2013: A year in the life of Whidbey Island

Greg Lange seeds a field in Central Whidbey with his draft horses.  - File photo
Greg Lange seeds a field in Central Whidbey with his draft horses.
— image credit: File photo


- Jesus Herrera, 60, of Oak Harbor was killed when a car struck him as he was walking across Highway 20 on North Whidbey.

- Oak Harbor police asked for the public’s help in identifying a man who tried to rape an employee at a tanning salon. The case remains unsolved.

- The insurance provider for the city settled a claim with the former city engineer who said Mayor Scott Dudley created a hostile work environment. Eric Johnston got $20,000.

- Larry Eaton, a former city councilman, asked city leaders to change city code to allow people to raise chicken in the city limits. Council members later adopted new rules that allow backyard chickens.

- Whidbey General Hospital got a new CT machine.

- Langley Mayor Larry Kwarsick resigned. He had pleaded guilty the month before to falsifying city documents when he was planning director, but still earned $50 an hour working for Coupeville for months.

- Detective Ron Hofkamp’s decision to buy a cheap cup of coffee led to the apprehension of two men suspected in dozens of car prowls in Oak Harbor.

- Keven Graves, former Whidbey News-Times reporter, returns as publisher and editor.

- Peggy Sue Thomas, a former beauty queen, faced a murder charge for her alleged role in the 2003 shooting death of 32-year-old Russel Douglas on South Whidbey. James Huden, her former boyfriend, was convicted of first-degree murder in a high-profile trial in 2012 and was sentenced to 80 years in prison. Thomas later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge under a plea bargain and was sentenced to four years in prison.

- Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley appointed planner Ethan Spoo as the part-time economic development coordinator, a position abandoned years prior.

- Oak Harbor City Councilman Rick Almberg confronted an armed audience member during a council meeting and left the when his colleagues refused to pass a motion to disarm the man. A video of the confrontation went viral. Lucas Yonkman, the armed audience member, ran for a council seat later in the year. The council later put an end to the Second Amendment debate by passing an ordinance allowing firearms in city parks.  Yonkman lost to Councilman Bob Severns.

- Kathy Reed, editor of the Whidbey Crosswind, was appointed as the new director of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

- Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson, a Republican, stood up to haters during a Old Goats-Fully Informed Voters meeting. She said she isn’t going to be blindly loyal to her political party.

- Concerns about violence and noise led the Oak Harbor City Council to look at possibly revoking the nightclub license for the Element Nightclub on Bayshore Drive. The club closed later in the year after the liquor license was pulled.


- Costs associated with the unearthing of a Native American burial ground during the Pioneer Way construction project may reach more than $4 million, city officials report.

- Voters in North Whidbey approved a replacement levy that will bring $7.35 million a year in local tax dollars to the Oak Harbor School District. The levy dollars will fund teaching positions and instructional assistant positions, restore athletics to the middle schools, fund technology upgrades, textbook purchases and more.

- A fire destroyed a home off Ault Field Road and killed two dogs that were owned by the family.

- The Oak Harbor marina looked into ways to deal with messy otters and birds that besmirch the docks.

- It was just another day of work for Island County Assessor Mary Engle, who saved a mother goat by helping her deliver a baby,

- Bill Hawkins is appointed as the new judge in Island County District Court, which is also the Oak Harbor Municipal Court. Hawkins was formerly the county prosecutor and was briefly the city attorney for Oak Harbor before being fired by Mayor Scott Dudley.

- A cow near Langley suffered a mysterious death.

- Capt. Mike Nortier, a veteran helicopter pilot, took command of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. He relieved Capt. Jay Johnston.

- Whidbey officials worry about the impacts from sequestration. Civilian employees at the Navy base faced furloughs.

- Sharleen Eller, the former assistant director of the Island County Economic Development Council, is accused of embezzling more than $30,000 from the agency. She is wanted on a $10,000 warrant.

- A resident of Jones Road on North Whidbey was hospitalized after a fire damaged his home.


- A Ford Crown Victoria, driven by 84-year-old Coupeville woman, crashed through the front of Little Caesars on Highway 20 in Oak Harbor.

- Oak Harbor attorney Douglas Saar was ousted from an Oak Harbor firm for improperly depositing money from a trust account into his personal banking account. He later pleaded guilty in San Juan Superior Court last Friday to one count of first-degree theft and was disbarred.

- Former Island County Superior Court Judge Richard Pitt passed away March 1 at his home in Langley. He was 85 years old. He was remembered as fair and compassionate.

