Skip to main content
A1 A1
Denton ISD grieves the passing of retired coach and administrator Eric Lokey
  • Updated

A hard-nosed linebacker during his time at Stephen F. Austin State University, retired Denton ISD administrator and coach Eric Lokey exhibited even greater toughness in the face of cancer.

Lokey battled renal cell carcinoma for nearly a decade before succumbing to the disease Monday. He was 56.

“Vince Lombardi once said, ‘We never lose, sometimes we just run out of time,’” Lokey’s family posted to Facebook. “This morning, after nine-plus years of giving it everything he had in his fight against cancer, Eric Lokey ran out of time. He was surrounded by his family in a room full of love overlooking the lake he loved so much.”

Lokey’s 31 years in education, football coaching and administration spanned several schools, including Princeton, Plano, Rockwall, Mabank, McKinney and Ryan.

The SFA Hall of Fame inductee and All-American was also formerly a Lumberjacks linebackers coach between a pair of stints as an assistant at Ryan High School, which ended in 2013.

Lokey, who was instrumental in Ryan’s evolution into a football power, retired in 2019 as a Denton ISD assistant athletic director.

His three sons — Tyler, Taylor and Derek — also enjoyed successful high school and college football careers.

Derek, who played at Texas, had a brief stint in the NFL. Tyler and Taylor are currently assistant coaches at Ryan.

The Texas football fraternity was saddened by Lokey’s passing, including several coaches, players, teachers, parents who took to social media to share their condolences.

The Ryan High community is heartbroken.

“Anybody who’s connected to this program understands what coach Lokey meant,” Ryan head football coach Dave Henigan said. “Obviously, he is still very connected because two of his three kids coach for us. It’s a sad day, but this is a great man and a great coach who impacted a lot of lives along the way.”

He touched thousands of lives, but few were as connected to the affable Lokey as Denton ISD athletic director and longtime friend Joey Florence.

Florence spent time with Lokey on Sunday before his health suddenly took a turn for the worse.

“It’s just sad. It’s unfair,” Florence said on Monday. “I was telling my wife, he’s one of the best people I know. My dad was about the same age when he died, and those were two of the best people I’ve known.

“He’s one of the finest and toughest men I knew. I was very fortunate to have him as my friend. He meant a lot to Denton ISD athletics. Our family is hurting. We lost a great one. He’s one of the good guys.”

Lokey, who endured multiple surgeries after doctors discovered a brain tumor, went on to coach two years after his initial diagnoses and toughed out several more years in athletic administration.

A perpetual optimist, Lokey often cited the support of his wife of 36 years, Debi, in his road to recovery.

“You have to [keep fighting],” Lokey told the Denton-Record Chronicle in 2019. “I feel blessed every day.”

A red-tailed hawk launches skyward off a fence railing in front of the colorful leaves of a Bradford pear showing its late fall glory in western Denton off FM2622 recently.

Denton County candidate roundup: Who’s running in 2022?
  • Updated

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to accurately attribute a news release on Diana Weitzel's candidacy.

Last week marked the deadline for candidates to file for Denton County’s 2022 elections, which include seats for county judge and commissioners in Precinct 2 and Precinct 4. Here’s a rundown of everyone in the mix for a county position, according to the Texas secretary of state’s candidate database.

County Judge Andy Eads, who assumed the office in 2018, will face just one challenger in his reelection bid: Dallas Democrat Fabian Thomas. Listed as a management consultant, Thomas ran as a Republican for Precinct 2 justice of the peace in 2018. He lost the Republican primary with 30.1% of the vote.

Searches don’t turn up a social media presence for Thomas, though he is included in a wrap-up post by the Denton County Democratic Party. Inquiries to his listed campaign email and phone number were not returned by Monday evening.

The Precinct 2 commissioner race includes five candidates — three Republicans and two Democrats. Incumbent Ron Marchant announced last month he’ll be giving up the office after holding it since 2007.

Vying for nomination in the March Republican primary are Carrollton Mayor Kevin Falconer, Frisco City Council member Dan Stricklin and former Frisco Veterans Advisory Committee chairman Rob Altman.

The Democratic nomination for Precinct 2 will come down to Carrollton attorney Trent Teague and Dallas attorney Diana Weitzel. Weitzel was reached Monday evening and said she wouldn’t be available for an interview until later. Teague had not yet returned a phone call by the end of the day.

