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2007: Year in review

January

Democrat John Dean took his seat as an Island County commissioner, having beat Bill Byrd in the election.

Ground was broken for construction of Wildcat Memorial Stadium.

The planned successor to the P-3 Orion at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station got its name: The P-A8 Poseidon, built by Boeing.

Former Sheriff Mike Hawley announced he would still be with the force, as a lieutenant at the North Whidbey precinct.

An Oak Harbor woman charged with voting for her daughter pleaded guilty to the charge of “attempted voting absentee ballot unlawfully,” and received 365 days in jail, all of which were suspended, and $2,217 in fines and fees.

Karen Gervais, 47, mother of two and a tireless advocate for Coupeville schools, was killed in a car crash near Freeland. The other driver was arrested on suspicion of DUI.

On a visit to Oak Harbor, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen took criticism for voting against the president’s plan to send more troops to Iraq.

For the first time since the 1950s, the Coupeville and Oak Harbor boys basketball teams met on the hardwood. The feisty Wolves gave the Wildcats all they could handle before succumbing 66-63.

February

The school board directed Superintendent Rick Schulte to begin the process of closing Clover Valley Elementary School.

Mark Preiss was named manager of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, taking over from Rob Harbour.

Concern was raised that the spit at Ala Spit was eroding away.

Oak Harbor lost its orange as the abandoned Copeland Lumber building was demolished to make way for a new development.

Whidbey Island Bank donated $30,000 for the scoreboard at the new Wildcat Memorial Stadium.

The Hearing Examiner sided with the city and allowed a variance to condo developers to prune the giant Garry oak tree on Fidalgo Avenue, allowing six main stems to be cut back to one.

March

A new business, Deception Pass Tours, opened to provide boat tours of the popular tourist area.

The Oak Harbor Wildcat cheerleaders repeated as state champions in the WIAA/Dairy Farmers of Washington competition in the Yakima Sundome.

Separate car accidents on the same day, March 22, killed two women, one from Oak Harbor and one from Anacortes.

Property taxes increase from 8 to 10 percent, raising the public’s ire as well.

The first gray whale of the spring was spotted in Saratoga Passage.

Former Congressman Jack Metcalf of Langley died at an Alzheimer’s care center in Oak Harbor.

The county commissioners voted to conduct future elections in Island County entirely by mail.

The Klickitat, the only ferry serving the Keystone to Port Townsend route, broke down. As a result, the route was closed for two days.

Island County Sheriff Mark Brown, alarmed by the death of 12 people in 2006 on Whidbey Island roads, designated a deputy to full-time traffic duty.

The Oak Harbor City Council passed a 14 percent utility rate increase, boosting bi-monthly bills by $20.

Marine Pfc. Kenny Van Slyke, who grew up in Oak Harbor, was killed by a sniper’s bullet in Iraq.

A pretty snow storm covered Oak Harbor in white on the first day of March.

April

The Legislature created a new Superior Court judgeship for San Juan County, which means Island County judges Vickie Churchill and Alan Hancock will no longer have to fly periodically to Friday Harbor. The change starts in 2008.

Residents of Dillard’s Addition learned of their new sewer system — after it had been installed.

Island County committed $750,000 to the Hoypus Point purchase.

Work started on an $8.3 million highway safety project just south of Oak Harbor.

Three Whidbey sailors from EOD Unit 11 were killed in Iraq: Chief Petty Officer Gregory J. Billiter, Petty Officer 2nd Class Curtis R. Hall, and Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph “Adam” McSween.

NAS Whidbey’s future — the EA-18G “Growler,” visited the base for its first public appearance there.

Coupeville School District Superintendent Bill Myhr resigned to take a job in Arizona.

The city installed new tourist-oriented directional signs on the highway and major thoroughfares, marking the first implementation of ideas in the Windjammer Plan.

The life sentence of Darrin Hutchinson, who shot and killed two Island County Sheriff’s deputies 20 years ago, was upheld by a judge in Skagit County.

May

After a search, Navy Lt. j.g. Jennifer Kincaid was determined to have left Oak Harbor of her own free will for Canada.

Three friendly fixtures in the Island County Commissioners’ office, Jan Ford, Donna Benson and Ellen Meyer, all retired after decades of service.

Oak Harbor Mayor Patty Cohen shocked the city by announcing she would not seek another term.

Oak Harbor, Island County, the Navy and state teamed up to pay $2.2 million for the 18-acre Boyer property located in the accident potential zone north of town.

Patty Page was named the new superintendent of the Coupeville School District. She has been assistant superintendent in Kelso.

Oak Harbor’s mayor and council members started pointing fingers at who was to blame for perceived lack of progress on a number of fronts.

A memorial service was held at the Navy’s Skywarrior Theater for three EOD Disposal Unit 11 sailors killed in Iraq: Chief Petty Officer Gregory J. Billiter, Petty Officer 2nd Class Curtis R. Hall and Petty Officer 1st Class Adam McSween.

