With the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines, 2021 began resembling a more “normal” year as businesses reopened, schools resumed classes and people returned to work. Events that were skipped last year or went online began to happen in-person again.
There were still plenty of surprises, however, as the pandemic dragged on and more contagious variants began to reveal themselves.
Though COVID remained at the forefront, news coverage expanded to other areas of interest, to the relief of pandemic-weary reporters.
The following are the top news stories from the front pages of the South Whidbey Record in 2021.
Island County Public Health officials confirmed there was no waitlist for people to get on to be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Island County Board of Health considered appointing Dr. Scott Lindquist to be the county’s public health officer after the predecessor for the role quit. The board later picked Dr. Howard Leibrand, who is also Skagit County’s public health officer, to fill the position in the interim.
The beginning of 2021 brought landslides and downed trees and power lines to the South End.
Island County joined San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom counties as part of a regional grouping in a new statewide COVID-19 reopening plan. This grouping was controversial and irked county officials and city leaders on Whidbey, who went on to petition the governor to reconsider the decision. The plan was eventually abandoned and counties were evaluated on an individual basis.
Another strong storm blew through Whidbey, causing multiple days of power outages and limiting drinking water access to Langley citizens.
A Langley man commemorated Inauguration Day by displaying an American flag that had previously flown over the White House on his garage door.
Demand continued to soar for the COVID-19 vaccine in Island County.
Washington State Park Commissioners voted to approve the U.S. Navy’s proposal to use state parks as training sites for SEALs. The decision drew opposition from Whidbey residents, including the Whidbey Environmental Action Network and at least one council member of Langley City Council. WEAN would later file a petition for judicial review against Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.
Island County officials continued to petition for the county to receive more COVID-19 vaccines to satisfy the growing demand for vaccination in its older population. Rep. Rick Larsen would later send the White House a letter advocating for the county to be allocated more vaccines.
The county’s unemployment rate reached a dismal high of 7.2%.
By Feb. 15, Island County restaurants were able to start serving food indoors again, with some restrictions in place.
A Level 3 sex offender moved to Greenbank.
Online intruders disrupted the Port of South Whidbey’s teleconferenced regular business meeting. The interlopers taunted port officials and shared videos of pornography and Confederate flags.
A snowstorm brought a foot of snow to Whidbey.
Community members continued to scrutinize the presence of the Black Lives Matter banner on the fence of South Whidbey High School. A letter to the school board expressed concerns about it and accused a teacher of trying to influence students with his political beliefs.
WhidbeyHealth CEO Ron Telles told the hospital’s board of commissioners that the district was in a “cash poor situation.” The district had negative 1.7 days of cash on hand for operating expenses.
The Langley Arts Fund took charge of a loaned sculpture program in the city’s downtown corridor.
A Freeland man previously convicted of vehicular assault was charged with felony DUI.
Island County’s assessor, Mary Engle, was picked to be the county’s planning director.
A University of Washington professor floated the idea of an underground tunnel between Clinton and Mukilteo.
The Cascade Loop earned the designation as a National Scenic Byway.
A federal judge denied a request from Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve, an advocacy group in Central Whidbey, for an injunction that would have required the Navy to decrease EA-18G Growler aircraft operations at Outlying Field Coupeville.
First lady Dr. Jill Biden visited Naval Air Station Whidbey Island to discuss with Oak Harbor military families how the U.S. government can better support them.
Island County and the three municipalities on Whidbey were projected to receive an estimated total of nearly $23 million through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
An early-morning blaze engulfed the entirety of a Freeland home, sparing the garage. No human occupants were injured.
Representatives from Goosefoot Community Fund, the Henny Family and Legacy Family Tree, LLC and Island Senior Resources pledged to move forward with an affordable housing project in the Bayview area.
The Clyde, a historic movie theater in Langley, opened its doors again after a year of being closed due to COVID-19.
The Deer Lagoon Grange near Langley became a focal point of controversy on the South End. Community members who signed a petition against the presence of members from Washington Three Percent in the organization were later denied membership to the grange.
A Clinton man pled guilty to child pornography charges.
The Machine Shop, a colorful arcade in Langley, reopened with a plethora of neon art pieces for sale. The arcade had previously been in danger of closing its doors permanently but was supported by a GoFundMe campaign started by a community member.
A convicted sex offender living in Clinton was accused of stabbing a man who made a snide remark on Easter.
Langley City Council passed a resolution discouraging the use of glyphosate-based herbicides within city limits.
