Iowa Park – 48 years in our hometown

It was 48 years ago this week that my family moved to Iowa Park and started this newspaper, the Iowa Park Leader.

I was four.

You could say I grew up in the midst of all things journalism and  Iowa Park, and both are part of who I am.

In these 48 years, we as a family and staff,  have been honored to serve this beautiful, quirky and proud town – what we call our hometown – through some bright and beautiful times, as well as a few dark and desperate ones. The latter is always hard, but history has a right to have honest record of those as well.

In this almost half-century, we have made, and a few times sadly, lost, life-long friends. We have been inside almost every business in town, attended close to every public meeting, and have served on councils and boards to do our part to inform and be a part of the fabric of  Iowa Park. We have recorded Iowa Park’s history as it has heppened and is happening, and it makes us proud.

Like most newspapers, we’ve have had death threats – luckily, few – and we have seen people at their worst. That makes us sober and I think, pragmatic.

More often, we catch people at their best – this is what keeps us in the newsroom, and around the community. The generosity and spirit of our students; the outpouring of love, time and resources I have personally witnessed consistently in my time here when someone local or not needs a helping hand. Iowa Park has quite a heart, we are happy to report.

Both are what keep the balance, I’m just glad the good side of the scales are always heavier.


Because this is my space, I get to brag on our staff just a little.

The publisher, Dolores Hamilton, has been at the helm the entirety of our existence. As she is my mother, I have seen her during this time not only raise five extreeeemely well-behaved children, but also work the tremendously long hours required to keep a budding newspaper afloat and feed a family. I am proud of her for this. She has, in her career, done every single job in this newspaper and done them well.

Some other things most people don’t know, but I do, make me even prouder than this. When I was young, in the middle of all of this, Mom also took painting and piano lessons for herself. She planted the seed that made the Gordon Lake Walking Track project grow, and then continued to water it. I know because she made me help. I don’t know if she has ever known how much those things impacted my life.

Kevin Hamilton, editor, sports editor, photographer and another heir apparent of many hats, is always the guy in the background with a camera. But never in a creepy way. He captures the best moments Iowa Park has to offer and records them here, each week. He is, I say with great confidence, one of the best photographers in the state of Texas and has the hardware to prove it. During his time here, Kevin has covered meetings, banquets, assemblies and spent thousands of hours at sporting events covering our athletes all the way to state competition, much of that in his personal time. In addition, he is a helluva writer.

Also, he’s my brother and he didn’t pay me to say any of that. Seriously, Iowa Park, you are lucky to have him.

Last but not least is reporter and feature writer, Sherrie Williams. She is also a photographer and circulation manager. We have a small office with many jobs, and she has managed to be worth five times her weight in gold.

Sherrie has worked with us for 20 years and covers events, writes features, serves on the city council and some state boards. Over the years I regularly see her work all day at the paper, then work several evenings a week either for the newspaper, or for civic organizations to raise money to help other people. She has headed up 9/11 ceremonies, July Fourth events, and worked more Whoop-T-Do’s than anyone I know. She truly loves Iowa Park. She also has the best memory of anyone I know – it’s scary.

This week also happens to be my 33rd anniversary at the paper.  For those wondering, I got a brand new iMac on my desk.

But, so did Kevin, so … I’m still working out what that means.

I also publish these columns on my blog, I encourage you to check it out.

I mention this because I was looking at my stats for the year this weekend, and I noticed that I have readers from literally all over the world.

I’m not bragging, though. It was cool because some of my most-read blogs are those about Iowa Park, which means people from around the United States and  dozens of countries around the world have heard of Iowa Park, Texas.

My hometown.

Our hometown.

Thank you for a fun and heartfelt 48 years with you. It is a pleasure to be a voice for our community.


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Look for the helpers

With all eyes seemingly on the coast of Texas and Louisiana, I have been no different, keeping close watch on several good friends from high school who now live in Houston or the greater Houston area.

The historic hurricane Harvey made landfall Friday in Corpus Christi, and the result since has been record-breaking rainfall on United States soil, most of it in Houston and the surrounding areas.

News and social media coverage has made it much easier to get accurate news, and check on friends and family. Luckily, most of those I know have escaped injury and a significant loss of property.

Some have even been able (and more importantly, willing) to leave their homes and neighborhoods and help others deal with their losses.