Coupeville held a farewell ceremony for its old high school which was built in 1943. It was demolished to make way for a new school.

A mother and daughter sleeping in their house at Dugualla Bay were saved from roaring flames when neighbor Bill Young pounded on their door, yelling “fire! fire” at 2 a.m. Kim Gieratz and Kailee, 13, thanked him for saving their lives.

The Oak Harbor City Council listed its priorities, naming the marina redevelopment project as number one on a wish list totaling $92 million.

Oak Harbor School District cut 28 support staff jobs in an effort to balance the budget. Most came at Clover Valley Elementary which was slated for closure.

The last dairy operation on Whidbey Island came to an end when Wilbur Bishop loaded up 437 cows onto trucks bound for southern Idaho. The Sherman-Bishop Farm couldn’t compete with mega-dairies in Eastern Washington.

The landmark Central Whidbey barn on Hill Road near the intersection with Engle Road was destroyed by fire. It had stood for 71 years.

June

Hundreds of islanders participated in the North Whidbey Relay for Life’s 20th anniversary event in Oak Harbor. More than $142,000 was raised, with more money coming in.

Seven passengers sustained minor injuries when the 65-foot tour boat Explorer II out of Anacortes ran aground near Deception Pass State Park. Damage to the vessel was extensive.

The Washington state ferry Cathlamet hit a wingwall in Mukilteo, sustaining $180,000 in damage. The wingwall had to be replaced, costing $700,000.

Coupeville’s 10th-grade math scores dropped 15 points from the year before.

The Believe Foundation to help island kids with cancer was started, in memory of Greenbank’s Kaitlin Richmond.

Five members of Explosive Ordnance Mobile Unit 11 received the Bronze Star at NAS Whidbey for heroic and meritorious service in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Named were Lt. Cmdr. Nicholas Smith, Ens. Robert Mendenhall, EOD Technician Senior Chief Robert Zimmerman, EOD Chief Richard Higbee and EOD 1st Class Petty Officer Harvey Zimmerman.

Dr. George Fairfax donated 50 acres off Zylstra Road to the Whidbey Camano Land Trust in order to preserve its natural beauty.

A former deputy prosecutor, Amy Dempsey, who accused Prosecutor Greg Banks of pressuring her to support him in the last election, received a settlement of $300,000 from the Washington Counties Risk Pool. Banks never admitted any wrongdoing.

An A-6 Intruder was placed at the Intersection of Highway 20 and Ault Field Road after extensive restoration by volunteers. It was formerly located in City Beach Park.

July

It was announced that after six years and a cost of $400,000 to the city, Oak Harbor and the Navy decided not to pursue full privatization of the air station’s sewer and water systems.

Long-term plans were announced to water farmers’ crops around Coupeville with the town’s treated wastewater.

Temperatures soared into the mid-80s in the island’s hottest heatwave of the summer.

An Oak Harbor man who vandalized an ATM machine was caught as a result of images from the machine’s video camera.

Mayoral candidate Jim Slowik had amassed $15,000 in campaign funds a month before the primary.

In a change of pace, Oak Harbor was approving more building permits for multi-family housing than single-family homes.

Veteran Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton announced he was resigning after 15 years to take a job in Olympia as executive director of the Washington Counties Insurance Fund.

An outside investigator ruled that Oak Harbor City Councilman Paul Brewer had gone on a “physically intimidating tirade” during a meeting the prior September.

The county started the process to more strictly regulate on-site septic systems.

Chief Petty officer Patrick L. Wade and Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey L. Chaney, both of Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit 11, were killed in Iraq by an improvised explosive device. Hundreds turned out for a funeral honoring their memories.

Capt. Gerral K. David relived Capt. R. Sydney Abernethy as Commanding Officer of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

The ferry Illahee sprang a leak on the Keystone/Port Townsend run one day after being inspected.

August

Naval Hospital Oak Harbor announced it would no longer operate an emergency room, changing instead to an “urgent care clinic.” Emergency patients would be taken by ambulance to Whidbey General Hospital or Island Hospital in Anacortes.

A sewer dispute at Dillard’s Addition bubbled over when several residents complained to the city council that they weren’t notified a new sewer system was being put in by a private developer.

Whidbey General Hospital caused a stir by announcing it might quit accepting Tricare patients due to low reimbursements. The threat never had to be implemented.

Jim Slowik finished first in the primary race to see who would replace Mayor Patty Cohen. Paul Brewer was second and Sue Karahalios was eliminated from contention.

Judge Vickie Churchill threw the book at convicted child molester John Cowan, 61, giving him the maximum sentence of 11 ½ years to life in prison.

The Keystone ferry route was reduced to one boat after leaks were found in the Nisqually.

Two Island County residents were sickened by an E. coli outbreak in ground beef.

