As I perused the breadth of coverage our staff and contributors provided in 2019, I noticed that many of the biggest stories we wrote aren’t finished. The final story — or the folo, as journalists call it — has yet to be told.


Construction continues at Kalahari Resorts and Convention Center for its planned opening in November. The results of an investigation into a principal who allegedly made racist remarks to staff has not been made public. And the creation of a new district police department will commence through the beginning of 2020.


The stories we chose as the biggest to hit our pages in 2019 represent a city still in the throes of rapid growth. They represent leadership both commended and under fire. They showcase justice, whether properly served or under scrutiny.


Here are the Leader’s 10 biggest stories of 2019.


— Mike Parker, editor


10. Longtime Williamson County Republican Chair Bill Fairbrother stepping down


Bill Fairbrother is stepping down as Williamson County Republican Party chairman, capping a 20-year run as its head fundraiser, organizer and spokesperson.


In a letter read in his absence at the party’s executive committee meeting Jan. 29, Fairbrother said his mother’s mounting medical issues and a need for the party chair to focus on the coming election season weighed on his decision to leave the post.


Fairbrother said the timing felt right to step down. “Twenty years is a long time to serve, and I do need to take care of things with family and at home,” he said. “It’s a right time to make a change.”


Fairbrother has been a longtime fixture in county politics. After succeeding Darryl Pool as GOP chair in February 1999, he has been a stalwart ally in a party that has effectively maintained the vast majority of elected seats on the county and state level through most of his tenure.


— Mike Parker, Feb. 9 edition


9. Williamson County dropping marijuana cases under Texas hemp law


Williamson County Attorney Dee Hobbs said he is unable to prosecute approximately 50 marijuana possession cases due to a new state law legalizing hemp.


Hobbs said any misdemeanor charges for marijuana possession in the county filed after June 10 — when the law went into effect — are not moving forward in court because the legislation inadvertently created a legal loophole. Because marijuana and hemp look very similar, testing the percentage of THC — the ingredient in both pot and hemp that makes people high — is now pivotal in prosecuting any of the charges.


Prosecutors would need to determine whether any suspected pot is actually an illegal substance by testing whether the amount of THC is above the legal limit of 0.3%. Without that testing, Hobbs said prosecutors cannot prove guilt without a reasonable doubt.


“I feel I don’t have the ability to properly (prosecute) without testing the substance,” he said. “Because right now that makes all the difference in the world.”


The county attorney’s office is among numerous others throughout the state that are dropping pot possession charges. Travis County prosecutors earlier this month announced that they were rejecting 93 marijuana possession cases filed in the three weeks since Gov. Greg Abbott signed the hemp legislation. Among those cases, 32 were felonies and 61 were misdemeanor charges.


— Mike Parker, Nov. 9 edition


8. Round Rock Chamber finds new CEO, president


The Round Rock Chamber is tapping the president and CEO of the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce in South Dakota as its next leader following a months-long search.


Jason Ball will begin his new position as Round Rock Chamber CEO and president in mid-September. Not longer after the chamber announced the hire, Ball said he was excited to begin work in an area that is well known for its economic vitality.


“Texas and the greater Austin area is a recognized leader in economic development and business growth,” he said. “For people that do what I do, it is an extremely compelling opportunity to do that work here.”


Ball has served for two years as CEO and president of the area chamber in Sioux Falls, which at a population of 181,883 is the state’s largest city. He had succeeded Evan Nolte, who retired after leading the chamber for 38 years, according to the city’s local paper, the Argus Leader.


As president and CEO, Ball will lead an organization that acts as the economic arm for Round Rock. The chamber has played a role in numerous local economic initiatives, including a deal that helped bring the Kalahari Resorts and Convention Center to Round Rock.


— Mike Parker, July 27 edition


7. Round Rock Kalahari Resort, convention center taking shape


The site of what will be Kalahari Resort and Convention Center had the feel of a human-sized beehive.


Workers wearing bright-colored hard hats and construction vests moved around the work site, operating equipment and moving building supplies. Cranes stretching 20 stories high slowly moved cargo over the beginnings of several towers.


A couple hundred workers lined up to grab a free lunch provided by Pok-E-Jo’s. Other workers sat around tables underneath an unfinished roof for the 200,000-square-foot convention center.


Altogether, 700 workers were on site, slowly assembling what will be the largest indoor water park in the United States.


In the middle of it all sat Todd Nelson, the Wisconsin man who has made a fortune providing a family-friendly indoor water park experience. Now he is looking to bring that same experience to Texas.


Nelson took the “Everything’s bigger in Texas” catchphrase to heart. The resort will be Kalahari’s biggest, with a 223,000-square-foot indoor water park, 200,000-square-foot convention center and 80,000-square-foot theme park.


— Mike Parker, June 1 edition


6. Sheriff’s commander reprimanded over comment about sex with TV producer


Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody said he has orally reprimanded a member of his command staff for a comment he made about a producer for the show “Live PD.”


Cmdr. Steve Deaton was the subject of a complaint this month by Georgetown attorney Robert McCabe that alleged Deaton challenged deputies in a meeting to have sex with the female producer. “Live PD” has been filming Williamson County deputies and featuring them on episodes that have recently aired on the A&E Network.


Chody said interviews with 17 people who were present reported Deaton asked whether any of them had been having sex with her, but issued no challenge. Chody said Deaton acknowledged that some people considered the question inappropriate.


The disciplinary action is the latest in a series of internal issues facing the department. Last month, Chody fired two deputies who he said were dishonest about inappropriate text messages they exchanged in a message thread with other members of the K-9 unit.


— Claire Osborn, April 18 edition


5. Principal accused of racist remarks put on administrative leave


A Round Rock high school principal has been placed on paid administrative leave, just days after a former teacher publicly alleged the principal made racist remarks.


District leaders said they are investigating allegations against Early College High School Principal Veronica Coss.


In a letter to families, Natalie Nichols, an area superintendent, said “Coss has been placed on administrative leave for the protection of all involved during the ongoing investigation. Our students and staff are important to us and we will work to ensure there is no disruption in the education process during this time.”


Former Pre-AP English teacher Stephanie Martin told school board members that Coss used a racial slur about a black employee, said immigrants don’t teach their children how to behave, and told teachers they needed to wean special education students off their accommodations, the educational aids or services provided to students by law. Martin, who worked for the district for a decade, left in May.


— Aaricka Washington, Oct. 5 edition


4. School board approves steps toward creating district police department


The Round Rock school board gave its first official stamp of approval on a plan to create a district police department.


During a regular meeting, trustees unanimously approved a motion instructing the superintendent to continue the process of creating a district police force.


The vote came two days after the Williamson County Commissioners Court effectively denied the district’s last request to oversee a school resource officer program through June 2026.


Newly elected board President Amy Weir said the board was not voting on a new action, but instead was voting for staff to continue researching and starting the process of developing a district police department.


The board instructed staff earlier this year to explore the process of creating a district police force. Weir said following a report from the citizen-led security and safety task force, the board felt they had two viable options: a district police force or a partnership with Williamson County.


— Darcy Sprague, Dec. 26 edition


3. Williamson County’s $447 million bond package easily approved


Voters have approved Williamson County’s $447 million roads and parks bond package, according to results from all 58 polling locations.


On the ballot, the package was split into proposition A, calling for $412 million for road projects, and proposition B, which was seeking $35 million for parks projects.


Proposition A was passed with 30,587 people, or 62.46%, voting for the road projects, and 18,381 votes, or 37.54%, opposing them. The parks projects also received strong support, with 28,954 votes, or 59.17%, in favor and 19,979 votes, or 40.83%, against them.


Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell said Tuesday night he was impressed and surprised by the support the bonds got from voters.


“It’s really about a lot more than building roads and improving parks,” said Gravell. He said the bond approval said “a lot” about the quality of life people wanted, including “keeping folks safer on roads and spending more time with loved ones and not spending time in traffic.”


— Claire Osborn, Nov. 9 edition


2. Terry Miles found guilty of kidnapping two Round Rock girls


A federal jury took about two hours to find Terry Miles guilty of kidnapping two sisters from their Round Rock home where their mother was found slain Dec. 31, 2017.


Miles, 45, was convicted of two counts of kidnapping as well as one count of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and one count of travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. Miles faces 20 years to life in prison.


The older sister testified during the trial that she saw Miles punch her mother and knock her to the floor on the day she died. She said Miles later came to her covered in blood. She said she then discovered her mother’s body with a crushed skull. A police officer testified Bates was killed by blows to the head with a flashlight.


Miles was arrested in southern Colorado on Jan. 3, 2018, driving Bates’ car with the girls in the back.


Prosecutors said in closing arguments that the girls went with Miles to Colorado out of fear, saying the older girl knew he had just killed their mother. A defense attorney, however, said Miles did not kill Bates and the girls went willingly with him because he was their protector.


— Claire Osborn, Feb. 14 edition


1. Round Rock Council OKs $200 million deal for The District


An agreement approved by the Round Rock City Council provides city incentives for a $200 million urban-style development just north of Pflugerville that is expected to bring thousands of jobs and additional retail options to the area.


Real estate firm Mark IV Capital is overseeing development of The District, a $200 million urban-style project that will be a mix of storefronts, restaurants, residences and Class A office space. The project is slated for 65 acres north of Greenlawn Boulevard and south of Texas 45.


The property, which is currently vacant land, abuts the Round Rock Crossing shopping center.


Once completed, city staff said The District will provide 5,000 jobs and bring in $1.5 million in annual tax revenue to the city. Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan called the agreement a “win-win all around.”


“It’s a product that Round Rock has never seen before,” he said. “This company has a history; they do good products. We have a good relationship with them, and we know what we’re going to get in this.”


While The District will have similarities to the Domain in Austin — an urban-style development that hosts more than 100 retail stores and restaurants alongside office and residential space — Morgan said it is a singular project.


— Mike Parker, Feb. 21 edition