We got word at the newspaper yesterday that several residents from Iowa Park left for the coast to aid in the rescue efforts. Some were sent with their jobs, and some went as private citizens and took boats with them. One of our locally-owned gas stations donated the fuel for the trip.

A locally-owned pizza restaurant, Ken’s Pizza, raised in one day $7,100 for the Red Cross to aid victims. Even more have begun collecting necessary items to truck south.

At tragic times like this it is important to look for the helpers, because it is far too easy to find the problems. There is still more good than bad, my friends.

One of my friends who lives in Port Arthur used humor to make it through the worst days, sending me a picture taken in her back yard of a croc … Seriously, a shoe – that Croc – that had ended up in her back yard,  and said, “some people might not find this funny, but …”

Finding a bright spot, something to smile inside about, in tragic times is a healthy coping mechanism, I think.

And because it is my lifelong vocation and passion, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the local media who are covering their respective communities, many of whom I’ve known most of my life.

Not only have several had significant personal and business losses, but they are also charged with accurately covering the damage as it is occurring. And they are doing it in many cases with no electricity and with their staff scattered all over the state, helping remotely. Their own homes will have to wait, but the newspaper will be printed for the good of the community.

With national rhetoric as of late tearing down this honorable profession, it’s important I think to cast a light on the importance of what they are doing.

It’s important to send prayers and love and thoughts to these people on the Texas coast, but if you can, send more.

Many reputable news organizations are publishing lists of what is needed by the victims – and what is not needed – with organizations all over Texas taking donations and getting them to the proper place. Check that out and do what you can, even if it is only $10, a box of diapers or some feminine hygiene products.

And to my friends and family who live there, or who have travelled there to help out, stay safe and keep making sure that love bats last. Your spirit is healing in many ways.

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Voting Guide for the Disenfranchised – I’m talking to you.

This may be the only column I ever write that has mass appeal, only because what I have it on good authority that almost every single voter – regardless of party, ilk or social standing – feels the political deck is stacked against them.

Also, I hear that ‘the other side’ is always winning the invisible war between good and evil, and evil is the one winning. I hear it from Republicans and Democrats alike, so that tells me we all feel disenfranchised.

Lucky for you, I have the cure.

The word VOTE written in wooden letterpress type
Shut up and vote.

Early voting began this past Tuesday in the primaries, so you have lots of time to vote until Texas primary election day, March 1.

I’d love it if the fighting stopped, but I’d love it more if everyone just voted.

I want to remind you of why we vote. This is not the part where I say “if you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to complain,” because yes, you do have the right, whether you take advantage of that particular right or not. Nobody may care, but you can sure gripe all you want.

We vote because this is our country, and we are guaranteed the right to have a voice in how we live. We are still – although many fear the days are numbered– a democracy. With that right comes the same right to not be forced to vote if you don’t want to vote, so it is actually your right to gripe if you don’t vote.

Why? Because a lot of people fought for that right and continue to do so today.

I don’t think I’m overstating when I say that each of us has connections to men and women in the service. Several members of my family have served and currently serve in our armed forces.

And to the women I say, you also have a number of brave women who walked and fought before you to convince an unwilling population that your intelligence is valuable enough to warrant a vote. So, please vote. Women went to jail in their fight during the suffrage movement so that we women could be heard.


And to those who say “My vote doesn’t matter,” I offer this: The nineteenth amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote was passed by only one vote.

Your vote matters, and it matters a lot. It is your voice, and when you don’t vote politicians only hear the voice of the loudest and in these days, those with the most money.


I don’t even care how you vote. I truly don’t because it’s not my business. All I know is the fact that our country looks less and less like a democracy at a time when voter turnout is at an all-time low is most likely not a coincidence.

What can I do, Kari?

So glad you asked. You can vote and vote your heart. Not the heart of your father, or best friend, or preacher or kid … but your own.

Decide to vote, write the appointment down on your calendar and vote like the rock star you are.

Study the candidates. If you are in for a rollicking good time, watch the debates. They have almost become cautionary tales for how not to act in kindergarten. They are pretty telling, though.

But, where do I vote?

Depends on where you are … check your local newspaper for the early polling places and polling places on Election Day. Yes, a shameless plug for print journalism because freedom of the press is something I am also passionate about.

So please, PLEASE vote for your local school board and city council, your county, state and national offices. I believe it is the only way we can return to a true democracy.

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