September

The new Coupeville High School, made possible by a $22.8 million bond issue, opened to students.

Thousands turned out for the opening in Oak Harbor of the new Wildcat Memorial Stadium. After a Navy flyover, the Wildcats’ football team beat Arlington 35-0 to start its undefeated 2007 regular season.

Phil Bakke was appointed to take the place of Mike Shelton on the Island County Board of Commissioners.

An EA-6B Prowler joined the A-6 Intruder at the Navy’s new Gateway display south of town.

Wildcat Stadium was credited with boosting the Booster Club’s hotdog sales from 400 per game to more than 1,400.

Alana Miller, age 2, became a celebrity when she called 911 to report her mother had collapsed on the floor from a migraine headache.

Snohomish County Public Utility District tested the waters of Admiralty Inlet to see if they are suitable for a tidal energy project.

Oak Harbor school officials decided it would be cheaper to construct a new building rather than massively renovate the old fieldhouse during the remodeling process approved by voters.

Whidbey Island Bank announced it was being taken over by Frontier Bank of Everett, ending 46 years of independence since its start in 1961 in Coupeville.

The state Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of Oak Harbor native and Spokane resident Robert Yates who went on to become a serial killer of at least 15 people.

October

The animal shelters operated by the Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation were being overrun by pit bulls, which took up 11 of the 18 kennels at the Oak Harbor facility.

Hundreds turned out in Coupeville for the formal grand opening of the new high school.

Hopes that the historic Oak Harbor Theatre on Pioneer Way would some day open again were dashed when the building was razed. It was built in 1929 by Howard and Bessie Maylor but no films had been shown there for years. A fire last year damaged the empty structure extensively.

Ballots were sent out for Island County’s first all-mail general election. No polling places were open for the first time in history.

Wet weather forced a delay in the highway project just south of Oak Harbor. Final paving now will not be done until spring.

Deception Pass State Park sealed a dangerously attractive cave with an iron “bat gate” that allows bats in, but not people. The move followed the accidental death of an Oak Harbor boy in 2006.

A notorious report listing Oak Harbor High School as one of the state’s top “dropout factories” gained widespread media attention. Authors of the study from John Hopkins University later recanted, acknowledging they had used the wrong numbers.

Coupeville announced it would try to raise $400,000 from private sources to purchase and preserve two vacant lots next to Toby’s Tavern.

November

Ground was broken at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station for a support building for the EA-18G “Growler,” the next generation of electronic warfare aircraft to be stationed at the base.

It was reported at a meeting of public health officials that 30 percent of Island County’s population is dealing with a mental illness.

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland suddenly announced it was closing as 150 workers were laid off. Some hope remained that the boatyard might resume work in the future.

In the general election, mayoral candidates Jim Slowik in Oak Harbor and Nancy Conard in Coupeville jumped out to early leads and held on to win the positions. New council members elected in Oak Harbor were Jim Palmer, Beth Munns and Rick Almberg; and in Coupeville Ann Dannhauer.

Whidbey General Hospital officials acknowledged that the MRSA “superbug” is present in Island County, and it was doing its share to combat it with an extensive cleanliness program.

Oak Harbor High School graduate, First Lieutenant Bryan Jackson, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for valor in Iraq, only the seventh such award the Army has handed out since the Vietnam War.

Petty Oficer 2nd Class Kevin Bewley was killed in action in Iraq. He was the sixth member of NAS Whidbey’s EOD Mobile Unit 11 to die in action during the year.

Oak Harbor High School Wildcats lost to Bothell in the football playoffs, ending an 18-game winning streak and dashing their hopes for a second consecutive state title.

Oak Harbor announced its preferred site for a future sewer plant is at the Navy’s Seaplane Base lagoon site.

Washington State Ferries suddenly pulled its Steel Electric class vessels from the Keystone to Port Townsend run, leaving some passengers stranded and kicking off weeks of controversy and foot ferry service.

December

Three Oak Harbor sisters afflicted by the BRCA1 breast cancer gene went in for preventive mastectomies.

Greenbank residents expressed alarm over plans by Rempel Brothers Concrete to expand its gravel mine by 100 acres.

A limited number of Nichols Brothers employees returned to work to finish boats in progress, paid by the boats’ owners.

The crews of two Knighthawk helicopters from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station rescued 91 people caught up in the huge flood in southwestern Washington.

Tenth District State Rep. Chris Strow, R-Freeland, resigned, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Coach Dave Ward ended his successful 17-year career at the helm of the Oak Harbor Wildcats football team, a run that peaked in 2006 with a state championship.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire announced the state would fast-track the purchase of three new ferries suitable for the Keystone to Port Townsend route, and in the meantime lease a car ferry to start serving the route in January.

Freeland became an official Non-municipal Urban Growth Area, a move that will eventually boost growth considerably.

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