A South Whidbey man was shot to death and his body was found in Whatcom County. A witness and a shell casing tied the murder to Central Whidbey, where it purportedly happened near the Coupeville ferry.
Officials at the WhidbeyHealth Public Hospital District made plans to sell a piece of property near Bayview with an odd history.
A Bellingham man was killed in a dirt bike accident in Clinton.
The Langley City Council considered the sale of a small, triangular-shaped piece of property down by the marina. It eventually decided to pursue a rental agreement with a local business owner.
Deputies prepared and enacted a de-escalation plan in response to a man deemed mentally ill who tore open a South Whidbey home with a pick axe and told police to shoot him.
WhidbeyHealth Hospital District discontinued its Home Health Care program after 32 years and transferred its operations to Eden Health.
A young elephant seal pup by the name of Elwood was rescued from the vault of a storm water drainage system near Mutiny Bay. Although exhausted from his efforts to escape, he was uninjured.
A Whidbey woman filed a request for an injunction to prevent several governmental entities from denying her service because she wouldn’t wear a mask.
A fire claimed the home of a Langley man. He lost everything to the blaze, including his dog.
The Langley City Council and the mayor clashed over the decision about whether or not to make anti-racism training mandatory for city staff. Then-Mayor Tim Callison made the call to make it optional, despite opposition from some of the council.
The Whidbey Camano Land Trust applied for funds to preserve a historic piece of farmland owned by the Gabelein Family Trust near Lone Lake, via an easement. County commissioners later approved the funding through the conservation program.
Several South Whidbey farmers spoke during a county commissioners meeting about a perceived lack of honey bees and new clear-cuts.
Demand for COVID-19 vaccines dropped.
The Whidbey Island Center for the Arts celebrated its 25th anniversary.
An inmate at the Island County Jail died from an apparent suicide.
Langley Mayor Tim Callison announced his resignation.
Douglas Upchurch was named as the county’s new assessor.
Langley’s mask proclamation was extended.
The Island County Community Health Advisory Board began meeting again after a six-month hiatus.
WhidbeyHealth stopped accepting Amerigroup Washington insurance at its primary care and walk-in clinics.
Two young boys saved a toddler, who fell off a dock at Deer Lake, from drowning.
The Clinton Community Hall began a fundraising campaign for a new roof. Enough funds were raised and a new roof was installed a few months later.
A South Whidbey man was accused of chasing a woman with a hammer in the parking lot of Payless Foods.
A former South Whidbey resident who robbed a bank just before appearing on reality TV show “Super Nanny” in 2010 was sentenced to prison.
Langley rescinded its mask proclamation.
Home values continued to rise.
The Black Lives Matter sign was stolen from in front of South Whidbey High School. It was stolen again a few months later.
South Whidbey High School students countered a protest led by community members who opposed school board education policies.
A Langley man was accused of driving after drinking rum and Irish whiskey, entering a blocked-off construction zone on South Whidbey and crashing into an excavator and causing a passenger to suffer leg injuries.
The Langley City Council appointed Scott Chaplin to be the city’s new mayor.
Langley’s fireworks ban went into effect.
A bumper crop of babies was expected on Whidbey.
A record-breaking heat wave scorched Whidbey.
A fire near Langley consumed an unoccupied storage building. No one was hurt.
A woman hiking at South Whidbey State Park was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center after taking a tumble down some stairs.
The Langley City Council gave the green light to a port-a-potty experiment at Seawall Park.
The former manager of an organic farm in Freeland was accused of embezzling nearly $50,000 from the business.
The Whidbey Island Fair returned to Langley.
A South Whidbey School Board member dangled the possibility of consulting a lawyer about students, who, via Facebook, questioned his and his wife’s role in the theft of the Black Lives Matter banner that was stolen from in front of South Whidbey High School. The students later deleted their controversial online post.
A few weeks after they approved COVID bonuses for county employees, the county commissioners rescinded the bonuses because of a legal issue. Instead, the commissioners adopted a pandemic-related pay bump related to work employees will do in the future.
The new Mukilteo ferry terminal drew some criticism for being difficult to navigate for those with limited mobility.
A new wave of COVID cases on Whidbey, caused by the delta variant, concerned public health officials.
The Clinton Beach Dock received federal funds for its reconstruction.
A fire destroyed the entirety of a Freeland home, but no one was injured.
A former South Whidbey resident won silver in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in dressage.
The Island Shakespeare Festival returned to South Whidbey.
Real estate prices continued to soar.
