Wrapping up 2021: Top News Stories From the Past Year

December 30, 2021

By News Director Jared Atha

As 2021 comes to a close we here at Paragon Communications like to look back at the top news stories from the past year that impacted our lives right here in western Oklahoma.

2021, much like 2020, provided us with a wide variety of stories that, quite frankly, made it hard to chose the top three. Narrowing it down wasn’t easy. With “feel good” stories like a local hero recently being awarded the Medal of Honor. Or the sad stories of loss that included a Hammon teen losing his life in a tragic car accident last winter.

The wide range of impactful stories seemed to be more prevalent this year than compared to years past.

The first story on our list is the weather.

It seemed no matter what time of the year it was, western Oklahoma was the home to some crazy weather events – which is saying something for a state that has wild weather patterns on a regular basis.

Last February the state was hit with multiple winter storms that hampered the region for weeks. Through the majority of the month of February the winter storms and subzero temperatures struck the area so hard, by the request of Gov. Kevin Stitt, President Joe Biden declared a major disaster, making federal funding available to aid recovery.

Records were set too. Oklahoma City set a record for its longest straight period of temperatures at or below 20 degrees: 210 hours between February 9 and 17 beat its previous record in 1983. The temperature dipped to -14 degrees on February 16, the city’s lowest since 1899.

The prolonged freeze caused pipes to bursts, damage to homes and businesses, and electric bills to soar – with electric providers still dealing with how to recoup the expenses today.

Wild weather in 2021 also produced an October 12 tornado that caused damage to the City of Clinton. According to City Manager Robert Johnston, the primary areas of damage were on the east and northeast side of the city, that saw power lines and traffic signs blown down, along with damage to the Clinton Regional Airport.

A few days later, the National Weather Service in Norman said the tornado that caused millions in property damage to the Clinton Regional Airport was rated as an EF-1.

There were no injuries or fatalities reported as a result of that storm.

Next on our list of the top news stories in western Oklahoma from the past year is change in leadership at local schools. It started in 2020 and continued into 2021, and that’s superintendents moving on to different schools, or superintendents calling it careers.

In Elk City, after announcing his retirement in December 2020, Rick Garrison’s successor was named in March. Mike Sparks, who served as the superintendent at Pioneer Public Schools in Chickasha, assumed the new role in July.

During the same week Sparks was formally hired, the Weatherford School Board announced the hiring of their new superintendent. Jill Henderson – who was the superintendent at Canute, became the district’s first female superintendent on July 1.

Smaller school districts in the area saw change in leadership as well. Canute would hire Jamey Cook to fill the void left by Henderson, and Hammon would hire Ryan Baker to lead their school district.

Concluding our list of the top stories of 2021 in western Oklahoma is a double homicide in a small Dewey County community.

The town of Leedey was rocked when two women were shot to death in mid-September.

One of the victims was an EMT for Leedey.

Investigators say Sechrist was taken into custody that morning at the home he and Stacy shared, after calling authorities to turn himself in. He was booked into the Dewey County Jail and charged with two counts of Murder in the First Degree.

After an investigation, The OSBI said Angel’s husband, Mitchell Boyd, told investigators that his sister, and her live-in boyfriend, wanted to come talk to him. Mitchell arranged for Tye Sechrist and Stacy to come to his and Angel’s home in Leedey early that morning to talk. When they didn’t arrive, he tried calling both Angel and Stacy. When neither answered, he went to the ambulance barn and found them both deceased. The sheriff’s office received a 911 call at 3:10 a.m. reporting the double homicide.

Investigators say Tye Sechrist, Stacy Boyd’s live-in boyfriend was taken into custody that morning at the home he and Stacy shared, after calling authorities to turn himself in. He was booked into the Dewey County Jail and charged with two counts of Murder in the First Degree.

Looking back at 2021 wasn’t easy. There was a lot of “doom and gloom” mainly because of Covid-19 still lingering in our lives.

But during my look back at the news stories of 2021, it was easy to find good stories from the past 12 months. Stories like Boeing choosing Burns Flat to test their new 777 passenger planes, or sales tax intake improving for nearly every municipality in the region.

From everyone here at Paragon Communications: here’s to a better, healthier, and prosperous 2022.

Happy New Year!

Copyright 2021 Paragon Communications. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

Road Work Could Slow Down Holiday Travel

May 27, 2022 By News Director Jared Atha Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials want to make commuters this holiday weekend of ongoing construction projects that could slow down travel.

SWOSU Students Win Reach Higher Program Awards

May 26, 2022 SWOSU Press Release Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU) students Jennifer Nightengale of Foss, Abigail Ulery of Yukon and Rhiannon Calfy of Temple were recently honored with Reach Higher awards at the Everett Dobson School

Two Elk City Actors Up For Awards

May 24, 2022 By News Director Jared Atha Two Elk City High School thespians have been nominated to win awards for their recent performances in the play “Newsies”.

Western Oklahoma Wells Show Good Numbers

May 23, 2022 By News Director Jared Atha A Western Oklahoma well drilled by the Kaiser-Francis Oil Company of Tulsa brought in more than 2,100 barrels of oil a day.

Bass Derby Winners

Virtual Bass Derby Winners

KECO Virtual Bass Derby Winners The second annual KECO Backroads Bass Derby, sponsored by H2O Bait, Tack and More, and Galleria Furniture, was on May 21, 2022. Anglers from around the area competed for $500 and $250

Russ, Others, Urge Governor To Secure Baby Formula

May 19, 2022 By News Director Jared Atha Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell along with 20 additional House Republican representatives signed a letter penned by Rep. Ross Ford, R-Broken Arrow recently calling on Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and

Elk City Man Accused of Assaulting Two With Rifle

May 17, 2022 By News Director Jared Atha An Elk City man has been charged in Beckham County with, among other things, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon after allegedly striking a man and a woman

ODOT Meets – Hands Out Honors

May 16, 2022 By News Director Jared Atha The Oklahoma Transportation Commission honored three Oklahoma Department of Transportation highway projects at its May 2 meeting that recently received first place awards for quality asphalt construction.

Despite Recent Rain Drought Rages On

May 16, 2022 By News Director Jared Atha Some parts of Oklahoma remain in a drought and the latest report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows only a slight improvement in western Oklahoma–the driest area of

Local Airports Could See Major Funding Approved

May 10, 2022 By News Director Jared Atha The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission is scheduled to meet in regular session Wednesday morning with one local airport possibly receiving major funding towards a hangar project.

SWOSU Employees Honored with Awards

May 6, 2022 By News Director Jared Atha Southwestern Oklahoma State University students recently voted online for the annual Brandy Awards for outstanding staff, administrator and faculty of the year, the Dougherty Diversity & Inclusion Award and

Local Teachers Awarded PSO Grants

May 6, 2022 By News Director Jared Atha Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) announced recently 64 American Electric Power (AEP) grants to underwrite innovative classroom approaches in local classrooms.

SWOSU Physics Students Honored with Awards

May 5, 2022 By News Director Jared Atha Southwestern Oklahoma State University’s 2022 Physics Spring Banquet was held recently at the Stafford Air & Space Museum in Weatherford, and several SWOSU students were presented awards.