Rally organizers Linda Wehrman, left, and Pam Fick address a crowd of around 200 people at the Island County Veterans Memorial Plaza in Coupeville. The rally joined more than 700 others across the country to protest the separation of undocumented immigrant families. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Rally organizers Linda Wehrman, left, and Pam Fick address a crowd of around 200 people at the Island County Veterans Memorial Plaza in Coupeville. The rally joined more than 700 others across the country to protest the separation of undocumented immigrant families. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

2018: A year on Whidbey

The news on North and Central Whidbey in 2018 was dominated by sewage treatment plants, Growler jets, contaminated water and several court cases, but there was also plenty of good, as well as unusual, things to report on. Several residents, for example, spotted a cougar on the loose, the historic Haller House in Coupeville was saved and Whidbey Pies was honored for its fabulous pies.

Here’s a look back on the year:


Sea Cadets from across the nation gathered at Camp Casey for a camp that teaches leadership.

Oak Harbor resident Peter E. Heller was killed in a two-car accident on Silver Lake Road.

A meeting between Island County commissioners and Prosecutor Greg Banks erupted into yelling and name calling.

Oak Harbor Councilwoman Beth Munns was chosen as mayor pro tem.

Police catch Oak Harbor resident Johnson Knox chasing a woman with a machete. He was later convicted of rape and sent to prison for 12 years.

Mission Ministry Outreach held its annual tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.

The Navy officials talked to Oak Harbor officials about the possibility of hooking the Seaplane Base housing into the sewage treatment plant, which was completed in November. The Navy previously decided not to partner with the city on the project. No decisions have been made.

The Navy agreed to install a filter on Coupeville municipal water because of concerns about a chemical from firefighting foam being present in the system.

A student’s texts complaining about Oak Harbor High School’s Martin Luther King Day assembly ignite controversy after they were aired on a Seattle radio station. School officials said the allegations were untrue.

Island County released a plan for tackling major public health issues.

Convicted killer Joshua Lambert returned to Island County Superior Court after one of two murder convictions were overturned. He was later resentenced to 80 years in prison for the single murder charge.

A state economist’s report pointed to an improved economy in Island County.

Rick Walti was appointed to the Coupeville Town Council.

A woman was charged with assaulting a man with a Yankee candle.

Big Brothers Big Sisters started “Bigs with Badges” program at Coupeville Elementary School.


Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns and council members were surprised when the estimated cost of the sewage treatment plant jumped $20 million to $142 million in 15 months. Severns said he would have the issue investigated.

The state announced plans to build a roundabout at Highway 20 and Banta Road.

Oak Harbor officials ask resident to reduce water use after a minor discharge of sewage.

A student at Oak Harbor High School was arrested for bringing a BB gun to school.

Sean G. Kelley was arrested for alleged voyeurism in the women’s bathroom at Walmart. The case was later resolved in district court.

Students at Oak Harbor Elementary School posed as notable figures in “wax museum.”

County Prosecutor Greg Banks ruled that a deputy was justified in the 2017 fatal shooting of Navy sailor Nicholas K. Perkins.

A tiny fly infestation bugged officials at WhidbeyHealth Medical Center.

Chief Criminal Deputy Rick Felici announced he was running for sheriff. He later wons in the November election against challenger Deputy Lane Campbell.

Blake Fountain pleaded guilty to reckless burning for starting a fire that burned down two houses on South Whidbey in 2017. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and was ordered to obtain a mental health evaluation.

Oak Harbor resident Guadalupe A. Ramos was arrested for raping his wife while she was sleeping. He was later accused of allegedly trying to hire a fellow jail inmate to kill his wife. He pleaded guilty to rape and was sentenced to more than eight years in prison.


The Navy investigated after an in-air incident involving a EA-18G Growler cockpit freezing over.

Doug Merriman left his job as Oak Harbor city administrator.

Two Oak Harbor students were arrested for making threats and a third was taken into custody for allegedly assaulting a teacher.

The Garage of Blessings was featured in “Returning the Favor,” a Facebook series starring Mike Rowe.

