2008 top stories

The 2008 election was one for the history books from the presidential race down to the rematch of the 2004 gubernatorial race to a local ballot that featured two controversial races and two tax measures.

It also included the state's first Top Two primary, the result of a long legal battle, and first August primary, designed to attract presidential candidates to the state.

Barack Obama, D-Illinois, became the nation's first black president when he defeated Arizona Republican John McCain. Obama tallied 53.4 percent in Clallam County and 51.9 percent statewide.

The rematch of the 2004 gubernatorial race between incumbent Chris Gregoire and challenger Dino Rossi, R-Sammamish, was close but not as close as the 129 votes that separated them the first time. Gregoire won re-election with 50.8 percent statewide and 52.6 percent in Clallam County.

On the local level, the Sequim City Council voted 3-2 in July to create the Sequim Transportation Benefit District to fund road projects in the city.

The "yes" votes were from three of four new councilors elected in 2007 - Erik Erichsen, Laura Dubois and Ken Hays. The fourth newcomer, Susan Lorenzen, was not present at the meeting nor was longtime councilor Paul McHugh. But a proposed two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase for the newly created district was defeated by 61 votes in the November election.

Olympic Medical Center fared much better with its proposed property tax levy of 44 cents per $1,000 valuation. The proposal was a sharp increase from the previous 11 cents per $1,000 valuation but voters still gave it a 53.5 percent "yes" vote in the Aug. 19 primary election.

In February, the Clallam County Republican Party barred Clallam County Commissioner Chairman Mike Chapman of Port Angeles from "holding yourself as a Republican with any standing" for two years.

The sanction was imposed because Chapman had publicly endorsed incumbent Sequim Democrat Steve Tharinger, the only candidate at the time, in Tharinger's county commissioner race in 2007.

Sequim Republican Bob Forde, whose wife, Sue, chaired the Clallam County Republican Party, later filed to run against Tharinger.

Chapman easily won re-election to a third term in November, defeating Port Angeles Republican Terry Roth by a 2-1 margin.

The Clallam County Public Utility District race also drew attention when a supporter of incumbent Hugh Haffner erected signs declaring "Save Our PUD."

Despite the controversy, Haffner defeated challenger Jensen with 54.5 percent of the vote.

On the state level, challengers emerged to both first-term legislator Rep. Kevin Van Wege, D-Sequim, and eight-term lawmaker Rep. Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, facing her first opponent since 2002.

Van De Wege defeated Joyce Republican Thomas Thomas and Kessler defeated Montesano Republican Randy Dutton. Both won by 2-1 margins in the 24th District, which includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and one-third of Grays Harbor County.

The 2008 election was the first under the state's new "Top Two" primary system approved by the state's voters in November 2004 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in March 2008.

The new system allowed people to vote for the person instead of the party. That's how the state's voters had done it from 1935 when the "blanket primary" was adopted by citizen initiative until the method was declared unconstitutional in September 2003.

The state's primary election also was moved in 2008 from the third Tuesday in September to the third Tuesday of August.

Voter turnout was at near record levels with 85.3 percent in Clallam County - 16th best in the state - and 85.69 percent statewide or more than 3 million voters. Turnout in the 2004 election was 85.9 percent.

2008 was a long year at City Hall, Police Department

Gazette staff

Murphy's Law was in full effect in Sequim city government during 2008. Two vacancies on the senior staff, followed by ongoing searches for both, then two major surgeries in the police department made for a long year. Even a new police dog had to be hired.

First, Jeff Robb, airport manager for the Port of Port Angeles, was hired in January to succeed Public Works Director Jim Bay who retired in April after 20 years with the city.

Then Robb declined the job and City Engineer Bill Bullock became interim public works director, a position he continues to hold while Waldron and Co. of Seattle searches for a permanent replacement.

On May 5, the city council voted 4-1 to fire City Manager Bill Elliott, who had been with the city since 2002. Police Chief Robert Spinks was installed as interim city manager.

