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ln July, Mermaid Society of Texas held their first ever Mermaid Capital of Texas Fest - Pep Rally on the new Mermaid Patio at Ivar's River Pub. Daily Record photo by Lance Winter

A LOOK BACK AT 2021: City named Mermaid Capital of Texas during April-June

Year in Review: April-June
Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Editor’s note: This story is the second installment of a four-part series looking back at the year that was — 2021. 

As 2021 continued, San Marcos saw it named the official Mermaid Capital of Texas, San Marcos CISD students return to in-person learning before the end of the academic year, calls for justice for a woman killed in a crash caused by a city police officer and the public library expansion project come to completion. 


San Marcos Consolidated ISD announced it would expect students to return to their respective campuses, unless already medically exempt, beginning April 12. The move marked the first time classes weren’t limited in size because of COVID-19. The district said its main goal was to bring students back  to check on them mentally, socially, academically, and to prepare for the 2021-22 academic year. 

In early April, Texas State University announced it would  return to in-person learning in “full force” for the fall semester. The university said the fall semester will look like the pre-pandemic fall 2019 semester with a full-slate of in-person classes and activities resuming at its San Marcos and Round Rock campuses. 

A man, later identified as Rescue Eram, was killed when a San Marcos Police Department officer shot him. SMPD responded to southbound I-35 near mile marker 204 for Seguin (TX-82, TX-123) after they were alerted to a man walking in traffic at approximately 12:19 a.m. on April 10. Officials said officers attempted to detain Eram but he turned and charged toward the officers with a weapon held above his head in “a manner similar to a striking or slashing motion.” Eram was shot and killed. 

In April, Pamela Watts began showing her signs across San Marcos raising awareness regarding the death of her life-partner, Jennifer Miller. 

San Marcos Police Department Sgt. Ryan Hartman crashed into Miller’s vehicle on June 10, 2020. Police records show Hartman ran through a stop sign and collided with the car carrying Miller and Watts. Miller died on scene and Watts was transported by helicopter to Ascension Seton Hays Hospital in Kyle to be treated for severe bodily and brain injuries.

According to Hartman’s deposition, police reports and forensic evidence, Hartman was driving 16 mph over the 30 mph speed limit on a partially gravel road with an open container of Dos Equis that was ¾ empty, talking on the phone, and he failed to stop at two stop signs before colliding with Watts’ vehicle. A statement later released by the City of San Marcos, refuted claims that Hartman was on his phone while driving. The city stated that cell phone tower data showed that Hartman wasn't texting while driving. On body cam footage released, Hartman said that he caused the death of someone because he wasn’t paying attention. 

“I’m already, I caused the death of somebody by me not paying attention,” Hartman said at the scene. 

Hartman refused to take a blood alcohol test on scene and was detained at the scene. A search warrant was obtained on suspicion of driving while intoxicated due to the open container detected.

The blood-alcohol test taken hours after the crash found no alcohol in Hartman’s system.

Lockhart Police Department’s investigation recommended a charge of criminally negligent homicide. A grand jury reviewed the charge and returned a no-bill, leaving civil action as Watts’ only recourse where she could file for damages for her sustained injuries. 

Watts’ signs around San Marcos were just the start of her efforts to seek justice for Miller. 

On April 18, one year after San Marcos Police Department Officer Justin Putnum was killed in the line of duty, hundreds gathered to remember his life at a memorial service held at Five Mile Dam Park Soccer Complex. 

City of San Marcos officials, Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra and members of the Greater San Marcos Partnership and San Marcos Area Chamber of Commerce gathered on April 19 to break ground on a new state-of-the-art cannabis cultivation, production and retail facility. Parallel, parent company of Goodblend Texas, invested $25 million in the 63,000 square foot facility, which will provide patients with access to medicinal cannabis products in a variety of forms that are cultivated and produced locally. Parallel said the new Goodblend facility will bring hundreds of new jobs.

On April 24, Gianna Moreno, who was in her senior year at San Marcos High School, became the first Rattler wrestler to win a state championship. She won the UIL 6A girls’ 138-pound title. 


San Marcos CISD held an election for two at-large positions on Board of Trustees. Incumbent Anne Halsey and Mari Salmi were elected to the school board in a six-way race for the two at-large spots. 

The San Marcos Public Library’s newly expanded library opened to the public on May 24 after more than 18 months of work on the project. The expansion added 28,000 square feet to the building and will feature an enclosed children’s room, a makerspace, teen room, technology hub, children’s area, study rooms, conference rooms and a 240-person meeting room.

A new $11 million, 135,000-square-foot speculative space facility to be constructed in San Marcos was announced by the Greater San Marcos Partnership on May 24. 