A black bear was spotted on South Whidbey. Residents began posting on social media and sending a flurry of poop photographs to an enforcement officer for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The Langley City Council urged the mayor to recommend masking indoors in downtown businesses, despite vaccination status.
The community hopped into action to save Cupid, a Langley bunny that was hit with an arrow. The rabbit survived the encounter and is living happily indoors now with its rescuer.
Whidbey Island tourism saw a big spike.
The state Auditor’s Office issued two findings against the Whidbey Island Hospital District, which involved incomplete financial reports and insufficient ways to protect against theft.
A Clinton resident who was a suspect in a burglary overdosed on heroin prior to being arrested but was revived by deputies.
COVID cases skyrocketed among those without shots.
Community members interrupted a South Whidbey School Board meeting with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The board members, who had been meeting in person, decided to move back to the realm of Zoom for the rest of the year.
A worker shortage hindered ferry sailings.
A troubled South Whidbey man who the former Langley police chief was accused of assaulting faced charges for allegedly threatening a woman and appearing naked in public.
Langley formed a new citizen-led committee dedicated to combating climate change. It was suggested by a local student advocacy group, United Student Leaders.
A South Whidbey resident and public records advocate blasted cities’ litigious responses.
A Port of South Whidbey commissioner proposed the creation of workforce housing at the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds in Langley.
A jump in COVID cases was attributed to social gatherings during the Labor Day weekend.
WhidbeyHealth decided to ask for its first ever levy lid lift for operations. It later passed.
A South Whidbey man who was found guilty of raping two boys following a trial in 2016 prepared to return to Island County Superior Court for a hearing and determination on the merits of his personal restraint petition.
Marijuana sales increased during the pandemic.
South Whidbey School Board candidate campaign signs were stolen and arranged to spell a vulgar message on school grounds.
COVID rates rose among minors.
A worker shortage continued to paralyze the ferry system, causing canceled sailings and hours of wait times.
Real estate prices continued to climb, with no apparent end in sight.
The Clinton-Mukilteo ferry route dropped to one-boat service.
A lone beluga whale was sighted near Greenbank.
The Langley City Council considered pay increases for city employees. It ultimately decided on a 2% cost-of-living adjustment for staff, with some exceptions.
The single boat running the Clinton-Mukilteo ferry route was delayed twice in one week by wayward watercraft.
The Low Income Housing Institute explored the possibility of purchasing a Freeland hotel and turning it into affordable housing.
A deadly deer disease was identified on Whidbey.
South Whidbey School Board incumbents Andrea Downs, Marnie Jackson and Ann Johnson were re-elected in the general election.
The election for Langley City Council yielded historic results, with write-in candidate Gail Fleming and the council’s first African-American member, Harolynne Bobis, both winning seats. Rhonda Salerno, who ran unopposed, was also elected.
The community launched a GoFundMe campaign to support beloved Clinton pet store, Critters & Co. Pet Center. The fundraiser ended up generating $13,500.
The first big windstorm of the season ripped through Whidbey, causing flooding, felled trees and days-long power outages.
County commissioners prepared to hire a county administrator for the first time. The position still remains unfilled.
Langley Police Chief Don Lauer announced his retirement.
The South Whidbey School Board decided on a replacement levy rate that is less than the previous one.
The Langley City Council mandated COVID-19 vaccines for all city employees.
The South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District chose an increase in its maintenance and operations levy.
The Orca Network celebrated its 20th anniversary.
A Freeland man in a mental health crisis was accused of killing a dog with a hatchet on Thanksgiving.
A proposed housing development near Coles Road in Langley drew some criticism from neighbors to the area during a public meeting.
A student at South Whidbey High School was arrested and expelled for allegedly making a threat against fellow students on social media.
A naked golfer at the Harbor Hill Golf Course in Freeland was accused of chasing a deputy and stealing a car.
Damian Greene, a member of the South Whidbey School Board, announced his resignation.
A power outage sent South Whidbey into the dark for a whole day.
A federal magistrate judge ruled in favor of the state Attorney General’s Office and Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve on several issues in a lawsuit over EA-18G Growler aircraft stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
Island County named Connie Bowers as its new public works director.
Verna Everitt, the executive director for Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, stepped down from her role.
County commissioners considered a proposed sales tax increase that would fund affordable housing.
A fatal car crash that ended in flames near Clinton closed Highway 525 for several hours.
The Newman siblings won big in a national pickleball tournament.
The Langley City Council authorized the creation of another citizen-led committee that focuses on financial management.
A judge in Island County Superior Court ordered a man who fired a shot into a South Whidbey hotel room wall to surrender his firearms.