2013 | A South Whidbey year in review

A submerged crane is lifted from the floor of South Whidbey Harbor. It fell off a barge when the vessel began to take on water. It was one of many headaches to plague the marina expansion project in 2013. - Justin Burnett / The Record
A submerged crane is lifted from the floor of South Whidbey Harbor. It fell off a barge when the vessel began to take on water. It was one of many headaches to plague the marina expansion project in 2013.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / The Record

It was an action-packed year with big events, from the construction of state ferries in Freeland and an unexpected new mayor in Langley to continued turmoil among the Island County commissioners and at Outlying Field Coupeville. Below is a recap of the biggest stories of 2013.


Amid growing legal troubles with Island  County over a scandal at Langley City Hall, former mayor Larry Kwarsick resigns from his private job as Coupeville town planner.

The Island County commissioners agree to assume stewardship of 300 feet of beachfront property on Mutiny Bay, now known as Robinson Beach Park.

The Port of South Whidbey’s $2.4 million expansion of South Whidbey Harbor marina is officially green-lighted by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Peggy Sue Thomas, a former beauty queen, and convicted murderer James Huden come face-to-face in court for the first time since their arrests.

Just weeks on the job, newly elected Republican Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson tells the Old Goats she doesn’t like bullies and won’t be a “blind vote” for her party.


A landslide at Possession Point destroys one home and damages another.

Five candidates seek the open Langley mayor seat, including: city council members Bruce Allen and Hal Seligson, planning commission member Thomas Gill, retired GTE supervisor Edwin Anderson, and former South Whidbey schools superintendent Fred McCarthy.

Voters approve South Whidbey School District’s maintenance and operations and capital/technology levies, totaling $5.9 million.

Peggy Sue Thomas receives a four-year prison sentence for her role in the murder of Russel Douglas.

Island County Housing Authority officials confirm that a $6.3 million affordable housing project in Freeland may be scrubbed due to problems with the development’s planned septic system.

Fred McCarthy is appointed Langley mayor by the city council.

The mysterious death of a cow baffles Langley residents.


Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson gets her turn as chairwoman of the board.

The superstructure of the Tokitae, a 144-car state ferry, is barged from Nichols Brothers Boat Builders to Vigor Industrial in Seattle.

Controversial shooting rules are shot down by the Island County Commissioners.

Three U.S. Navy aviators die in a Prowler crash in Eastern Washington.

A bid protest hangs up the South Whidbey Harbor marina expansion project.

Island County finally takes Bruce Montgomery, a Wonn Road property owner, to court over beach access rights.

The state tows the 50-foot boat “Grumpy” from the beach at Double Bluff.

A Bush Point couple sees an unidentified flying object over their home.

Bob Pederson, Island County’s planning chief, tells Commissioner Kelly Emerson to pay fines or face a lien on her property. He then resigns and Keith Higman, county health director, is appointed interim planning chief.

A landslide in Langley blocks access temporarily to South Whidbey Harbor marina.

A massive landslide rocks Ledgewood, destroying one home and making several others uninhabitable. The incident becomes national news.


The removal of flowering cherry trees in Langley prompts an apology from newly-appointed Mayor Fred McCarthy.

Whidbey Arms, a gun store, opens at Clinton’s Ken’s Korner.

Tragedy strikes when Rhianna Kinglet Dickson Hobbs, 10, dies suddenly from a medical issue at her home in Freeland.

The Island County commissioners rescind curbside recycling on Earth Day.


A big wind sinks two small barge/boats involved in the South Whidbey Harbor marina project.

A fire destroys Maralie Johnson’s Second Street Langley home.

Whidbey’s first coatimundi chase ends with success.

Seattle businessman Patrick Kent backs out of plan to operate Holmes Harbor Golf Course. The South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District expresses interest.


Atlantis Inc. wins first place at the MATE Pacific Northwest Regional Competition.

The Star Store at Bayview announces its pending closure.

Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson proposes starting meetings with a prayer.

A two-story garage in Mutiny Bay is destroyed by fire.

Island County Recovery Services comes under fire from county Drug Court leaders.

Freeland resident Jacob Whitaker, 28, drowns in an Anacortes lake.


Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson settles a “nightmare” property dispute with the county.

Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson is ousted as board chairwoman by her colleagues.

Former state Rep. Kip Tokuda dies of a heart attack while fishing on Deer Lake.

The Island County Commissioners green light an effort to seek voter approval for a law and justice levy.

Longtime South Whidbey School District basketball coach Henry Pope dies unexpectedly, prompting community mourning.

A jury finds Oak Harbor resident Joshua Lambert guilty of murdering his grandfathers, George Lambert and Eugene “Sonny” Eisner.

Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve files a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Navy concerning touch-and-go operations at Outlying Field Coupeville. The Navy responds by suspending flights at the airfield.

Dennis Broce, 39, is killed on his motorcycle on Bush Point Road when it collided with an SUV driven by Kyle O’Neil. O’Neil was later arrested on suspicion of vehicular homicide.


Holmes Harbor Golf Course opens under the leadership of operator Craig Moore, while the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District continues to look at leasing the facility.

State experts alert Freeland Water and Sewer District officials that an old fuel spill on Main Street may be threatening Freeland’s water supply.

A third barge involved in the South Whidbey Harbor marina expansion experiences problems. The vessel is saved from sinking but not before dumping its on-board crane over the side.

Convicted double murderer Joshua Lambert is sentenced to 100 years in prison for the slaying of his grandfathers.

Jim’s Hardware picks up roots in downtown Clinton and moves to Ken’s Korner.

The crane at the bottom of South Whidbey Harbor is hoisted to the surface. Work on the project resumes.

The discovery of a healthy financial reserve prompts the Island County commissioners to call off a proposed law and justice levy.


The U.S. Navy agrees to demands of the Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve group to perform an environmental impact study of flight operations at Outlying Field Coupeville.

A judge denies Robert “Al” Baker’s request for change of venue.

Langley holds the first of three economic forums to drum up a healthy economy.

Following in the wake of Oak Harbor, the Island County commissioners consider a temporary moratorium on marijuana retail stores.

A rash of burglaries on South Whidbey prompt the release of a public alert from the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

Souring relations between the Island County commissioners and deputy sheriff’s guild spark debate over the 2014 budget.


The U.S. Navy announces unmanned aircraft may be stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island by 2016.

The South Whidbey Record holds its first political forum in recent memory.

Robert “Al” Baker gets 52 years in prison for the murder of his wife, Kathie Baker.

Breaking from Oak Harbor and Island County, Langley considers rules that would pave the way for pot shops in the Village by the Sea.

Whidbey Banking Company, or Whidbey Island Bank, announces merge with Heritage Financial Corporation.

Neil Colburn and Candy Culver celebrate 30 years of ownership of Neil’s Clover Patch Cafe.


Whidbey General Hospital’s $50 million expansion bond is approved by voters.

Commissioner Kelly Emerson sues the county, for the second time, over a dispute surrounding her Camano Island home.

Twin sisters Janeah and Janesah Goheen of Oak Harbor die in a car crash after their vehicle was struck by another car driven by Ira Blackstock.

Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson comes under fire for her lack of attendance at county meetings.

The South Whidbey Falcons girls volleyball team competes at the state 1A tournament in Yakima. They were defeated.

The Island County commissioners honor the Atlantis Inc. win of the “Biggest Bang For the Buck” award at the 12th Annual MATE International ROV Competition in Federal Way.

A proposal to hobble Island County Conservation Futures Fund is scrubbed by the commissioners.


Drilling of groundwater monitoring wells in Freeland begins. As lab tests remain pending as of press time Friday, soil samples indicate fuel was not moving toward Freeland’s primary wells.

The Valero gas station in Bayview is robbed by a masked man at gunpoint.

Allen Fletcher goes missing from a boat at South Whidbey Harbor marina.

South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District Commissioner Jim Porter steps down after three decades of service.

A hearing examiner sides with the sheriff’s guild over budget concerns.

Sea Mar takes over the county’s controversial Recovery Services program.

State experts say the ban on shellfish harvesting in Holmes Harbor may be lifted by April of 2014.

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders second 144-car superstructure is barged from Holmes Harbor.

The U.S. Navy prepares to resume touch-and-go operations at OLF Coupeville.

Clinton suffers another economic blow — the announced closure of Anchor Books & Coffee.


Community Events, April 2014

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