Live Oak, a Texas-based real estate development and brokerage services firm, would construct the 135,000-square-foot industrial space for operations needing a newly constructed building at 320 Barnes Road close to Wonder World Drive and Interstate 35. 

The City of San Marcos was officially designated as the Mermaid Capital of Texas after Gov. Greg Abbott  signed a ball making it official on May 24. 

“I am so excited about all the possibilities this designation will help to inspire in my hometown,” July Moreno, founder of Mermaid Society SMTX, told the Daily Record in May. “My wish is that it will bring attention to the San Marcos River's beauty and significance, highlight the arts and culture in our community, and preserve and celebrate the history of the San Marcos Mermaid. Lucky me — I get to say I live in The Mermaid Capital of Texas — my Home Sweet Home.”

San Marcos High School celebrated graduation on May 28 at an outdoor ceremony at San Marcos Toyota Rattler Stadium. The ceremony began as planned but stormy weather forced the celebration to continue in the school’s student activity center. 

San Marcos High School's Class of 2021 celebrated graduation at San Marcos Toyota Rattler Stadium. Over 430 students graduated. Inclement weather impacted the ceremony as heavy storms entered the area as the event started. Graduation was completed inside the high school's Student Activity Center.


On June 1, The Hays County Commissioners Court approved an interlocal agreement and memorandum of understanding with the City of San Marcos regarding the Cape’s Dam Complex.

The approved MOU provides a framework for collaboration and cost-sharing in regard to the proposed rehabilitation of the Cape’s Dam Complex.

“It lays out the foundation and responsibilities of both the city and the county and us working together as it relates to Cape’s Dam,” Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe said during the court’s June 1 meeting. “I want to mention also that due diligence will be done to determine whether or not the dam can be rehabilitated or if removal needs to happen and we're hoping to get outside engagement with those aspects.”

The county’s discussion regarding the Cape’s Dam Complex follows the San Marcos City Council’s decision to approve the interlocal agreement and MOU with the county during its regular meeting on May 18.

On June 3, family, friends and law enforcement officers honored the life of fallen San Marcos Police Department Officer Justin Putnam on Thursday.

Following a procession from Thomason Funeral Home in San Marcos, hundreds gathered at Shoreline Church in Austin for a public funeral.

“Covid prevented us from having a more timely service,” said Rob Koke, senior pastor at Shoreline Church. “But giving honor and tribute to a selfless sacrifice, to courage, and to a life well lived is never something that should be taken for granted. It is always worth the wait.” 

On June 10, Protesters gathered outside San Marcos City Hall. seeking justice for Jennifer Miller. Prior to the protest, San Marcos Chief of Police Stan Standridge arrived at City Hall to hold a discussion with Watts regarding Hartman’s return to work for SMPD.

“I cannot speak to anything the investigating agency did or the district attorney or the grand jury, that is completely outside of my wheelhouse,” Standridge told Watts before she questioned why he showed up to the protest. “In fairness, you and I have had this conversation. I wanted to visit with you again because there’s a lot of misinformation out there. From the employment perspective, I have to go by the rule of law. The rule of law says I have 180 days as the chief administrator to effect discipline. That 180 days expired by the time I get here, I learn that the grand jury has returned a no-bill. So, by law as a civil service agency, you cannot terminate his employment.”

Watts responded by saying Standridge’s predecessor should’ve taken action before the 180 days expired.

“If you took over the office after he did, you still have to stand in those shoes and act as if it were him,” Watts told Standridge. “He should’ve acted. There was enough information out there and I guarantee you I’ll release every damn bit of it because the public needs to know and we need to start having transparency in our legal system.”

Standridge left City Hall prior to the official start of the protest as more and more members of the crowd began questioning him. 

After a hiatus caused by COVID-19 in 2020, the Texas Water Safari began on June 12  at the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment. The 260-mile competition, dubbed "The World's Toughest Canoe Race," begins in San Marcos and ends in Seadrift.

A large gathering of residents and dignitaries met inside the San Marcos Public Library on Friday to celebrate the library’s completed renovation and expansion project on June 18. 

San Marcos Public Library Director Diane Insley cuts the ceremonial ribbon during Friday's dedication ceremony. Daily Record photos by Lance Winter

In late June, a lawsuit was filed against San Marcos Director of Public Safety Chase Stapp and two other unnamed city employees over a Biden campaign bus incident that occurred in October 2020.

Former State Sen. Wendy Davis, a Biden campaign volunteer, campaign staffer and a bus driver suing, claiming that Stapp and the San Marcos Police Department failed to provide them protection as the Biden-Harris bus drove through San Marcos on Interstate 35. The bus was surrounded and followed by supporters of former President Donald Trump who formed a self-labeled “Trump Train,” the lawsuit states.

San Marcos Record

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