Mabank grad dies in wreck
On his way to work, sheriff’s deputy runs off
roadway into tree
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS, MABANK–A large area family is grieving over the loss of Kyle
Walter Zitko, 19, a 2007 Mabank High School graduate.
Zitko had recently moved out on his own, and was enthusiastic about his
career choice as a corrections officer.
He had been working at the Henderson County Jail since May.
Zitko was on his way to work on State Highway 19 at around 5:30 p.m.
when his 2002 black Pontiac Trans-Am went off the roadway and hit a
The crash occurred about five miles south of the Athens city limits. His
shift was due to begin at 6 p.m., according to Lt. Pat McWilliams.
No one else was hurt.
Reportedly, a witness at the scene said that two cars in Zitko’s lane
had drastically slowed down, while the first car prepared to turn off
the roadway. Zitko’s Pontiac topped a hill and had little time to stop.
A Texas Department of Public Safety report said Zitko’s vehicle veered
off the left side of the roadway, perhaps in an effort to avoid a
collision. If so, Zitko’s actions may have saved lives.
His vehicle skidded sideways into a tree, causing it to spin. Zitko was
ejected from the vehicle.
He was pronounced dead at the scene by Precinct 6 Justice of the Peace
An autopsy has been ordered.
His co-workers were stunned to learn he had crashed while in route to
“He was really dedicated to the sheriff’s department,” Justin Jordan,
also Zitko’s classmate, said. “He really knew what he was doing. He was
planning on having a future here.”
Zitko is the third deputy to be killed while on active duty in the last
year and a half – the other two being Paul Habelt and Tony Ogden.
Zitko was well-liked by most who knew him. He enjoyed hunting with his
father, Greg Zitko.
Last December, The Monitor spoke with Greg about his hunting and
trapping of feral pigs.
The father and son also enjoyed restoring old cars together.
“Cars were his passion,” his mother, Robin Zitko, said.
Youth pastor Kenny White remembers Kyle as generous in heart and body.
“Kyle was a gentle giant. His 6-8 frame made his body large, but his
heart was even larger,” White said. “Kyle never entered a room without
his smile proceeding him. The number of friends he leaves behind will
demonstrate what a giant footprint he also leaves. I will truly miss
Kyle has five brothers and three sisters.
Pack up and move!
Councilman urges action after 23 years
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer
GUN BARREL CITY–Gun Barrel City Council members agreed to look into the
cost of moving the existing city hall to the city’s Municipal Complex as
part of a three-phase plan Tuesday.
Councilman Todd Hogan proposed the move and urged the council to begin
the process over the coming holiday period, pointing out a new city hall
had been discussed by councils for 23 years without anything to show for
Hogan suggested a spot northeast of the existing fire station, a
relatively flat area where chamber-sponsored festivals were held for
“I know there is water and sewer there,” he said. “Rather than
continuing to discuss things, we need to move forward on this.”
Hogan said the city could place a slab with stubbed-in plumbing on the
spot for about $200,000, “and we have ample money in the budget.”
The existing city hall lot, located on the corner of Main Street (State
Highway 334) and Harbor Point Road, could be sold to provide funding for
the move, Hogan said.
“I agree this is aggressive,” he added. “I suggest we forward this to
the parks board, because this is part of the city park. Let’s look for a
location and start a slab.”
City manager Gerry Boren said the Mabank Independent School District is
moving the final portable classrooms from the Mabank Junior High campus,
and said he would meet with the mover to get an estimate.
Councilwoman Kathy Cochran said the city needed to do a cost analysis to
see if such a move would be feasible, and Hogan agreed.
“We need to find out if the structure will handle a move. That has to be
done first,” Hogan said.
The discussion touched on the needs of Brawner Hall, which does not meet
a number of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements.
Boren read the ADA law, noting the law does not require retrofitting
buildings constructed prior to the law’s 1992 passage to meet
Were the city to build a new building, it would have to meet ADA
regulations, Boren said.
“If we were going to remodel at the existing location, then the
bathrooms would have to be rebuilt,” he said. “The kitchen area also has
Even if the city hall is moved, Boren said he would recommend leaving
the fire department equipment stored in the east end of Brawner Hall for
west-end fire protection.
Gun Barrel City Economic Development Corporation board member Richard
Wendel told the council he always leaves Brawner Hall with a headache,
because he has to concentrate so hard to hear what is being said.
“As a hearing-impaired person, it’s very hard to understand anybody,”
Wendel told the council.
Councilman Melvyn Hayes said the city was working with Lake City Music
to provide a new public address system for Brawner Hall.
“Hopefully, by the next council meeting, you will have a great
improvement,” Hayes told Wendel.
In other business, the council:
• approved an EDC project agreement to provide up to $150,000 for
improvements to the old Winn-Dixie building in the Gun Barrel Village
As proposed, Beall’s would move into the old Winn-Dixie space, doubling
the store’s square footage. See the Thursday, Sept. 25, issue of The
Monitor for a full report on the project.
• heard Boren report an old ice house will be placed next to an existing
“We want to dress up the town where people have the opportunity to take
a picture of something old,” he said.
• approved the 11th supplement to the city’s Code of Ordinances.
• authorized spending $1,530 out of the city’s technology fund to fix
some software/server problems.
• heard Boren report new security cameras were in at the police
department, and a new telephone system will be up and running quickly.
Callers to the police department will get an automated selection menu,
which will help the dispatchers on duty. The system will also record
everything, Boren said.
Boren added the city jail cells will be painted pastel pink as part of
the security camera clean-up and renovation.
Thank a soldier at the post
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
MABANK– Mabank Postmaster John Lindsey and his team of 33 postal workers
have initiated a program to offer post office customers an easy way to
write a word of encouragement to a community member serving in the armed
It’s called “Thank a Soldier.” A beautiful postcard has been designed
and addressed to someone fulfilling a tour of duty in either Iraq or
Afghanistan – all the customer has to do is pen a few words and buy a
“We though it would be a good thing for our community,” Lindsey said.
An important aspect of the program is asking the community to submit
names of their loved ones from this area who are currently serving.
A color photograph, a little biographical information and a military
address is all that’s needed. The Mabank Post Office staff will do the
rest, which includes creating a counter-top display and stack of
postcards within easy reach.
The program, which kicked off a week ago, has been in the planning
stages for at least two months, and included printing a batch of
“You can just write the words ‘Thank you.’ Such small gestures mean so
much in times of loneliness away from home,” Lindsey said.
He should know he completed a 20-year career in military service – 16 in
the Army – before coming to work for the postal service.
The program will feature one service member a month, unless a great many
names are submitted, Lindsey said. “Then, we’d go to two soldiers a
month,” he said.
“We intend to continue this program until the troops are all called
home, or we run out of names,” he said.
Anyone with a family member is welcome to participate.
This month’s featured serviceman is Pvt. Oran Seth Lewis, who was born
in Athens and grew up in Murchison. While attending Brownsboro High
School, he participated in football and was a state champion powerlifter.
Lewis joined the Army right after graduation. He has been trained as an
Infantry S.A.W. Gunner and is nearing the end of his initial duty in
Iraq, but is expected to deploy to Afghanistan in December.
Each time a new service member is featured, The Monitor will include his
or her biographical information and encourage our readers to drop him or
her a post card at the Mabank Post Office, located on Third Street
(State Highway 198).