A look back at 2012 on South Whidbey

The HUB reopened in 2011 and increased to three days a week in 2012.  - Ben Watanabe / Record file
The HUB reopened in 2011 and increased to three days a week in 2012.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / Record file


Langley’s mayor gets sentenced to jail, seventh graders get iPads and the Wells Fargo Bank in Clinton is robbed. These are just a few of the big stories reported in the South Whidbey Record in 2012. Here’s a month-by-month review of the top news of the year.


Langley Mayor Larry Kwarsick was sworn, after having run opposed the prior November. “People should never doubt my commitment to the city and the community,” he said. 

It was announced that due to falling enrollment, South Whidbey Falcon athletes would compete in the 1A sports classification beginning in the fall.

James “Jim Huden,” who was arrested eight years after shooting to death a man near Freeland, asked for a new lawyer.

Langley Police Chief Randy Heston announces his three-person department would work 10-hour shifts, four days a week.

The HUB, Langley’s teen hangout at the United Methodist Church, announced it would reopen part-time after funding problems forced its closure in 2011.

A new group called Occupy South Whidbey announced it would make its first public demonstration in Freeland.

A new board took over at the Freeland Sewer District, after voters threw out the previous commissioners due to the high costs of a proposed sewer system.

Island County Fire District 3 officially changed its name to South Whidbey Fire/EMS to better describe the district’s activities.

Langley Councilman Hal Seligson proposed a resolution favoring same-sex marriage.

Matt Nichols, former owner of Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland, was named CEO of the company, now owned by Ice Flow based in Dallas, Texas.

South Whidbey was surprised by a Jan. 17 snowstorm that left about 6-inches of white stuff to deal with.

A four-story, mixed use building was proposed for the Langley waterfront, including a funicular to move people from Cascade Avenue to the marina area.

More snow Jan. 19 left up to a foot on the ground, and some islanders took to their cross country skis to get around.

State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen announced she would vote for same-sex marriage. Later, she blamed the decision in part for her defeat in the November election.

A bomb scare caused by an abandoned backpack in Mukilteo shut down the Clinton ferry for a few hours.

A surprise north wind hammered waterfront homes along Saratoga Passage. Sandy Point was one of the hardest hit areas.

Lucas Jushinski, an Iraq vets, announced plans for a medical marijuana business in Langley.


Complaints arose about noise emanating from Mo’s Pub & Eatery, which had opened the previous spring near the corner of Second and Anthes in Langley.

Langley agreed to a contract with its new police union, including a 2 percent raise — it’s first since 2009.

Animal Hospital by the Sea in Langley held its grand opening, occupying a building that had housed medical care for humans for many years.

Incumbent Ray Gabelein lost his seat on the Diking District 1 board, losing by a vote of 232 to 105 to Tom Kraft.

The school board discussed the idea of paying teachers to leave the South Whidbey School District to take the pain out of layoffs.

A celebration was held at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Freeland after the governor signed legislation making same-sex marriage legal.

At a special meeting, Langley officials were receptive to the idea of a medical marijuana business but the effort was later snuffed out.

Whidbey Islanders objected to a ferry system proposal for a new terminal in Mukilteo that would require removal of Ivar’s restaurant.

Gas prices topped $4 on South Whidbey.

The school board reviewed safety policies after a middle school student threatened a teacher on Facebook.

New owners Brian and Nancy Cedar reopened the Greenbank Store, which had been run for several decades by the Coupe family.


Island County Republicans gave their support to Mitt Romney for president. 

Whidbey Telecom finished its makeover of the abandoned Harbor Village Mall, using local builders and craftspeople and artists to give Freeland a fresh look downtown.

Freeland Attorney Peter Moote was charged in federal court with bilking clients out of millions of dollars.

The county commissioners on a 2-1 voter approved charging property owners a nickel an acre to support the Whidbey Island Conservation District.

The Snohomish County PUD asked federal authorities for permission to test a tidal turbine generator in the waters of Admiralty Inlet.

Nichols Brother Boat Builders began work in the superstructure of a new 144-vehicle state ferry. The project created about 100 new jobs.

Only two teachers asked to be paid $2,500 to leave the South Whidbey School District, fewer than the minimum of 5 needed to activate the program.

Langley started work on its first tree protection ordinance.

Whidbey’s grocery stores started stocking their shelves with liquor following a successful voter initiative in November. Independent state contractors worried their businesses would suffer.

Kaylea Souza, 18, pleaded guilty to three counts of vehicular homicide. The car she was driving last year crashed and killed three passengers, Charles “Mack” Porter III, Robert Knight and Marcel “Mick” Poynter. She was sentenced to 68 months in prison.

Langley’s council agreed with Mayor Larry Kwarsick that a marijuana clinic was not a good idea.

The school board heard of a plan to move the alternative Bayview School to the old primary school.