Voting "yes" were four new councilors: Laura Dubois, Ken Hays, Erik Erichsen and Susan Lorenzen. Councilor Paul McHugh voted "no." Councilors Walt Schubert and Bill Huizinga were absent from the meeting.

Then after debating the issue through June, the council agreed in July to hire Lee Walton of Bainbridge Island, a former city manager, to conduct its city manager search.

Three candidates were interviewed in October but contract negotiations with the council's top two choices broke down over severance pay and other issues.

Then Spinks announced on Nov. 10 he was having major surgery in December that would sideline him for up to eight weeks. Acting Police Chief Sheri Crain was scheduled to undergo knee surgery and would be on restricted duty, Spinks told the council.

The council accepted Spinks' recommendation to hire Prothman and Associates of Seattle to find an interim city manager to serve through September 2009.

Then two weeks later, the council reconsidered and decided to hire Waldron and Co. of Seattle to conduct the city

manager search.

Waldron, which also had been conducting the city's public works director search, also was hired to lead the council through sessions on team building, goal setting and developing a work plan.

Linda Herzog, a former interim city manager at Mercer Island and Renton, was hired as the city's new interim city manager. Karen Goschen, the city's administrative services director, was chosen as acting city manager from Jan. 3-17 while Herzog is on vacation.

Then Marci Protze, Spinks' administrative assistant, announced at the Dec. 15 city council meeting that it was her last day with the city. A police manager position intended to be an expansion of Protze's position was put on hold as part of an overall city hiring freeze.

Finally, the police department introduced a K-9 officer, a 2-year-old German shepherd named Chase, to the city council in August. He had been hired in March to replace Titus after the department decided in 2007 to switch from a narcotics dog to a patrol dog because of an increase in assaults, felonies and physical altercations between officers and suspects.

Community mourns fallen Forest Service officer

Gazette staff

More than 3,000 people gathered on a beautiful, sunny late September afternoon at Civic Field in Port Angeles to remember U.S. Forest Service officer and longtime Forks resident Kristine Fairbanks.

Fairbanks was killed Sept. 20, 2008, near the Dungeness Forks Campground when she confronted a man, later identified as 36-year-old Shawn M. Roe of Everett, who was driving a van with no license plates.

Fairbanks radioed Washington State Patrol dispatch to check on the vehicle and Roe's status but dispatch never heard back and sent officers to investigate.

Once her body was found at 3:10 p.m., about 50 officers were dispatched to track down Roe. Meanwhile, Roe shot and killed Richard Ziegler on his property off Louella Road and stole his pickup truck.

Officers had distributed photos of Roe within a half an hour before he entered the Longhouse Market & Deli in Blyn about 9:30 p.m. and was recognized by security guards who called 9-1-1.

When Clallam County Sheriff's deputies Matthew Murphy and Andrew Wagner arrived, Roe fired one shot at them after being told to get on the ground. The deputies returned fire, killing Roe.

The memorial service drew federal, state and local law enforcement vehicles from across the state plus Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in full dress uniform. Fairbanks's U.S. Forest Service vehicle, F951, was parked on Civic Field during the ceremony.

It included the singing of the Canadian national anthem, "O Canada" as well as "The Star-Spangled Banner." That was followed by "When I Get Where I'm Going" by Brad Paisley, one of two songs requested by Fairbanks' daughter, Whitney.

Murphy and Andrew Wagner later were awarded the Medal of Valor by Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict.

Controversy sparks shake-up at Chamber of Commerce

Gazette staff

Change came to the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce early in 2008, when the board of directors agreed to fire executive director Lee Lawrence on Jan. 18, just six months after Lawrence was chosen from more than two-dozen candidates for the position.

According to a statement sent out to all Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce members, Lawrence was fired for lack of financial responsibility and "unprofessional and inappropriate public and private comments and actions while representing the Chamber of Commerce."

Lawrence is an 11-year resident of Sequim, prominent volunteer throughout the community and was named the chamber's Citizen of the Year for 2005.