- Students of Wildcat Catering brought home two state titles from the ProStart Invitational Culinary Competition that was hosted by the Washington Restaurant Association. They won the culinary competition and they also won the restaurant management competition.

- The Oak Harbor community mourned the loss of three crew members aboard an EA-6B Prowler that crashed during routine training exercises in Eastern Washington. The three Navy personnel, who were stationed at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, are identified as Lt. Valerie Delaney, 26, of Ellicott City, Md., Lt. William McIlvaine III, 24, of El Paso, Texas and Lt. Cmdr. Alan Patterson, 34, of Tullahoma, Tenn.

- Island County filed a lawsuit against a Greenbank property owner in an attempt to reclaim a disputed public beach access on Wonn Road. The civil action for ejectment and quiet title, declaratory relief and abatement of a public nuisance is ongoing.

- An unidentified flying object was spotted over South Whidbey.

- Oak Harbor police investigate who drove a car into a Skagit Valley College building and left the vehicle sticking in the structure.

- North Whidbey Middle School student Paige Jackson received a Youth Hero Award by the Islands Chapter of the American Red Cross for consoling and comforting a classmate who was hit by a car near the school.

- A massive landslide at Ledgewood, the Central Whidbey neighborhood, destroyed one house and left residents of 30 other homes homeless. The disaster made international headlines. Gov. Jay Inslee later visited the site and a fundraiser netted more than $10,000.


- Haze Hookah Lounge in Oak Harbor brings a bit of Middle Eastern culture to the island.

- Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks announced  that no charges will be filed in connection with the Nov. 17, 2012 death of Christopher Cooper in downtown Oak Harbor. He said evidence showed that Oak Harbor resident Jason Ellis, 29, a mixed martial arts champion, acted in lawful self-defense when he struck Cooper.

- Swinomish Indian Tribal Community filed a complaint for $9 million in damages from the city of Oak Harbor for the desecration of a burial ground in connection with a excavation that occurred during the 2011 road project on Pioneer Way.

- Law-and-justice leaders lobbied Island County commissioners to allow them to ask voters this fall for more than $2.6 million in funding through a levy measure.

- In a 2-1 vote, Island County commissioners killed a curbside recycling program on Earth Day.

- Roger Case, 78, announced his resignation as Island County health officer and commissioner for Whidbey General Hospital.


- VAQ-133 returns to Whidbey after an eight-month deployment.

- Rick Schulte, longtime superintendent of Oak Harbor schools, takes a position in Richland.

- A Thurston County Superior Court judge sided with Island County after the City of Oak Harbor filed a land-use lawsuit. The county commissioners turned down the city’s proposal to expand its urban growth area for residential development on the west side of the city.

- The Navy announced plans to more than double the number of P-8A Poseidons destined for Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. Instead of the planned 24 planes, the Navy will station 49 of the sub-hunting jets at the NAS Whidbey.

- North Whidbey artist Wayne Lewis donates his three-foot bronze sculpture of a Native American to the city of Oak Harbor for display on Pioneer Way.

- Oak Harbor resident Chris Klieman has success in business raising chameleons.

- An attempt to clarify a policy regarding prayer at the start of Oak Harbor City Council meetings transformed into a political hot potato. The council decided not to change it, but continuing allowing the practice.

- Jonathan McLaughlin, a junior at Oak Harbor High School, received a Caught in the Act Award from the Island County Children’s Commission after taking extraordinary measures to return a woman’s purse.

- Serial killer Robert Yates, an Oak Harbor High School graduate, appeals his death sentence.

- Island County commissioners hire David Wechner as the new planning director.

- A command master chief from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station and his wife were plunged into the chilly waters of the Skagit River when a portion of the Interstate 5 bridge collapsed.

- Mayor Scott Dudley proposed cutting salaries of elected officials and doing away with their health insurance benefits. The council tabled the proposal until after the election, then passed a proposal that only affects the mayor’s benefits.

- Lance Gibbon was named as new superintendent of the Oak Harbor District.


- Commissioner Jill Johnson nixed a proposal to begin meetings with a prayer. She said she wasn’t willing to sit through prayers to other gods or “watered down gods.”

- Emily A. Webb, a 33-year-old Oak Harbor resident, and James L. Hughes, Jr., a 51-year-old Oak Harbor resident, died in separate motorcycle accidents on Whidbey.

- Whidbey General Hospital commissioners voted to put a $50-million expansion proposal on the ballot.

- Citing continued problems with Island County Recovery Services, Superior Court judges and the county prosecutor announced the immediate cessation of new defendants to the county’s drug courts. The county’s program was later closed down and a private company hired to provide counseling services.