A news release from Weitzel's campaign introduced her as a 22-year county resident and former health care executive, who would focus on improving on health care and traffic concerns. Last year, she was defeated by Republican Jim Johnson in the general election for Texas 431st District Court.

No Democrats are running for the Precinct 4 commissioner seat, but incumbent Dianne Edmondson will have one challenger in fellow Republican Michael Armstrong. Armstrong, an Argyle roofing business owner and former pastor, ran last year for U.S. House Texas District 26, losing to Rep. Michael Burgess in a packed Republican primary.

Reached Monday, Armstrong said his campaigns aim to bring awareness to the political process and get people more interested in who represents them. He declined to comment on Edmondson’s first term as Precinct 4 commissioner, but said his focus is on lowering property taxes, improving communication with cities and pacing growth.

“[Commissioners] are going to decide who comes, how fast they come and if Denton County even looks like Denton County 10 years from now,” Armstrong said. “For our little Precinct 4, you start getting west of [Interstate 35] and it’s nothing but grass. … That’s where all the growth is going to be coming.”

Other elections

Denton County Court at Law 1

Kimberly McCary — incumbent, Republican

Denton County Court at Law 2

Robert Ramirez — incumbent, Republican

Denton County Criminal Court at Law 1

Lauri Ragland — incumbent, Republican

Denton County Criminal Court at Law 2

Susan Piel — incumbent, Republican

Denton County Criminal Court at Law 3

Forrest Beadle — incumbent, Republican

Denton County Criminal Court at Law 4

Chance Oliver — incumbent, Republican

Denton County Criminal Court at Law 5

Coby Waddill — incumbent, Republican

Denton County Probate Court at Law

David Jahn — Republican

Denton County District Clerk

David Trantham — incumbent, Republican

Denton County County Clerk

Juli Luke — incumbent, Republican

Angela Brewer — Democrat

Denton County County Treasurer

Cindy Yeatts Brown — incumbent, Republican

Denton County Justice of the Peace Precinct 1

Alan Wheeler — Republican

Olivia Jeffers — Democrat

Denton County Justice of the Peace Precinct 2

James DePiazza — incumbent, Republican

Stephanie Gardella — Democrat

Denton County Justice of the Peace Precinct 3

James Kerbow — incumbent, Republican

Denton County Justice of the Peace Precinct 4

Harris Hughey — incumbent, Republican

Denton County Justice of the Peace Precinct 5

Mike Oglesby — incumbent, Republican

Denton County Justice of the Peace Precinct 6

Chris Lopez — incumbent, Democrat

Blanca Oliver — Republican

The push to ban books in Texas schools spreads to public libraries

When the Llano County Library shuts down for three days this week, starting Tuesday, it won’t be for the holidays.

Instead, a group of six librarians in this small Central Texas county will be conducting a “thorough review” of every children’s book in the library, at the behest of the Llano County Commissioners Court. Their mission will be to make sure all of the reading material for younger readers includes subjects that are age-appropriate. A new “young adults plus” section will be added to separate books written for an older teen audience from those geared toward younger readers.

The three-day closure of the library system in Llano County, about 80 miles northwest of Austin, also means a temporary shutdown of its virtual portal through the online book provider Overdrive.

“I think we owe it to all parents, regardless if it’s a school library or a public library, to make sure that material is not inappropriate for children,” Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham said.

The Llano County community’s push to scrutinize the local library’s book stacks comes two months after a Texas lawmaker first questioned the inclusion of more than 850 books about race, equality or sexuality in public school libraries.

And Llano County is not the only community in Texas asking harder questions.

Sergio Flores/For The Texas Tribune 

Terry Schroth speaks against a proposal to close the Llano County Library and inventory its books.

The rise in public library book complaints

Local public libraries in Texas, including those in Victoria, Irving and Tyler, are fielding a flurry of book challenges from local residents. While book challenges are nothing new, there has been a growing number of complaints about books for libraries in recent months. And the fact that the numbers are rising after questions are being raised about school library content seems more than coincidental, according to the Texas Library Association.

“I think it definitely ramped it up,” said Wendy Woodland, the TLA’s director of advocacy and communication, of the late October investigation into school library reading materials launched by state Rep. Matt Krause in his role as chair of the House Committee on General Investigating.

In response to Krause’s inquiry, Gov. Greg Abbott tapped the Texas Education Agency to investigate the availability of “pornographic books” in schools. In the weeks since, school districts across the state have launched reviews of their book collections, and state officials have begun investigating student access to inappropriate content.

