Gunfighters

Jeffrey Crippen, left, starts the gunfights by the Old Abilene Town Gunfighters.

For the second year in a row, changes to the Abilene City Commission and its staff have been one of the top events of 2019.

This is the second of a two-part series on the top 10 news events of 2019.

The top five which were published Monday were flooding, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Museum, downtown Abilene, economic developments and murals.

The next five include new faces in city government, child care, historical places, Patty O’Malley and the Lebold Mansion.

New faces

On May 6 the Abilene City Commission voted 4-0 to terminate the services of its city manager Austin Gilley.

The commission had placed Gilley on paid, indefinite leave at the April 22 meeting.

Just over a month after the termination, the city commission voted Jane Foltz, director of the Abilene Parks and Recreation Department, as interim city manager.

The commission also approved former interim Abilene City Manager Dennis Kissinger as a part-time consultant.

Not only did the city commission change its leadership in 2019, it changed its look.

With the resignation of Terry Chaput, 23-year-old Trevor Witt was appointed in late 2018 to fill the three years left of Chaput’s term.

In August Commissioner Sharon Petersen resigned. Former commissioner Angie Casteel was named commissioner.

In the November city commission election, the leading vote getter was Brandon Rein, age 24. Voters also voted incumbents back to the commission, Dee Marshall for four years and Mayor Tim Shafer, two years.

The new commission will be sworn in Jan. 13.

The Abilene Board of Education also has new faces. Greg Brown is the new superintendent. Robert Keener and Veronica Murray were elected to the board in the last election while Gregg Noel and Mark Wilson did not seek reelection.

While their faces have been around the Great Plains Theatre for a while, Mitch Aiello and Layne Roate were introduced as the new co-artistic directors.

Child Care

In early October, 20 families involving 25 children up to the age of 12 were informed that Learn & Grow Depot would no longer provide child care for them starting Jan. 1.

Learn & Grow, a child care facility, planned to continue to provide child care only for employees of Memorial Health System effective Jan. 1.

Learn & Grow is owned and operated by Memorial Health System.

“The mission of Learn & Grow Depot has always been to take care of employees’ children. We currently have employees’ children on the waiting list and cannot provide that benefit,” parents were informed in a letter.

Parents were told that a lack of licensed teachers was the reason Learn & Grow was only going to accept kids from Memorial Health System employees.

Chuck Scott, director of the Dickinson County Economic Development Corporation, told Dickinson County commissioners that child care was at a critical stage with Land Pride starting to add employees at its Abilene West facility.

In a meeting hosted by the economic development corporation, the community was told the number of children needing child care in Dickinson County was estimated at 365 last year.

“There is a bigger need than what people recognize,” Scott said. “It is not a 10 or 20 person need. We are talking in the 300s of children out there that we need to provide a place for.”

“This is not just a Dickinson County issue,” said Tanya Koehn with Child Care Aware. “There are meetings like this all over happening.”

In mid November it was announced that Robin Hansen, owner of Abilene Childcare Learning Center, was expanding and agreed to lease the Learn & Grow facility to provide child care for hospital staff and members of the community.

Historic Abilene

Both Old Abilene Town and the Dickinson County Historical Society made headlines.

Old Abilene Town hosted can can dancers, gun fighters and evening events in the Alamo Saloon throughout the summer. Just recently it hosted Cowboy Christmas.

The biggest event for Old Abilene Town was another successful Chisholm Trail Days. Much as they did in the 1800s, longhorn cattle were herded through the street and onto rail cars.

In looking a 2020, Old Abilene Town has plans to open a National Old West Trails museum.

“We want to move ourselves from not just a tourist destination, but a tourist attraction and all the great things that can happen down in that district,” Michael Hook, president of the Historic Abilene, Inc., board of trustees told the Dickinson County Commission.

Several educational programs are planned in 2020, including a Cowboy Camp in July, hosted by OAT and the Community Foundation of Dickinson County.

The Dickinson County Heritage Society changed it’s name and hosted Heritage Day in September.

A change in the bylaws reducing the number on the Board of Trustees of the Dickinson County Historical Society to seven was voted down by its members during its annual meeting on Nov. 26.

The membership of the society voted to continue to operate under the bylaws adopted in 2018. Those bylaws say the Board of Trustees shall consist of 18 members. It also requires 10 trustees for a quorum.

The membership also elected six new trustees at a standing room only two-hour meeting.

Six new board members were elected at that meeting. Duane Schrag, Cindy Wedel, Gail Whitehair, Mid Hanson, Nanc Scholl and James Holland became board members on Wednesday.

Patty O’Malley

More people now are aware that one of the nicest places in Kansas is located in Abilene, that’s according to a panel of judges with Reader’s Digest.

Patty O’Malley’s Cedar House was named Kansas’ nominee in the 2019 ‘Nicest Places in America’ 2019 Reader’s Digest contest.

“Living in the Nicest Place in America means you live in communities that are committed to kindness, trust and health. Life extension is the health solutions expert that is translating scientific research into everyday insights for people wanting to live their healthiest lives. Together, we’re looking for the community health heroes who are committed to supporting and inspiring communities to live a happier, healthier life,” Reader’s Digest said on its web page in announcing “The 50th Nicest Places in America.”

Reader’s Digest tells the story of Patti O’Malley and the creation of the rehab center at Cedar House.

“It is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time,” O’Malley said. “This has been a long six years of a lot of people saying it can’t be done. This is some affirmation for all those years. We have made progress and the hope is that now we can do more to help more women.”

“O’Malley built herself a new home while turning what would become Cedar House into a six-bed facility that focuses on hope, healing and giving back to the surrounding community of Abilene, a rural town of some 7,000, famous for being the childhood home of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

“Cedar House now boasts a local food bank and a micro-farm with a greenhouse, which delights locals with its exotic flora.”

Lebold Mansion

A killer ghost visited the Lebold Mansion in March.

The vengeful ghost of Mary Wallace haunted the mansion, killing some of its guests.

Those events were in the short film “The Haunting of Pottersfield.” The film was based on the true story of Lavinia Fisher who is considered to be America’s first female serial killer.

Director and writer Andre Dixon brought actors and a film crew to the mansion.

The film has been nominated for four awards at the Indie Short Fest in Las Angeles: Best Horror Short, Best First Time Director (Andre Dixon), Best Sound Design (Alex Gregson) and Best Special Makeup (Marcus Koch).

But Lebold Mansion events didn’t end when the crew left.

Once declared the “finest dwelling house west of Topeka” by an 1883 history of Kansas, the Lebold Mansion, 106 N. Vine, has had more than its share of ups and downs.

It started as a stone dugout, the first residence in Abilene, built by Timothy Hersey in 1857.

About 40 people crowded into the Dickinson County Commission room in May when the Lebold Mansion and property at 310 S.E. Second Street were sold at a sheriff’s office to the Dickinson County Bank of Enterprise for $380,227.78.

This stately mansion boasts as being one of the Eight Architectural Wonders of Kansas. The 10,106 square foot building with five bedrooms and 3-1/2 baths is currently listed for sale.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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