- Rick Wallace, former Oak Harbor police chief, settled a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the city for $18,500. He claimed Mayor Scott Dudley sacked him improperly.


- Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson and her husband settled one part of a three-year dispute with the county planning department by agreeing to pay $5,000 in fines, which was a fraction of the $37,000 fine levied against them for building code and critical areas violations.

- A volunteer Explorer got into trouble for stealing police car and impersonating an officer on the Navy base. Josue A. Capellan, a 20-year-old Oak Harbor resident, later pleaded guilty in Island County Superior Court to taking a motor vehicle without permission, criminal impersonation and third-degree theft. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

- A resident, a firefighter and dog all suffered injuries in an Oak Harbor house fire.

- County commissioners Helen Price Johnson and Jill Johnson voted to revoke Commissioner Kelly Emerson’s status as chairwoman after she sent out special-meeting notices against the will of the board majority.

- Joshua Lambert’s trial began in Island County Superior Court. He stabbed his two 80-year-old grandfathers to death and bound his great-aunt with packing tape on Oct. 3, 2011. He acted as his own attorney during a trial marred by his continual outbursts, culminating in a courtroom fight with guards. He claimed he suffered from schizophrenia. A jury found him guilty of two counts of murder and one count of kidnapping, as well as lesser charges and aggravating factors. The judge sentenced him to 100 years in prison.

- Department of Defense employees in Oak Harbor protest sequestration furloughs.

- A shotgun-wielding Central Whidbey man was arrested after leading deputies on a slow-speed chase down State Highway 20 on a stolen John Deere farm tractor.

- Citizens of the Ebey’s Reserve filed a lawsuit against Whidbey Island Naval Air Station in federal court, alleging that the Navy failed to meet requirements outlined in the National Environmental Protection Act in regard to practice at the Outlying Field in Central Whidbey. The group asked a federal judge to intervene and force the commission of an in depth review, known as environmental impact statement; the Navy later announced it will conduct an EIS and halt practices at the OLF for remainder of the year.

- Oak Harbor residents and officials respond to the lawsuit against the Navy with a pro-Navy campaign.

- Joseph Itaya, a 1996 graduate of South Whidbey High School, announced plans to film his first feature film on Whidbey Island. His plans for filming fell through, but he is still hoping for the future.

- Oak Harbor resident Bill Burnett filed a lawsuit aimed at reinstating Commissioner Kelly Emerson as chairperson. Burnett failed to follow through with the lawsuit.


- A woman reports seeing a UFO from North Whidbey.

- Oak Harbor accepts a lease with an option to purchase for a dog kennel on Goldie Road. The kennel is a holding facility for strays.

- Officials happy about projected growth of Navy personnel on the island, which is seen as a boon for the economy.

- Mayor Scott Dudley is criticized for proposing that some funding for the Chamber of Commerce be funneled into a city program to create more events. The council members end up increasing the amount of funds the chamber receives from lodging taxes.

- Commissioner Jill Johnson pushes officials to drop plans for a law-and-justice ballot measure, which would have increased property taxes to increasing funding for the sheriff’s office, the prosecutor’s office and the courts. She said she didn’t realize that the county has a large amount of reserve funds, which she said should be used before asking the voters for more.


- Whidbey Island named one of the best places to retire.

- Many residents reported hearing a loud sound, described by some as a “boom,” in the Crescent Harbor area. The source of the noise remained undetermined.

- The guild for sheriff’s deputies claims county officials don’t understand their own budget and demands that the county retain an outside budget expert. The county declines.


- The shutdown of the federal government furloughs employees at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

- Threatening text messages sent to an employee at North Whidbey Middle School prompts a lockdown. The man is later charged with making threats to kill.

- A jury found 63-year-old Robert “Al” Baker of Greenbank guilty of murdering his wife, Kathie Baker, in June of 2012. The pizza man and South Pole scientist took the stand at the end of the lengthy trial and claimed he didn’t know who bludgeoned and strangled his wife in their bed, then dragged her through the house and hid her tarp-wrapped body in a wooded area behind their home. His girlfriend also took the stand and testified against him. Judge Alan Hancock sentenced him to 52 years in prison.

- An investigation by the state Auditor’s Office into the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District found a long list of problems, including missing money, in a now-defunct fund set up for the aquatics club. The finding vindicated director Bill Walker, who has since quit.

- An Oak Harbor family’s pet coyote is shot, but survives. The family is forced to relinquish the wild animal.

- Petitioners ask for warmer water at the Oak Harbor swimming pool.

- Mark Albright, Sr., 54, of Oak Harbor man was killed when his motorcycle was struck by a deer near Freeland.