As more residents began turning their sights on local libraries, the state library association set up a “peer counseling” helpline for librarians to get support from others more familiar with book challenges.

“A library may get one or two [book challenges] in two years, or some librarians have never had challenges,” Woodland said. “So this is very rare and very unusual and different from the way challenges have been brought forth in the past.”

In Victoria, about 100 miles southeast of San Antonio, Dayna Williams-Capone says the number of complaints about books is the most she’s seen in her nearly 13 years working at the Victoria Public Library.

In August, Williams-Capone, the director of library services in Victoria, said her office received about 40 formal requests for review of books, primarily books for children and young adults that touch on topics of same-sex relationships, sexuality and race.

After Williams-Capone and her staff reviewed the requests, they decided to keep the books in the library. Residents who filed the complaints pushed forward, appealing the decision to the library’s advisory board for about half of the books, Williams-Capone said.

Last Wednesday, the library’s board voted not to remove the books from library shelves.

“I don’t think there’s a danger in asking the questions and having a civil conversation and learning from each other,” Williams-Capone said. “I think that the danger is when we lose that big-picture view of who all is a part of our community, and that the needs of some members of our community might be very different than what we think our own personal needs are or our own family needs.”

One Victoria resident who pushed for book removals was Cindy Herndon.

“It’s nothing that I have against anybody in any community,” said Herndon, 64. “I don’t have any resentment or lack of respect for them. It’s just about protecting the children and exposing them to things that they really don’t need to see right now.”

One of the books she wanted removed was The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, a coming-of-age novel about a mixed-race gay teen who becomes a drag artist.

After reading the book, Herndon said she was opposed to it because to her it seemed to “sexualize children, especially into alternate lifestyles, and make them want to be someone else than who they were born to be.”

Another Victoria resident, Amy Garvel, joined other residents, and the group combed through the library’s online catalog. They compiled a list of more than 200 books they found inappropriate, ranging from picture books to young adult books, Garvel said. Garvel herself submitted two requests for removal for the books If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo and Rick by Alex Gino.

Garvel, who describes herself as a conservative and has a 9-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter, said she’s been very careful about what content they consume.

“My goal is really to protect the children in our community in general, not just my own children,” said Garvel, 43. “I’m hoping that [the library] sees that we’re not trying to censor books that we’re trying to protect our children. I mean, the library was one of the last places that we could feel safe.”

How the process works and why it’s getting blowback

Local public libraries are not regulated by the state. Instead, they are usually part of a county or city budget funded by local taxpayers.

Williams-Capone, the Victoria library services director, described how books are selected in the first place, and her library’s process is typical for most. Staff members peruse lists of bestsellers and literary award winners. They scan literary journals. Library staffers also consider how often visitors check out certain titles or subjects to determine future purchases.

Rules for public libraries, including complaints about content, are determined at the local level.

When a resident challenges a book, “there’s a process in place,” to handle that complaint, said Woodland, the TLA spokesperson. That process is typically crafted in writing by local governments with input from library staff.

But in these latest challenges, there have been complaints from some local residents that the process may give library staff too much of an upper hand.

Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen, which follows a gay teenager who starts a teen sex advice column, has seen challenges in Irving and elsewhere.

At the urging of local residents, City Council members were meticulously briefed on how the Irving Public Library handles complaints against books kept in its libraries. After the book underwent a “request for consideration,” which included an initial staff review and an appeal, it was kept in circulation.

Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer said he read the book in full, and even though he didn’t particularly care for parts of the book, he understood the need for it.

“If you read the full book, it tells you that you can have a loving relationship with a person of your same gender,” Stopfer said during an Oct. 14 meeting. “Everybody’s not going to like everything. It’s not something that I enjoyed reading, but I understood what the purpose of it was, and what the outcome was supposed to be.”

In that same Irving City Council meeting, Flory Malloy, a self-described mother of seven with a doctorate in biblical studies, told council members she felt the library system and its appeal process seemed pointless because in the end, books that are challenged remain on the shelves.

“The process ended with a denied appeal to remove the book,” she told council members as she described one challenge that appeared to go nowhere. “It seems to be a point of pride for the Irving Public Library that they have never removed a book as the result of this process, so what’s the purpose of this time-consuming review process?”

In Tyler, city spokesperson, Julie Goodgame confirmed that library officials there have been informed about “concerns” regarding book content. But there’s been no specific complaint about a particular book, she said.