The grassroots Concerned Chamber Committee group took issue with Lawrence's dismissal, the chamber's bylaws and that the chamber had not been audited in several years.

Chamber members reacted to Lawrence's dismissal quickly, demanding answers and asking for resignations. They got them - board president and interim director Joe Borden and 11 other board members resigned on Feb. 12.

Former Sequim Mayor Walt Schubert stepped in as interim board president until June, when local business magnate Bill Littlejohn took the position.

At the end of July, the chamber board of directors unanimously agreed to hire Vickie Maples of Sequim, as the organization's executive director.

New, old parks both big topics in 2008

Gazette staff

Clallam County's east-end parks received a lot of attention in 2008.

From state and county park planning workshops to the acquisition of soccer fields or passive parkland, local governments were busy with open space.

Clallam County, the city of Sequim and the state of Washington each had park projects this year on this side of the county.

Some park ventures brought groups of people with opposing viewpoints to an impasse, such as a disc golf proposal for Robin Hill Farm Park or a plan to remove hunting from the Dungeness Recreation Area.

The disc golf plan was halted in mid-flight when the Clallam County commissioners opted to take a step back and create a master plan for the park before approving piecemeal projects.

The hunting ban, however, was part of the Dungeness park's master planning process and is included as part of the plan. The commissioners have not adopted the plan but are exchanging letters with the state trying to find hunting site options or alternatives before passing the master plan, which would end hunting in the county park possibly by 2013.

While some proposals were divisive, other park projects brought groups together cooperatively to reach their goals. For instance, the Master Gardeners of Clallam County and the Sequim City Band consulted with each other to make sure their proposals for a demonstration garden and an enhanced amphitheater did not conflict or use the same section of Sequim's Water Reuse Demonstration Park.

The garden will be a showpiece of the club, which will have volunteers on hand to make it an educational destination as well as a beautiful garden. The improved James Center for the Performing Arts would house up to 550 people in seats and nearly 100 people on stage. The city band is seeking the necessary funding, estimated to be at $5 million.

Public parkland grew on the east end when the Sequim City Council agreed to purchase 35 acres off U.S. Highway 101 just east of Simdars Road from the Keeler family, who worked with planners to reach an agreement that kept the land for a passive-use park once the city acquired it.

The park has been touted as a haven for the Sequim-Dungeness Roosevelt elk herd.

The county also is looking to increase its public park land base by purchasing two soccer fields from the Agnew Helpful Neighbors Club in order to save the land from potential development.

Touted as the best fields on the North Olympic Peninsula, they are ready to be sold to the county once funding is secured, something parks staff hopes will happen in early 2009 through the state Legislature.

County finds legal trouble in rural, Sequim, Blyn zones

Gazette staff

Clallam County faced significant legal trouble in 2008 in regards to how it handled growth in several areas throughout the county.

The county's zoning must be in line with the state's Growth Management Act. Two growth watchdog groups, Futurewise of Seattle and the Dry Creek Coalition of Port Angeles, challenged many sections of the county's comprehensive plan.

The state's Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board found several of the challenged areas to be within the letter of the law. However, many of the areas were challenged successfully, a handful of which were on the east end of the county, even abutting the city of Sequim.

As a result, the county was forced to temporarily change the zoning in the noncompliant areas while it sought a course to bring those lands into legal standing.

The Clallam County Planning Department's staff worked on each contested area with the Clallam County Planning Commission until a route for compliance was agreed upon.

Several areas in the Sequim area are facing a permanent rezone going into 2009 if the board accepts the changes the county has proposed.

Blyn, for instance, no longer will be a "rural center." Several parcels have retained some varied land use options, but most of the community's acreage has been down-zoned and no longer allows commercial development.

Areas within the Sequim urban growth area have received a zone that allows a higher density and lands lying outside the growth area have been restricted to having one house per five acres, a much less dense zone than what was present before the state order.

Other changes were instituted as well, but no final word on whether the county's efforts to come into compliance with state law will come until after the growth board's hearing, which is scheduled for Jan. 12, 2009.