The Navy announced that two wells near the Ault Field base were contaminated with a firefighting foam chemical.

The county’s Point in Time count showed that more than 170 people were without permanent homes in the county.

Coupeville resident Katherine D. Hargarten, a former office manager at an Oak Harbor dental clinic, was accused of stealing thousand of dollars by making false insurance claims. She later pleaded guilty to theft in the first degree and making false claims and was sentenced to two months of electronic home monitoring and 240 hours of community service.

Ignacio Rivera was accused of beating a man and biting off part of his ear. Rivera later pleaded guilty to assault in the second degree and was sentenced to eight months in jail.

Students at Oak Harbor High School participated in a national walkout in protest of gun violence.


A young, malnourished gray whale washed up on the shore of West Beach.

A student at North Whidbey Middle School was arrested for displaying a knife.

Island County commissioners considered joining a multi-jurisdictional lawsuit against companies that manufacture opioid medication. They later decided to sign on.

Oak Harbor council members raised concerns when a bid escalates the cost of the sewage treatment plant again. Staff members estimated the total at $147 million.

Some Oak Harbor residents questioned a nonprofit group’s proposal to build an affordable housing project on Pioneer Way.

Deputy Lane Campbell announced he was running for sheriff.

County officials hold a meeting about a crisis stabilization and detox facility on North Oak Harbor Road.

Logan Eash was inducted into a school safety patrol hall of fame.

Oak Harbor closed Windjammer Park for work on park and the sewage treatment plant. It’s set to open in July of 2019.


Lyle Bull, a former rear admiral in the Navy, passed away. He was remembered as a great leader in the military and in the Oak Harbor community.

A man was injured and two docks were destroyed in a boat fire at Cornet Bay.

The Garage of Blessings moved into the former and future Whidbey News-Times office in Oak Harbor.

Council members created a taxing district to fund roadwork.

A jury in California found South Whidbey resident Linda Thomas, 74, guilty of killing her sister. Thomas later killed herself in jail.

Jean-Marc Faubert, a hospital corpsman at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, was missing and his car was found parked at Deception Pass Bridge.


The Oak Harbor council passed an ordinance aimed at cracking down on nuisance shopping carts.

Dale Mickler, a 64-year-old woman, was accused of grabbing a small child at a Deception Pass State Park campground. She was charged with unlawful imprisonment and DUI. Her trial is scheduled for February.

The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce organized a meeting for business owners and the community to discuss problems associated with homelessness.

Island Transit’s board voted to keep buses fare-free, except for one on Camano Island.

The Navy released a “preferred alternative” plan for bringing more EA-18G Growler aircraft to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. The proposal calls for a fourfold increase in aircraft carrier landing practice at Outlying Field Coupeville. Many in the Central Whidbey community protested the plan because of the noise of the aircraft.

A jury in Island County Superior Court found Jeromy Ladwig guilty of vehicular homicide in the death of 18-year-old Keesha Harden of Coupeville.


Whidbey Island residents joined a nationwide protest over President Trump’s immigration policies.

Thomas Stoneham, a pastor at an Oak Harbor church, was charged with child rape.

Ernie Grezzi, a 72-year-old Oak Harbor man, died in a boating accident on Crescent Harbor.

Fennel Hallam of Oak Harbor was charged with assault for allegedly biting a baby on the face.

Multiple people in the Oak Harbor area reported seeing a cougar on the loose. Police were unable to find a big cat.

Mayor Bob Severns named Blaine Oborn as new city administrator.

A ferry on the run between Coupeville and Port Townsend was knocked out of commission by lines from crab pots.

Michael Moore was appointed to the Coupeville Town Council after Christine Crowell vacated her seat.


Board members of North Whidbey Pool, Park and Recreation District decided to ask voters again to pass a levy in support of the district. The measure passed in the November election.

Island County Solid Waste announced a restriction on the type of plastic accepted at the recycling center, partly due to a lack of demand from China.

Smoke from wildfires in Canada spread a haze over Whidbey Island and much of the Pacific Northwest.