More changes for libraries?

Back in Llano County, Cunningham, the county judge, said the library system’s three-day closure is the first of perhaps many changes for the library. He said the county plans to soon establish a library advisory board that will help establish policies on requests to reevaluate books in circulation.

Although parents and lawmakers have stressed they are attempting to protect children from inappropriate content, authors of works that have been at the center of these disputes see the fights as a way to stifle and censor diverse representation in literature.

And librarians see their role as offering reading material for a wider audience.

“These efforts to mute or censor diverse voices in books is part of the just overall extreme divisiveness in our country that was really just exacerbated by the pandemic, [and] the actions taken by Rep. Krause and others have added fuel to that,” Woodland said.

She understands there will be those who may not like all of the books in a library. That’s not the point of a public library, she said.

“No book is right for everyone, but one book can make a big difference in one person’s life,” she said. “That’s what libraries are about — providing those windows and doors and mirrors to the community.”

Property logging still at risk after Denton police audit follow-up, auditor says

The Denton Police Department has made significant improvements regarding the property room following a 2019 audit, but the city auditor said there’s still the outstanding risk of some items not being logged.

The city auditor reviewed the department’s property room in 2019 and found it was at risk and needed an overhaul to address security concerns and other issues. Now two years later, the auditor’s office said the Police Department has made some general improvements, but more work is still needed, such as separating duties in logging evidence and maintaining an up-to-date count on all the currency in the property room.

Madison Rorschach, the city auditor, said the biggest outstanding risk is that there isn’t a separation of duties in logging property when it first arrives.

“Property technicians enter items into that system and are responsible for those items,” Rorschach said. “It’s at risk because essentially the technician could say, ‘Hey, we just got this $10 bill, it was found property, I’m just not going to enter it into the system.’”

Instead, she suggests that the officer who obtained the property should log it into the system, and the property technician should then determine where it should be stored.

Rorschach also noted the significant improvements the department has implemented, such as keeping property room video footage longer, requiring more background checks for employees assigned to the property room and having a procedure for the auditor’s office to do an annual inventory of the property room.

The remaining improvements to the property room at the Denton Police Department will come after the headquarters renovations are completed, Forensics Manager Michael Kessler said. The property room is under reconstruction and will become much bigger.

Rorschach said the auditor’s office will do another follow-up after reconstruction is done.

During the follow-up audit, auditors requested to view 82 randomly selected items of currency. The report says six items were missing. By Thursday, Kessler said they’d found five more items.

“All the ones we couldn’t find immediately were in a different storage location,” Kessler said. “Before the move happened, we had temporary bins where property was that needed to be dispositioned. We needed to do further disposition on what needed to happen next to that currency.”

Because of renovation construction going on, staff moved property elsewhere. Regarding disposition, Kessler said this means logging whether the money is evidence, found property or safekeeping for a person who was arrested, in order to know what to do next with it. He noted the space is called the property room and not the evidence room because of these differences.

“The single item [left], asked by a council member, is a $20 bill that was recovered as part of found property,” Kessler said.

While he didn’t have an estimate Friday on how much money was in the property room, Kessler said there’s at least $300,000.

One of the notes the auditor’s office made was that the department needs to make a formal policy for checking out items. Kessler said checking out items could mean a detective is looking at evidence again in a case, or taking it so another entity can do a deeper analysis on it.

The checkout process currently uses pen and paper, but Kessler hopes they’ll go electronic soon.

“I think that the things the auditors looked for, a lot of those deficiencies in practices and systems will be remedied hopefully by a software we procure,” he said. “[It will] automate a lot of the things for digital audit trails to better account for the transaction of property.”

He said the department’s current record management system, Athena, doesn’t have the functionality to manage and track property. Kessler said they’re hoping to find one that’s built to track property to allow for better auditing and inventory checks.

Part of the new policy creation will include figuring out a step-by-step process for how property logged at the department’s future substation will be brought back to the main headquarters.

After renovations, the main headquarters’ property room will be much bigger than it is currently, allowing for more space as the city grows. Kessler said items of value like money and jewelry, as well as high-risk property like narcotics and firearms, will have their own spaces in the property room.

“It’s always a challenge. With the property room and storage, it’s an issue,” he said. “We’re always trying to keep balance as we grow as a community, there’s going to be more found property, more evidence. We’re trying to predict that and have the right storage space, because some things we’ll have to keep for a long period of time.”