42nd Annual Freer Chamber Banquet held last week

Sue Fleming, Duval County Correspondent

FREER - Local businessman Bobby Newman was named the 2007 Citizen of the Year and high school senior Myra Barrera the 2008 Junior Citizen of the Year during the 42nd Freer Annual Chamber of Commerce Banquet last Monday night.

The event began with president Leo Martinez welcoming guests, followed by the introduction of chamber directors and Freer Royalty.

Martinez introduced the guest speaker, Duval County Judge Abel Aragon.

"It is indeed a pleasure to be here tonight, to be back. This reminds me of old times when we had staff meetings," he said.

Aragon was referring to when he was principal of Norman Thomas Elementary, a position he held for 12 years before retiring.

The judge followed with an informative overview of the duties he has been fulfilling since his four-year term officially began Jan. 1, 2006.

The position of county judge comes with a lot of responsibilities, he said.

Duties include conducting county court, mainly misdemeanor cases, juvenile cases, and the magistration of the incarcerated, setting bond, he said.

"We deal with DWI cases and juveniles with drug problems, unfortunately," he said.

Aragon said cases of theft by check are dealt with, the probation of wills is done on a regular basis and issuing protective orders takes place at least once or more a month.

Aragon spoke of occurrences of crime in the county and of recent burglaries that have been committed.

"A young man, that had been caught, was out on bond, had mentioned to me that he had to steal to support his $250-a-day cocaine habit," he said. "We're working hard to put a stop to this. We're as good as the officers out there on the street, trying hard to do our jobs."

Overseeing the civic centers, the welfare department and the landfill, are among duties as well, he said.

"We want to promote industry, promote businesses, help bring it to Duval County," he said. "We want to work to ensure that citizens live a better quality of life."

He also discussed the promising future development of the uranium industry in Duval County as well as deer hunting.

Aragon said that when he decided to run for office on a county level, one of the reasons was because he wanted to be a part of a team that would build better things for Duval County.

"I'm a native of San Diego, but have spent most of my life in Freer and I love it here. There's no perfect county, but all we can do is try to make it a better county," he said in conclusion.

The introduction of the five finalists for 2008 Junior Citizen of the Year was then given by Dr. Belia Blanton. Nominees were Christy Acevedo, Barrera, Keeley Guidry, Audrey Reyes and Clarissa Salazar.

Barrera read her winning essay titled, "Some Call It Freer, I Call It Home."

She will receive a $500 scholarship and the runners-up will each receive a $50 Savings Bond.

Afterward, Marie Laird, last year's Citizen of the Year, introduced the nominees of the 2007 Citizen of the Year which were Bobby Newman, Marty Perez, J.P. Garza and Bro. Tim Walshe. Newman was announced the winner and thanked the chamber for the recognition.