A woman sustained minor injuries after flipping her Jeep on the road in front of WhidbeyHealth Medical Center.

Capt. Matthew Arny took command at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. He replaced Capt. Geoff Moore as the commanding officer.

Teachers in districts across Whidbey, and across the state, received significant raises in the wake of the settlement of the McCleary case.


Tina Silva was charged with a felony after being accused of her fifth DUI.

The Washington State Patrol used a new law to temporarily take a gun away from a man who was allegedly contemplating suicide at Deception Pass.

Oak Harbor resident Douglas Duenwald was given an indeterminate sentence of six years and three months to life for child molestation. A deputy prosecutor described how Duenwald was accused of molesting other children over decades and authorities were aware of the allegations, but did little to stop him.

Michelle Williams, an employee at an Oak Harbor bank, was charged with theft for allegedly stealing $38,000 from a customer and a cash drawer, court documents state. Her trial is set for March.

A former employee at Big 5 store in Oak Harbor who said he was subjected to racist harassment received $165,000 in a settlement.

USA Today announced that Whidbey Pies makes the best pies in the state.

A deputy with the Island County Sheriff’s Office shot and killed Richard J. Jackson in Oak Harbor after he allegedly attempted a carjacking and tried to steal a gun from Walmart.

The Navy released the final Environmental Impact Statement on plans to bring more Growlers to Naval Air Station and dramatically increase training flights at Outlying Field Coupeville. The secretary of the Navy, however, still ha to make a final decision on the preferred alternative, which outlines proposed Growler numbers and the division in flights between Ault Field and OLF Coupeville.


The city of Oak Harbor knocked down the former Whidbey Island Bank building on Pioneer Way to make way for a parking lot at the new sewage treatment plant.

A video of a deer sprinting across a Coupeville field during a pivotal play in a football game went viral and was covered by national media.

A large group of people held a rally in Coupeville in protest of the Navy’s plans to increase Growler training flights at OLF Coupeville.

Whidbey News-Times won general excellence in the Washington Newspapers Publishers Association contest.

North Whidbey resident Johanna Boyle was charged with theft for allegedly stealing from a community association while she was secretary/treasurer, court documents state. Her trial is set for February.

Routine maintenance revealed a toxic chemical in firefighting foam was present in stormwater at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Arlington, sent a letter to the Navy asking for a reduction in planned training flights at OLF Coupeville.

Oak Harbor city officials decided to shutter the city’s aging jail. Officials are negotiating with Island County for jail services.

Whidbey resident Matthew Fitch disappeared after going for a walk Oct. 29.


Oak Harbor resident Ira Starr pleaded guilty for incest after impregnating his daughter. He was later sent to prison for 14 months.

Lynn Hyde of the nonprofit group Historic Whidbey succeeded in saving the historic, 150-year-old Haller House in Coupeville.

In the general election, Democrat Janet St. Clair of Camano Island was elected county commissioner, Rick Felici was voted to be the next sheriff, Oak Harbor resident Dave Paul won a seat as a state representative and Norma Smith was reelected to the state House.

Oak Harbor’s sewage treatment plant went online after years of work.

The Navy terminated negotiations with interested parties over mitigation measures related to the impact EA-18G Growlers will have on historic properties of Central Whidbey. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation held a well-attended meeting in Coupeville in which the majority of people said the best mitigation was fewer Growlers.


Deputies found a pipe bomb and guns inside a car when conducting a traffic stop in Oak Harbor. Carl Nyberg of Anacortes was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of an explosive device.

WhidbeyHealth announced it was reducing charges for physical therapy, CT scans and MRIs.

Six people are arrested at Lynnwood bar for committing an alleged hate crime after holding a vigil on Whidbey for white supremacist Robert Mathews, who was killed by the FBI in Greenbank in 1984.

Convicted rapist Guadalupe Ramos allegedly tried to have his wife killed, a deputy prosecutor said at a sentencing hearing. He was sentenced to eight years and six months to life in prison.

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