Tuesday, the Press-Herald began recapping the 10 biggest news stories of 2013 in Webster Parish as chosen by the editorial staff.
Yesterday, we listed numbers six through 10. Here, you will find what our staff considers to be the top five stories of 2013.
1. Minden mayor dies. Minden continues to mourn the loss of long-time Mayor Bill Robertson, who succumbed to illness June 27. Robertson, 75, had been a patient at The Promise in Bossier City where he was undergoing physical therapy following major back surgery in April.
Robertson was first elected as Minden's mayor on Nov. 6, 1990. He won his sixth-consecutive four-year term on Oct. 2, 2010.
Mayor Pro Tempore Joe Cornelius was appointed by the council to serve as mayor until a special election in October.
2. Webster Parish has new superintendent of public schools. After one false start, the Webster Parish School Board settled on Dan Rawls to serve as the new superintendent. Current superintendent Steve Dozier announced his retirement effective August 31. Morris Busby, who has been in the school system for more than 30 years was chosen to replace Dozier in June. In July, Busby announced his retirement and Dozier agreed to stay on until another replacement was found. Rawls began his reign officially on Thursday, December 19.
3. Explo Systems, Inc.'s problems continue. The top story in 2012 was Explo Systems Inc.'s explosion at Camp Minden and the discovery of 18 million pounds of M6 propellant that was improperly stored. In 2013, the company's problems continued with revocation of Explo's license in May. In June, Explo Systems, Inc. filed a lawsuit against Louisiana State Police in an East Baton Rouge District Court.
Following a grand jury indictment, six Explo executives surrendered at Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center. They included owner, David Fincher, 65, of the 200 block of Spicer Road, Burns, Tennesee; owner, David Smith, 57, of the 2000 block of Thomas Station Road in Winchester, Kentucky; Operations Manager, William Terry Wright, 59, of the 5000 block of Lakeside Drive in Bossier City; Lionel Koons, 54, of the 3000 block of Deerfield Lane in Haughton; Todd Dietrich, 50, of the 8000 block of Edgewood Drive in Haughton; and Michael Kile, 43, of the 200 block of Melissa Lane in Bossier City.
In July, all pleaded not guilty to charges that included unlawful storage of explosives, reckless storage of explosives, failure to obtain magazine license, failure to properly mark explosive material and failure to keep accurate inventory. A conspiracy was added to each separate charge.
In August, Koons and Dietrich pleaded guilty before a 26th Judicial District Judge to reckless handling of explosives, a misdemeanor. Kile added the same plea in October. Lawyers for Smith, Fincher and Wright have filed multiple motions, causing trial delays.
4. Tommy Davis elected mayor. With more than 60 percent of the vote, Tommy Davis became the first elected mayor of Minden in 16 years, filling the unexpired term of the late Mayor Bill Robertson. When he took the oath of office in November, Davis became the fifty-fifth person – elected or appointed – to do so since Minden's incorporation in 1854.
He plans to run for re-election in October 2014.
5. Northwest Louisiana Technical College opens new facility. In September, Northwest Louisiana Technical College hosted its friends for a grand opening ceremony where students, faculty, education leaders, elected officials and supporters gathered to celebrate the finished product of many years' work at 9500 Industrial Drive.
In November, regional director Charles Strong announced his retirement from NWLTC after more than 30 years of service. Strong said one of his greatest achievements was the completion of the new Minden campus, a culmination of a 25-year effort.