Island Transit broke ground for a $22.4 million expansion of its headquarters on Central Whidbey, something Director Martha Rose has worked years to bring to fruition.

Whidbey Telephone announced all local calls would be free from its pay phones.

Scuba divers led by Ryan Berg hauled a large truckload of soggy trash from the bottom of Deer Lake.

“Dr. Z.,” as Dr. Paul Zaveruha is known, resigned from the Whidbey General Hospital District board to devote more time to his medical duties.

Island County Sheriff Mark Brown said the number of calls for help from citizens was increasing, as was the number of serious crimes.

Port of South Whidbey commissioners approved the sale of $850,000 in bonds for Langley Marina expansion.

Langley City Council dubbed the city a “safe haven” for medical marijuana users.

Langley Mayor Larry Kwarsick was subject to a whistleblower complaint related to his time as city planner. It was later learned that Jeff Arango, city planner, made the complain regarding a family member’s planning document the mayor had changed during his time as city planner.

The county announced its list of public beach access points would be enlarged following complaints that road-end access points had not been made public and in some cases used by private property owners.

The Island County Fair changed its name to the Whidbey Island (Area) Fair in an effort to draw more participation from outside the county’s boundaries.

Whidbey Telecom’s email changeover plans went awry, causing severe problems for many of its 7,000 customers for about a week.


The Langley City Council asked the Island County prosecutor to look into allegations that Mayor Larry Kwarsick had changed a planning permit when he was city planner. It later went to a special inquiry judge.

Roughly 450 Hearts & Hammers volunteers spent a day fixing up houses owned by needy people. It was the 20th anniversary of the big event.

China City in Freeland celebrated its 10th year by offering a free buffet to the community.

Pollution concerns were raised when the 128-foot Deep Sea fishing boat burn and sank in Penn Cove. The DNR decided to raise the boat despite the cost.

Talks began between Langley and the school district on letting boaters use school parking in Langley.

Four candidates announced they would try to unseat incumbent Helen Price Johnson as county commissioner. They included Jeff Lauderdale, Wayne Morrison, Curt Gordon and Ed Jenkins.

The closed Holmes Harbor Golf Course was put up for sale by owner Kevin Hanchett and his business group, Onyxx Capital.

State Ferries announced its preferred site for a new Mukilteo dock, one-third mile north of the present dock. It would spare Ivar’s restaurant and islanders supported the move at a public meeting.

The shrinking South Whidbey School District announced it would rent out three unneeded buildings, the Bayview School, the administration building in Langley and the old Langley High School building on the middle school campus.

A controversy arose when the Honeymoon Bay community board decided to have five geese that hang around the lake killed. Before a state hunter could carry out the plan the geese were snatched at night, apparently be animal advocates.

A rare storm that some described as a twister raced through Langley. Several trees were knocked over, the largest of which was a large old fir at the old Edgecliff restaurant overlooking Langley Harbor.


Bayview School’s last graduation, featuring 14 graduating seniors took place. The 100-year-old building was later rented to a nonprofit adult study organization. “I makes me really sad,” said graduate Isabella Moreno.

South Whidbey grocery stores began selling hard liquor for the first time since Prohibition.

South Whidbey High School’s graduation ceremony was headed by five valedictorians: Marina Kovic, Will Mellish, Sommer Harris, Holy Huey and Dinah Hassrick.

Robert “Al” Baker, 61, of Greenbank was arrested for allegedly murdering his wife, Kathie Baker. The couple owned Harbor Pizzeria in Freeland. He was charged with first degree murder.

The county commissioners rejected the idea of putting a new sales tax on the ballot to support law enforcement.

The school board cut five teaching positions in the South Whidbey School District.


The Steiner family was selected to take the lead in the annual Maxwelton 4th of July Parade, which dates back over a century.

Holmes Harbor came up clean in water test results and authorities predicted it could be reopened to shellfish harvesting later in the year.

A warm, sunny weekend greeted thousands of visitors to Langley’s Choochokam. It was marred a bit by a controversy over payment to the New Iberian Zydeco Blues Band.

The school board decided to spend almost $1 million on iPads and iPods, in part to save money on textbooks.

Langley’s council decided to allow residential parking permits in some areas where residents complained late-night partiers were using their spaces.

A jury found James Edward Huden, 59, guilty of first-degree murder in the slaying of Russel Douglas in December of 2003.

Bernardo Malfitano of Lynnwood escaped unhurt when he crashed his small airplane, a RV-6A, in a field in the Sunlight Beach area.

Freeland Postmaster Carol Avery retired after a 30-year career with the U.S. Postal Service.

The county commissioners hiked the price of dog tags by 30 percent. Some in the audience argued that cats too should be licensed.


The school board learned the continuing enrollment drop would cost the district about $200,000 in the next year.

The South Whidbey Falcons banner was unfurled on top of Mount Rainer a climbing team led by Greg Ballog, a SWHS science teacher.

