This weekend marks the end of a year of a changing political climate, tragedy, triumph and growth. Whidbey Islanders participated in national movements and experienced celestial moments all while living their daily lives on this special rock. Here’s a look back at some of those moments:
- nA 58-year-old Oak Harbor man died after he fell out of his kayak into the water off Joseph Whidbey State Park. Witnesses on the shore were powerless to help the man as they waited for rescue boats and a helicopter to arrive.
- Oak Harbor police captain Teri Gardner turned in a “forced separation” letter asserting the city and police department tried to force her resignation, stripped her of authority and that she faced sexism.
- Whidbey fire officials emphasized the importance of smoke detectors in the wake of multiple house fires that resulted in multiple deaths.
- Charges were filed against Oak Harbor resident Arcan Cetin for the Sept. 23 Cascade Mall shooting.
- A 62-year-old Coupeville man was charged in Island County Superior Court for possessing more than 3,000 child pornography images and videos.
- Island County reached an agreement with Bruce and Joanne Montgomery over the Wonn Road beach access dispute.
- Preliminary results showed of 132 wells tested, eight were found to have levels of potentially toxic chemicals above the EPA’s lifetime health advisory level.
- Navy studies showed a mile-long plume of a chemical that’s likely a carcinogen had migrated in groundwater from a site at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island to within Oak Harbor city limits.
- A large California sea lion made international headlines when it spent the day in and around Nichols’ Brothers Boat Builders and more than two hours sunning atop a small Honda.
- More than 200 women, men and high school students from Whidbey Island joined the Women’s March on Seattle.
- Island Transit earned a clean financial and accountability bill of health from state auditors. The “glowing” report came after two years of financial instability.
- Nine students were sent to the hospital after a school bus was involved in a three-vehicle accident on North Whidbey.
- Residents were asked to stop bringing garbage to county solid waste facilities because an ice storm in Eastern Washington had halted trains carrying tons of garbage, causing trash to pile up on Whidbey.
- Coupeville Town Council voiced concerns about safety, lack of resources and impacts to economy and way of life in response to the Navy’s plans to increase the number of EA-18G Growlers at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
- Former Port of Coupeville Executive Director Forrest Rambo filed a $120,000 claim against the agency for wrongful termination.
- A 30-member task force was created to explore ways to bring more affordable housing to the island. Ideas included streamlining permit reviews and reducing fees for qualified housing projects.
- Three people in Island County died from influenza during a particularly sever flu season across the state.
- Island County offices returned to regular schedule after being on reduced hours for years.
- Oak Harbor High School was one of a number of schools across the nation hit with hoax bomb threats. An online group called the “Goon Squad” claimed responsibility for making the calls.
- Fire destroyed the iconic Smith barn in Ebey’s Prairie. In response, the island community and beyond held fundraisers to help farmer Georgie Smith with a future build.
- Two veteran Oak Harbor City Council members announced they would be retiring at the end of the year. Danny Paggao spent 24 years on council and Jim Campbell served 12 years.
- Beloved coffee shop, The Daily Grind, closed its doors after dozens of years in business.
- Former Oak Harbor school resource officer John Little, who exchanged sexually explicit images with five minors, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to a single count of possession of child pornography.
- City of Oak Harbor approved a $4.5 million contract for an odor control system that’s supposed to eliminate all smells from the high-tech sewage treatment plant under construction in Windjammer Park.
- Island County approved two contracts and allocated $122,000 to help the island’s homeless services.
- Island County launched two programs aimed at ending opioid abuse including a three-person outreach team.
- A 13-year-old student at Coupeville Middle School was arrested for allegedly writing a “hit list” that included other students.
- Two former Island County corrections officers were charged with misdemeanors for allegedly falsifying documents after inmate Keaton Farris’ 2015 death.
- Coupeville dentist Dr. Michael Mequio was one of two men rescued by Navy Search and Rescue after the plane he was flying in crashed in Olympic National Park.
- A domestic-violence suspect considered potentially armed and dangerous escaped from his house hours before police made entry and ended a day-long standoff. James R. Jensen, 37, was found at a downtown bar later that night.
- Suspected Cascade Mall shooter Arcan Cetin was found dead in his Snohomish County Jail cell after apparently hanging himself.
- A 3.1-magnitude earthquake struck about two miles offshore from Ebey’s Landing.
- Bruiser, Whidbey’s lone elk, found himself in a predicament when his antlers got tangled in a heavy rope swing. Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers had to tranquilize the big guy to free him from the debris.
- Oak Harbor’s first emergency shelter, The Haven, opened. The shelter is managed by the nonprofit Whidbey Homeless Coalition.
- Oak Harbor High School’s culinary arts team placed 16th out of 48 teams across the country and abroad at the National ProStart Invitational.
- Garage of Blessings moved into a new, larger location on Goldie Road.
- The Penn Cove Water Festival drew about 2,000 visitors to the one-day event in Coupeville.
- The historic schooner Suva was rescued after breaking from its mooring in Penn Cove during a storm.
- An Oak Harbor teen pleaded guilty to malicious harassment for committing a hate crime against a transgender student.
- Police were called to ease tensions after tempers flared at a North Whidbey Park and Recreation District meeting.
- Oak Harbor resident Greg Goebel and his son Gregory were credited with saving a teenager while whitewater rafting on the Wenatchee River.
- An analysis by the Univeristy of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation found people live longest in San Juan and Island counties out of all Washington counties.
- The North Whidbey Park and Recreation District board voted to stop funding the North Whidbey Aquatic Club after years of debate.
- Navy Search and Rescue saved a kayaker who capsized in Whidbey waters they spotted as they were en route to save a hiker in distress in Eastern Washington.
- Island County received a $7,500 grant to purchase 100 naloxone kits to help combat the ongoing opioid crisis.
- Dignity Memorial closed Burley Funeral Chapel in Oak Harbor and Visser Funeral Home in Langley.
- A man was shot by police in downtown Oak Harbor after police say he was armed and assaulting a woman.
- Whidbey drivers braced for stricter cell phone laws that went into effect state-wide.
- Actor Gary Sinise visited Naval Air Station Whidbey Island with his Lt. Dan Band.
- Bob Zylstra was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award during the annual Best of Whidbey awards banquet.
- Whidbey Islanders were among four existing area codes required to start dialing the full 10-digit number, including for local calls.
- Macklemore walked away uninjured after he was hit head-on by a drunk driver in South Whidbey. He was cited for driving without a license and later appeared in Island County District Court.
- A proposal for the 1,500 affordable housing development Wright’s Crossing faced many obstacles including zoning restrictions.
- Both levies for the North Whidbey Park and Rec District and North Whidbey Fire and Rescue failed in the primary election.
- The Coupeville Ferry was reduced to one boat service after the Salish got tangled up in crab pots.
- Residents up and down the island paused on Aug. 21 to witness one of nature’s greatest spectacles — a solar eclipse.
- Whidbey anglers got a free-for-all salmon experience after more than 300,000 non-native Atlantic salmon were accidentally released into waters up north.
- A new group was formed to promote civility among Whidbey Island public officials.
- A man running an online business out of a Coupeville home was accused of defrauding customers who thought they were buying flat screen TVs for more than $1 million.
- A 37-year-old chief petty officer in the Navy was shot and killed by a deputy with the Island County Sheriff’s Office during a struggle on North Whidbey.
- Naval Air Station Whidbey Island celebrated its 75 birthday.
- A biotoxin closed shellfish harvesting in Penn Cove.
- Oak Harbor City Council considered removing the windmill at Windjammer Park to avoid debris falling off it during high winds. A structural inspection during the summer revealed rot had crept into the blades.
- A small skull was found in a storage unit purchased at an auction. The Island County Coroner took possession of the remains for study.
- Island County’s sexually transmitted diseased rate declined as the state’s rose.
- The Naval community celebrated the 65th anniversary of the Skywarrior.
- The historic Ely House, built by Oak Harbor’s first mayor, was purchased and moved by barge to its new home in Coupeville.
- The Veterans Day Parade went on as scheduled after organizer Shelly Blackburn died suddenly as well as the original grand marshal, Harold Picard.
- A second attempt at passing a renewal levy for the North Whidbey Park and Rec District failed in the General Election, prompting officials to cut services at the Oak Harbor pool.
- High winds and dropping temperatures had Oak Harbor’s homeless shelter at or near capacity.
- Former “Dirty Jobs” star Mike Rowe visited the Garage of Blessings for his new Facebook show “Returning the Favor.”
- Island Transit announced Saturday bus service would be returning in the new year just in time to celebrate its 30th birthday.
- Pilots from NAS Whidbey were disciplined after a prank of drawing a penis in the sky made national headlines.
- Port of Coupeville celebrated paying off the mortgage at the Greenbank Farm after 20 years of payments.
- Sno-Isle Library System announced it will seek a levy in 2018 to cover a $2-million deficit.
- Oak Harbor High School Choir teacher Darren McCoy is announced as a top 10 finalist for the Grammy Music Educator Award.
- Island County is among those counties uniting to eventually sue the state over unfunded mandates.
- Two Oak Harbor residents were killed in an early morning head-on collision just north of Coupeville.
- The developer for Wright’s Crossing filed a suit to reverse the county’s decision not to move forward with the project.