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Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte  

Connally wide receivers/defensive backs Jordan Nichols (left) and Korie Black have attracted Division I collegiate interest with commitments to North Texas and Oklahoma State, respectively, while De’Montray Cooks (right) adds to the Cadets’ potent WR group.

Marlin city manager to serve as interim police chief
 Kristin Hoppa  / 

Marlin City Manager Cedric Davis was named interim police chief Monday following the death of Chief Nathan Sodek last week, city officials said.

Davis, 52, was voted in as interim chief and will continue serving as city manager to fill the immediate void of police chief following Sodek’s death at his Bruceville-Eddy home Friday. Sodek reportedly shot himself to death after the Texas Rangers arrived at his home to speak with him about an ongoing investigation, authorities said.

“Everybody is trying to cope and is still in shock,” Davis said. “This is going to be a day-by-day process because everybody was fond of him. It is a lot our department is going to have to go through for the next few weeks.”

Marlin City Council members held an emergency meeting and voted unanimously to install Davis as the interim police chief for no more than 90 days. Davis holds a master peace officer’s license and previously served as the police chief of the Wilmer-Hutchins Independent School District.

Davis was hired in May after serving as mayor of Balch Springs. He said he has a background in education, law enforcement and criminal justice.

The city agreed to a three-year contract with Davis with an annual salary of $70,000, plus benefits. Davis said he has no plans to stay on as police chief and will post the police chief job opening on Friday for applicants.

“To be honest, my goal is to have someone in place within the next 30 to 45 days,” Davis said. “We are going to do a good search open to anyone who wants to apply.”

Texas Rangers arrived at a Bruceville-Eddy home in the 100 block of Soules Circle at about noon Friday and made contact with Sodek.

Authorities were reportedly speaking with Sodek about an investigation and had planned to seize his cellphone when Sodek went inside the home and shot himself.

Falls County District Attorney Jody Gilliam said Friday that law enforcement authorities told her Sodek died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. McLennan County Justice of the Peace W.H. “Pete” Peterson was called to Sodek’s residence and ordered an autopsy.

Staff photo — Jerry Larson  

Rebecca Nall, assistant exhibits director for the Mayborn Museum at Baylor University, releases a dam as she tries out the Brazos River exhibit in the new Backyard Ecology Hall, which is set to open Oct. 5. The exhibit includes traditional collections, live animals and interactive activities.

Model-turned-entrepreneur chosen as Start Up Waco CEO
 Mike Copeland  / 

Jon Passavant is not just another pretty face.

True, he spent nearly two decades jet-setting to exotic locations, posing for shoots sponsored by fashion and fragrance luminaries such as Christian Dior, Armani, Estée Lauder and Ralph Lauren. His handsome mug has appeared in GQ, Vogue and Esquire magazines, and in their European counterparts.

But as of Monday, he is CEO of Hustle, which is Start Up Waco’s one-stop shop for entrepreneurs and would-be business owners needing guidance, and possibly financing, as they enter the world of commerce.

Passavant, 40, said his journey to Austin Avenue in Waco is not far-fetched. He married Jenny McMeans, originally from China Spring, as each pursued careers in New York, with Jenny becoming a renowned denim designer. Their ceremony was held at Waco’s historic Earle-Harrison House, said Passavant, who added he traveled with Jenny to Waco several times prior to their 2015 nuptials, meeting friends, family and, most important, her parents.

“It’s certainly different from London, Paris or New York, but it has a small-town feel to it that is very attractive in a lot of ways,” said Passavant. “I was drawn to the sense of collaboration happening behind the scenes — local government, private business, organizations taking significant strides forward. I was very impressed by that. We’re moving into an age in which where you are, where you live, is playing less and less a role in how much your ideas can grow. The community, I believe, wants to dive much deeper into entrepreneurship. Reaching that goal includes providing the knowledge to be effective, mitigating challenges and bringing expertise and mentorship.”

Passavant knows first-hand the challenges of launching a business.

Six years ago, with close friend and fellow male model Benj Lee, he founded a men’s fine accessory line, Passavant and Lee, with locations in New York and London. Forbes magazine profiled the venture, reporting that the company’s “No. 25 Briefcase” is made entirely by hand in New York City’s garment district. Priced at $2,850, the cases are lined with high-density foam for cushioning, and feature suede interiors and silk pockets.

Passavant said he still has a stake in the company, but his daily commitments are not time-consuming. He walked away from modeling three years ago.

He will oversee Hustle, which was launched last year in the 5,000-square-foot Woolworth Suites in the 600 block of Austin Avenue. It has secured backing from Baylor University, the Waco Foundation, the business community and the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. The Waco-McLennan County Economic Development Corp. pledged $750,000 in incentives.

Besides nearly 80 desks, conference rooms and shared amenities, Hustle provides business counseling and access to venture capitalists.

The Start Up Waco board conducted a six-month national search to find its chief executive before choosing Passavant from an in impressive field of candidates, said Ashley Allison, executive director of the Waco Foundation and a member of the search committee. Among others serving on the committee were Waco Councilwoman Andrea Barefield, Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president Alfred Solano and businessman Weldon Ratliff.

His first 30 days, Passavant is scheduled to participate in the two-day Race Equity Training sponsored by the Waco Foundation and Cooper Foundation, and connect with the three local chambers of commerce.

Reached Monday for comment Ratliff said Passavant checked all the boxes. He himself was an entrepreneur and also had experience in the nonprofit arena, having organized an event in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina to raise money for those left homeless. Passavant reportedly recruited 25 internationally recognized models to take part in Model Home.

“Truthfully, we read his profile and said, ‘We just hope we could get someone like that, but could we afford them?’ ” said Ratliff, whose business involvement includes H&B Construction and Ratliff Ready-Mix. “But his wife is from this area. And the price tag was something we could handle. His salary is in the middle part of our price range, so the deal got done.

“He’s a personable guy. Yes, he’s been a model, but I never thought much about that. He grew up in rural Pennsylvania, was a farm boy, and he worked in construction after college. Obviously, he looks like a model, but he’s a worker at heart. He got into nonprofits and starting his own company. He didn’t just sit around between jobs, between assignments. He seems to be a normal guy just like the rest of us, if that’s the right word.”

Officials Monday were not releasing details of Passavant’s pay.

Ratliff and his wife, Margaret, have donated $500,000 toward Start Up Waco’s Hustle, meaning he has a large stake in its success, Ratliff said.

He said Hustle should serve a vital role in the evolution of business creation.

“Maybe you have a business and need to expand or grow, or maybe you want to start a business,” he said. “You need contacts, you need to make contacts. You need to navigate the government hurdles, taxation, licensing, whatever. I know of a situation where a small business owner needed a license that would have cost $40. He hired a lawyer and paid $5,000 in legal fees. He could have gone online and filled out the forms himself. Maybe you’re a baker or a seamstress. Whatever your talent. You may not be good at accounting, or dealing with government records. We can help with that, help with networking. It’s not always who you know, but who you know in a specific industry. We believe we can offer help that makes a difference.”

Passavant said he believes he can prove a resource for securing investment capital. He also hopes to encourage a creative environment, one in which would-be entrepreneurs “have a place to throw anything against the wall, with no judgment, no precursor, no justification. I do have a lot of close friends and business relationships in New York, and hope to introduce them to Waco, to bring them back here and introduce them to entrepreneurs.”

Meanwhile, he’s enjoying life in Central Texas. He lives about a half-mile from Magnolia Market at the Silos, and he will attend Baylor University’s season opening football game on Saturday against Stephen F. Austin.

Oklahoma judge rules against drugmaker, orders $572M payment

NORMAN, Okla. — An Oklahoma judge on Monday found Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries helped fuel the state’s opioid crisis and ordered the consumer products giant to pay $572 million to clean up the problem.

Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman’s ruling followed the first state opioid case to make it to trial and could help shape negotiations over roughly 1,500 similar lawsuits filed by state, local and tribal governments consolidated before a federal judge in Ohio.

“The opioid crisis has ravaged the state of Oklahoma,” Balkman said before announcing the verdict. “It must be abated immediately.”

The companies are expected to appeal the ruling to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Before Oklahoma’s trial began May 28, Oklahoma reached settlements with two other defendant groups — a $270 million deal with OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma and an $85 million settlement with Israeli-owned Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

Oklahoma argued the companies and their subsidiaries created a public nuisance by launching an aggressive and misleading marketing campaign that overstated how effective the drugs were for treating chronic pain and understated the risk of addiction. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter says opioid overdoses killed 4,653 people in the state from 2007 to 2017.

Mike Hunter has called Johnson & Johnson a ”kingpin” company that was motivated by greed. He specifically pointed to two former Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries, Noramco and Tasmanian Alkaloids, which produced much of the raw opium used by other manufacturers to produce the drugs.

“They’ve been the principal origin for the active pharmaceutical ingredient in prescription opioids in the country for the last two decades,” Hunter said after the trial ended July 15. “It is one of the most important elements of causation with regard to why the defendants ... are responsible for the epidemic in the country and in Oklahoma.”

Attorneys for the company have maintained they were part of a lawful and heavily regulated industry subject to strict federal oversight, including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, during every step of the supply chain. Lead attorney Larry Ottaway said during closing arguments that opioid drugs serve a critical health need — to address chronic pain that affects thousands of Oklahomans every day.

“This problem of untreated chronic pain afflicts people here in Oklahoma,” Ottaway said.

Oklahoma pursued the case under the state’s public nuisance statute and presented the judge with a plan to abate the crisis that would cost between $12.6 billion for 20 years and $17.5 billion over 30 years. Attorneys for Johnson & Johnson have said that estimate is wildly inflated.

Also on Monday, the Kentucky Supreme Court declined to review an earlier ruling , making previously secret testimony from former Purdue Pharma President Rickard Sackler and other documents public. The court record was sealed in 2015 as part of a $24 million settlement between Purdue and Kentucky.

The 17 million pages of documents were being shipped Monday from Frankfort to Pike County, where the case originated. The Pike County Circuit Court Clerk’s office could not immediately say how and when they would be available.

Staff photo — Jerry Larson  

Jim Fau, Mayborn Museum Facilities Manager, works on a honeycomb playset in the new Backyard Ecology Hall, set to open in October at the Mayborn Museum.