Freeland resident Sean DeMerchant pleaded guilty to assault charges for stabbing both his parents the prior October. Both survived the attacks.

A motorcycle club called the Legion Riders was formed by Post 141 of Langley.

The new lighthouse lantern atop the Admiralty Head Lighthouse was delivered by South Whidbey High School and hoisted into place by a crane. All three of the island’s high schools were involved in the years-long rebuilding project.

Dr. Annastasia Kovscek announced she would open a family practice in a space in Langley Village. It is expected to open in early 2013.


South Whidbey’s Good Cheer, which uses thrift store revenues to feed the hungry, celebrated its 50th birthday.

Free tastes of Jan Gunn’s loganberry pie were given out as the Greenbank Farm celebrated 15 years under public ownership.

Nichols Brothers landed its second job building a superstructure for a Washington State ferry.

Freeland resident Daniel Torget, 21, died when the car he was driving ran into a pole on Fish Road.

A large crowd argued about proposed nightlife rules aimed at Mo’s Pub in Langley.

Clinton leaders held a meeting advocating for a Clinton Community Council to feed input to the Island County commissioners.

Sean P. DeMerchant, 39, was sentenced to more than eight years in prison for stabbing his parents.

A task force concluded that South Whidbey students are threatened by substance abuse, lagging education and too few extracurricular activities.

The South Whidbey Record won first place in its division for general excellent in the annual contest sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.


The Port of South Whidbey and Langley joined together to explore ideas to increase the number of people who walk on the ferry in Mukilteo to visit the island and its businesses.

A possible buyer of the empty Mike’s Place building at the corner of First and Anthes was announced, but the proposal hadn’t borne fruit by year’s end.

An elk was seen walking around an area of North Whidbey, a very rare event. The big bull elk apparently swam to the island.

Frank Robinson, who grew up on Mutiny Bay and went on to found Robinson Helicopter Company in Los Angeles, offered to give 300-feet of sandy waterfront property to Island County. The county was receptive to the offer.

The Soup Kitchen at the Langley CMA church celebrated 1,000 days of serving free soup lunches to the community.

Seventh grade students were given new iPads to use in a pilot program costing just under $1 million. A committee of teachers was working on a curriculum.

The South Whidbey Record office returned to South Whidbey after spending two years in Coupeville. The new office is located in Langley Village near to the liquor store and tattoo parlor.

Langley announced plans to hire a police officer to do duty in South Whidbey schools.

Big capital improvement plans doubled Langley’s anticipated budget for 2013, as proposed by Mayor Larry Kwarsick.


District 1 County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson won a second term, beating Republican challenger Jeff Lauderdale. Jill Johnson of Oak Harbor unseated Democrat Angie Homola for the other available seat on the three-member board.

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks announced he would no longer prosecute minor cases involving possession of marijuana. Voters legalized the use of marijuana in the November election.

Voters approved a 15 cents per thousand tax increase to better fund South Whidbey Fire/EMS.

Langley residents Grethe Cammermeyer and Diane Divelbess were the first Island County residents to obtain a marriage license after voters approved same-sex marriage.

Pickles Deli at Ken’s Korner won first place in the KING TV “Best of Washington” contest in the category of “best sandwich shop.”

Work started on improving the Langley boat ramp to include two floats along side. It was the first concrete action on the Langley Marina improvement plan.

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen was defeated for reelection by Republican Barbara Bailey of Oak Harbor, ending a 30-year career in the Legislature.

The Mobile Turkey Unit set a record by delivering 380 Thanksgiving meals to South Whidbey residents.

A captain who went to sleep on one boat and failed to wake up in time to start the day on another boat caused a delay on the Mukilteo to Clinton run, adding to the ferry system’s problem of canceled runs due to employee issues.

Gun supporters, took aim at proposed county regulations to tighten restrictions on shooting.

A bank robber escaped with money from the Wells Fargo Bank in Clinton.


Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard presided over 10 same-sex marriages at the home of Grethe Cammermeyer and Diane Divelbess in Langley.

Whidbey Island Dance Theatre presented its 20th anniversary edition of The Nutcracker to large audiences at South Whidbey High School.

The school board approved sending two levies to voters in February, one for technology and the other for maintenance and operation.

The Port of South Whidbey overruled opponents and voted to lease land to AT&T for a cell tower at Possession Beach Park. They also declined to sell property to cell tower opponents.

Langley received grants totaling nearly $1 million to help pay for $1.8 million in Second Street renovations.

Judge Vickie Churchill, saying he betrayed public confidence, sentenced Mayor Larry Kwarsick to 15 days in jail after he pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor charge of falsifying a city record when he was the city planner. He is to start serving his time in February.

Kwarsick announced he planned to continue as Langley’s mayor, prompting county Prosecutor Greg Banks to file a lawsuit stopping Kwarsick from serving in public office.


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