, Liberty in Action" activist Bethany Puccio's organization of a library protest after she surreptitiously recorded Library Director Danielle Brigati explaining the display. Puccio said the library was sexualizing children and then played the audio on Belew's radio show.

At that point, Police Chief Chris McCall became involved and ordered more patrols and security around the library. Puccio and about 50 others demonstrated signs decrying the library staff at the library, while another 50 people stood by the staff.

While nothing happened at the protests, the political shockwaves bounced across Main Street between City Hall and the County Courthouse. Commissioners Belew, Don Harris and Jonathan Letz attacked the library. During a Sept. 27 meeting, they seemed to agree with library opponents to end an agreement with the city that swaps animal control for library services.

The following day, the Kerrville City Council, with a 4-1 majority, declined to take action against City Manager E.A. Hoppe that would force disciplinary action against Brigati.

Sensing a potential contract separation, City Attorney Mike Hayes began sharing the contract between the two governments with other city staff members, citing that either party could immediately terminate the agreement within 180 days of the beginning of a fiscal year.

"It seems likely, based on several communications I've had, that the county commissioners will pull a stunt and invoke the exit clause on the interlocal agreement concerning the library and animal control," Councilmember Joe Herring wrote to Mayor Judy Eychner, who was attempting to facilitate a cease-fire with the county. "I think the Banned Book Week display kerfuffle was only a pretext for them to exit an agreement to provide a service: 1) they find expensive and 2) they are providing poorly."

While Eychner worked with County Judge Rob Kelly, who apologized to the library staff for their treatment, Pct. 2 Commissioner Beck Gibson met with Brigati and Assistant City Manager Kim Meismer to try to bridge the differences between the city and staff. Gibson is a member of the library advisory board.

On Sept. 27, Letz offered this assessment to the City Council:

"As I am sure you know, I support the library, and I support working with the city on the library and keeping it free for all residents of Kerr County, Letz wrote. "The current agreement has some problems that need to be worked out, mostly on the animal control side of the agreement. However, to me, these are not major differences

"I think that it is unfortunate that the communication I have received from the city on this matter, to date, has tried to justify the exhibit based on books like "To Kill a Mockingbird" and pass the decision-making off on the Library Advisory Board. I reject the idea that it is OK to have these books displayed because it is the responsibility for parents to monitor their children. The city needs to be accountable for its actions. The city should either openly agree or disagree if it is appropriate for a book depicting two boys having oral sex, and two other books that were age inappropriate were alright to be placed where a child passing by could view the covers or, worse pick the books up and see graphic pictures.

"I hope you now better understand my opinion and I appreciate all you do. I am ready to move on."

However, the matter still appears to be far from over.


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