The county also is taking a dual track approach. While it seeks compliance with new zones, it also is appealing some of the state board's ruling in Clallam County Superior Court in an effort to use local circumstances to justify zones with higher density near urban cores.

The dual track approach allows the county to reach compliance through the growth board and possibly institute the findings of a special study the county contracted to review its rural land base.

The study was commissioned to learn more about the rural lands affected by the decision on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.

The state ruling has impacted the citizens living in the zones a great deal. Many landowners who previously had expected to have commercial development no longer will have that opportunity. The same goes for many developers who did not get applications to subdivide property before the decision was issued.

The ruling does not affect vested land divisions or applications.

Locals earn state, national honors

Gazette staff

Sequim and Clallam County residents earned their fair share of state and national recognition in 2008, from those who work to keep art and culture alive to those who foster a spirit of volunteerism. Others are driven to protect farmland while others strive to maintain the peninsula's pristine trails.

In January, Elaine Grinnell, an elder of the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe and a historian, storyteller, teacher and cook, received one of Gov. Christine Gregoire's Heritage Awards. Gregoire authorized several awards to be given to those who work toward keeping arts and heritage alive in Washington state.

In February, the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce named Stephen Rosales its Citizen of the Year for 2007. Rosales worked with the lieutenant governor of Texas for nearly three decades before retiring to Sequim nearly three years ago with his family. Since then he's decided to dedicate his life to volunteering full time. He works with the Boys & Girls Club, Sequim Food Bank, the Sequim Police Department's Volunteering in Patrol program, Habitat for Humanity, Little League, First Teacher and the Sequim School District.

Jack McGhee and June Robinson were the two other Citizen of the Year nominees.

Nash Huber was honored with the American Farmland Trust's 2008 Steward of the Land award in June. The award recognized Huber for his leadership role in protecting agricultural land, local food and the environment. Huber is the first Washington state farmer to receive the award, which honors the memory of Peggy McGrath Rockefeller, an avid farmer and conservationist who helped found American Farmland Trust.

Gena Royal, Clallam County 4-H program coordinator with Washington State University Extension, was honored with the Achievement in Service Award in April. Royal was among more than 1,340 youth development professionals from across the nation to participate in the association's annual conference in Atlanta, Ga., in 2007. Each year NAE4-HA recognizes members for outstanding accomplishments in achievement, leadership and communication.

Late in the year, Sequim's Tom Mix was selected winner of American Trails' national Trail Worker Award for Washington state for 2008.

Every two years American Trails presents the awards to recognize the contributions of volunteers, professionals and other leaders who are working to create a national system of trails for all Americans. The award is intended to recognize the commitment and efforts of a private or public sector individual for his or her successful efforts to influence policy, develop trails, and maintain and protect existing trails. One award is given per state.

Mix is a volunteer who works with almost every public agency on the Olympic Peninsula to construct and maintain trails, plan trail work and recommend trail use and policy changes. With heavy storm damage during the past two winters, Mix played a key role in opening up national park and forest service trails. These federal agencies require certification for chain saw operation and Mix has worked through these certifications in order to assist in keeping open the more than 600 miles of trail in Olympic National Park and another 270 miles of trails in Olympic National Forest.

Mix works on a volunteer crew called the Thursday Trail Crew for Clallam County Parks. He also helps the Peninsula Trails Coalition, a local trails advocacy group. He helps it raise money to feed trail volunteers by working as the master of ceremonies for a slide show series.

Sequim students great in 2008

Gazette staff

In the classrooms and on stage, Sequim students flourished in 2008.

Seven Sequim High School choir students made the trek to Yakima for the all-state competition and, along with their all-state band brethren, made sweet music with the best prep singers in the state at the Washington Music Educator's Conference in February.

Sequim's band brought 17 members alone - a school record - and with their choir cohorts made a 24-member ensemble, more than any other school at the event.

Three Sequim students - Matt Grey, Naomi Fosket and Steven Moore - were selected to be part of the 600-member Olympic Games orchestra in China. Grey and classmate Farris Ryan were picked to play in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.

Sequim High School's jazz band is Washington state's top 2A academic group, sporting a 3.535 cumulative grade-point-average.

High school student Ashiyah Cays-Vesterby brought home the top prize from the 2008 Washington State Science and Engineering Fair in the senior division in April.

Sequim High School's Operetta Club proved that hard work pays off - the group was nominated for nine 5th Avenue High School Musical Theatre awards and collected a trophy for outstanding costume design. Nominations included eight for "The Wizard of Oz."

Sequim Middle School librarian Jo Chinn earned the Washington Library Media Association's Outstanding Teacher-Librarian of the Year 2008 award in October.

Six students at Chinn's school did well enough at the regional History Day competition to receive invitations to the national competition in Washington, D.C., three as competitors and three as alternates.

By the time graduation rolled around in June, Sequim High School boasted three valedictorians, all with perfect 4.0 grade-point-averages: Olivia Creasey, Jaysa Hill and Kelsey Langston.

Their class of nearly 200 graduates received nearly $1.4 million in academic and other scholarships, $400,000 of which was from local benefactors.

Also in June, Parker Johns, a senior at Sequim High School, was one of three high-performing Career and Technical Education students from each of the state's legislative districts (142 winners in all) to be awarded two years of free tuition at a Washington public or private school of their choice.

Sequim eighth-grader Hillary Smith got a surprise in the mail this summer: a signed letter from former president Bill Clinton.

Weeks earlier, Smith asked staff from Hillary Clinton's campaign for a quote or comment germane to the young student's History Day project. Instead, she got a note from the former president.

Fire station, deli open in Blyn

Gazette staff

Firefighter and paramedic response times east of Sequim have been reduced and property owners should see decreased insurance premiums as a result of Clallam County Fire District No. 3's new Blyn fire station that opened Sept. 8.

The two-story, 7,563-square-foot station at Sophus Road and U.S. Highway 101 across from the Longhouse Market & Deli is staffed 24 hours a day by one firefighter and one paramedic. It will serve 44 square miles from east of Sequim to the Jefferson County line and Diamond Point.

The Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe donated about $1 million to the project, including the land and most of the building's construction and the fire district contributed $400,000, mostly from the maintenance and operations levy approved in 2002.

Work began in January and finished in April.

The Sequim area's growth is to the east and this station reduces the response times to Blyn from 15 minutes to just one and to Diamond Point from 20 minutes to six to depending upon traffic.

The station replaced a small volunteer-based station at Louella Road that the district was leasing from the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.

Longhouse Market

& Deli opens

After two years of planning, the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe dedicated its Longhouse Market & Deli on May 3 and two days later, the gas station/convenience store opened to the public.

The Longhouse Market & Deli is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In addition to traditional groceries, the 11,000-square-foot market offers fresh produce and seafood in season, a walk-in cigar humidor and tobacco shop, the Raven Wine and Spirits shop and the Harvest Deli, featuring healthy soups, salads and sandwiches. The site also has a six-dispenser Chevron fuel station.

U.S. 101 made good and bad in 2008

Gazette staff

U.S. Highway 101, the county's east-west transportation artery, continued to make the news in 2008, both good and bad.

On the good side, construction projects added passing lanes and other safety features. The planned widening of a 2.5-mile stretch of the highway between Shore Road and Kitchen-Dick Road remained in the state budget.

On the bad side, another four wrecks were recorded, including three fatalities. The electronic sign at the Washington State Patrol detachment office was reset in July after a record 295 days without a serious wreck.

Beginning in July, a $4.4 million passing lane project added one highway lane westbound and one lane eastbound in the Blyn area.

Despite deep cuts to the 2009 state budget the $50 million project to widen 2.5 miles of U.S. Highway 101 to four lanes remained on schedule in 2008. The actual roadway widening is set for 2011-2013.

In February, Washington State Patrol launched "X-52," which created ongoing, high-visibility patrol efforts to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

In April, the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission congratulated North Olympic Peninsula law enforcement agencies for the "Driving 101 - It's Basic Safety" project.

Despite those efforts, four serious wrecks occurred in eastern Clallam County during 2008.

On July 2, 80-year-old Muriel S. Urban of Sequim was seriously injured when her car and a dump truck collided at the intersection of U.S. Highway 101 and Parkwood Boulevard.

The wreck reset the number to zero on the electronic message sign at the State Patrol's office between Port Angeles and Sequim.

On Aug. 24, a four-vehicle collision injured six people and left hundreds of motorists waiting on a closed U.S. Highway 101.

Then two Brinnon residents, 62-year-old Richard A. Kindelspire and 56-year-old Taylre Kindelspire, died Sept. 11 on U.S. Highway 101 just north of state Route 104 when their pickup truck collided head-on with a motorhome.

On Oct. 7, Engre Louise Brown of Sequim drove head-on into a car driven by Benjamin Michael Merscher, also of Sequim on U.S. Highway 101 west of Kitchen-Dick Road. Brown was booked into Clallam County Jail on a vehicular homicide charge after she was discharged from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Border Patrol checkpoints nab dozens of residents

Gazette staff

A conflict between civil liberty proponents and those backing road, bus and highway checks for terrorist threats developed on the North Olympic Peninsula following a Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Customs and Border Protection policy of instituting random checkpoints in Clallam and Jefferson county.

Area motorists began seeing more green-clad trucks, cars and agents early in 2008 as the Port Angeles U.S. Customs and Border Protection staff grew from six to 25.

The agency set up its first checkpoint in late August on U.S. Highway 101 between Forks and the Beaver community.

Several more checkpoints followed at the agency's other two established checkpoint locations, near Quilcene on the same highway and on state Route 104 west of the Hood

Canal bridge.

While the checkpoints are designed to find terrorists or terrorism-type activities, they have caused more than two dozen arrests with charges of drug possession, illegal entry into the country or outstanding warrants, according to the agency.

Hundreds of Clallam County residents became offended by the stops, were separated from family members deported from the country as a result of the stops or believed the stops were an example of illegal search and seizure and organized protests and marches against them.

A newly formed coalition, the Stop the Checkpoints Committee, organized the protests, the largest of which garnered 150 people to march through downtown Port Angeles.

Customs and Border Protection spokesmen insist the

checkpoints are within their jurisdiction, 100 miles from the border, and are a part of their effort to catch terrorists or instruments of terror, indicating they cannot ignore the fact someone has a warrant or may not have U.S. identification.

Sequim finds local radio in KSQM

Gazette staff

After several years of planning, working with the Federal Communication Commission, negotiating with competing radio stations and fine-tuning transmission equipment,

Sequim Community Broadcasting obtained a spot on the FM dial.

Organizers Rick Perry, Keith Burfitt and Johan Van Nimwegen started their quest to have a Sequim-based radio station to feature entertainment, local news and emergency broadcasts after having several conversations about notifying citizens in the face of a natural disaster or emergency in 2005. Together the trio formed Sequim Community Broadcasting.

Now, the Sequim Community Broadcasting board is encouraging residents to reset one of their pre-programmed buttons to 91.5 FM, the frequency KSQM is broadcast on.

The transmitter is sited off Atterberry Road, about 2.5 miles west of the city of Sequim, and has a 40-foot antenna. The station has a coverage area from eastern Port Angeles to Diamond Point.

The studio is expected to put out radio content 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Initial plans have KSQM content consisting of music dated between the 1940s and the end of the 1990s, local news and updates, radio dramas, emergency situation notifications and other community programming, such as area gardening or history programs.

Sequim Community Broadcasting is unable to sell advertisements but can have companies or organizations sponsor programs, much like NPR. Perry hopes the income begins to offset the board's personal investment into the project, but for now he is just happy to have the station up and running.

The station can be reached by phone at 681-0000 or through its Internet site,

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