- Renee Recker, the mayor’s former executive assistant, filed a claim against the city for wrongful termination.

- Whidbey Island Bank announced a merger with Olympia-based Heritage Financial Corporation.

- Twin sisters Janesah and Janeah Goheen of Oak Harbor were killed in a car crash near Anacortes on Halloween night. Their friend, Alysha Pickler, was injured. A memorial for the popular 17-year-old girls was held at the Oak Harbor High School. The family also lost another girl, Jessica Goheen Thorn, in a 2008 automobile accident. Oak Harbor resident Ira Blackstock, 52, was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and one count of vehicular assault.


- Voters passed a bond to finance the expansion of Whidbey General Hospital while Oak Harbor City Council incumbents did well in the election. Councilmen Bob Severns, Danny Paggao and Jim Campbell won reelection. Councilman Joel Servatius, who had been appointed, also won.

- A deceased candidate was elected to the cemetery district overseeing Maple Leaf Cemetery in Oak Harbor.

- The human resources manager at the City of Oak Harbor was fired.

- Residents warn of danger at Ala Spit following county’s reclamation project.

- County Commissioner Kelly Emerson filed a second lawsuit against the county, this time for not granting her a building permit. She and her husband previously filed a wide-ranging lawsuit against the county, a former commissioner and the former planning director after the county issued a stop-work order on their construction project started without a permit.

- A North Whidbey woman and her husband were accused of evidence tampering after allegedly running over a dead body in Montana, leaving the scene and leaving a body part behind at a car wash.

- Whidbey Island robotics team places eleventh in international competition.

- Navy criticized for placing concrete blocks around the Outlying Field near Coupeville.

- A lonely bull elk roams North Whidbey, looking for a mate.

- Citizens of Ebey’s reserve hold a meeting with experts to discuss the health effects of jet noise.

- Oak Harbor resident Barbra West is one of the stars on A&E’s real life series “Rodeo Girls,” which follows five female barrel racers and their horses in competitions.

- Reno, the macaw parrot, passed away after 33 years at Island Pet Center.


- The Navy announced it will limit the number of practice touch-and-goes at the Outlying Field.

- A developer filed a claim against the city of Oak Harbor, claiming that officials causes unnecessary delays of the Island Drug project. City officials claim the developer was responsible for the problems.

- Dramatic exchanges during the Navy’s public information meetings illustrated rising tensions over jet noise. Within the first hour of the first scoping meeting in Coupeville, two men traded heated words that led to one of them being ejected by town marshals.

- Residents of Thunderbird Mobile Home Park work together to purchase the property and plan upgrades, as well as a name change.

- A Navy man was caught in a Craiglist sting targeting sex predators and charged with communicating with minor for immoral purposes.

- Residents from all over Whidbey are alarmed by a recent spree of burglaries in rural areas.

- Oak Harbor resident Jacob Jungwirth proposed to his girlfriend moments before being sentenced to prison for dealing methamphetamine. His girlfriend was pleased, but the judge wasn’t.

- Law enforcement reported that a holiday-related increase in mail thefts.

- Members of a group opposed to the OLF criticize Commissioner Jill Johnson for supporting the Navy.

- An economic impact study completed by the Island County Economic Development Council showed that Whidbey Island Naval Air Station contributed $726 million dollars in salaries to Island County’s economy in 2011 and $15 million to Skagit County’s.

- The city of Oak Harbor entered into a purchase and sales agreement with Whidbey Island Bank. If things go as planned, the city will purchase the 35,000-square-foot bank building on Pioneer Way and build a sewage treatment plant on the back parking lot. Officials haven’t decided what to do with the building, but proposals abound.

- Oak Harbor resident Eric P. Raster, 31, pleaded guilty to hitting a man in the head with a piece of driftwood. The charge was his “third strike,” which means he will spend the rest of his life in prison.


Top 10

Here’s a list of the top 10 most read stories on the Whidbey News-Times website for 2013.

1. Oak Harbor girl killed, twin injured in Highway 20 accident

2. Man jumps off Deception Pass Bridge

3. Goheen twin involved in Oct. 31 crash dies at Harborview

4. Three confirmed dead in Navy aircraft crash in Eastern Washington

5. Ledgewood devastated by landslide

6. Oak Harbor gun debate heats up with walk out

7. Oak Harbor driver in Oct. 31 fatality arrested on warrant

8. Unexplained aircraft leave South Whidbey resident with questions

9. Crown Victoria takes out Little Caesars in Oak Harbor

10. Federal lawsuit filed; OLF practices suspended

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Oct 22
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates