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2021: The Year in Review

Sequim residents saw another busy year in 2021, with major changes in local leadership to national interest in local politics to the passing of well-loved community figures.

However, as was the case for much of 2020, the big story remains the impact of COVID-19.

The lingering pandemic led to more public-health related restrictions, cancellations and shut-downs, strains on regional health care services and outcry from locals feeling over-burdened by those restrictions.

At the end of 2020, Clallam County had 749 COVID-19 cases and a rate of 129 cases per 100,00 residents over a two-week period. By the end of 2021, Clallam had more than 6,200 COVID cases and a rate of 766 cases per 100,000. Clallam and Jefferson counties had five deaths attributed to COVID-19 in 2020; this past year added 95.

Here’s a quick look back at stories that made headlines in 2021:

January

A heavy rainstorm produced a landslide that closed the popular Spruce Railroad Trail between the Daley Rankin and McFee tunnels on Jan. 3.

Avamere Olympic Rehabilitation on Jan. 5 became the first skilled nursing facility in Sequim for staff and residents to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

Sequim city councilors called for city manger Charlie Bush’s resignation Jan. 11, three days after councilman/former mayor Dennis Smith resigned, inaugurating a year of conflict on the council. In early February, Bush resigned.

Janine Bocciardi of Sequim joins dozens of others as they wave signs at the Sequim Avenue/Washington Street intersection on Jan. 25 in support of Sequim city manager Charlie Bush. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Janine Bocciardi of Sequim joins dozens of others as they wave signs at the Sequim Avenue/Washington Street intersection on Jan. 25 in support of Sequim city manager Charlie Bush. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe moved its massive vaccination efforts to Carrie Blake Community Park on Jan. 14. In the following months, the tribe would distribute more than 20,000 vaccinations to the local populace. Initial interest in vaccinations were overwhelming, with some residents parked at the vaccination site overnight to be first in line for shots; a registration model was later utilized.

Karen Goschen, Port of Port Angeles executive director, resigned her post in early January after about five years in the role.

Robert Clark, Sequim schools superintendent since July 2019, resigned his position on Jan. 15, following a months-long investigation into a complaint. Board directors noted, “Dr. Clark and the Board of Directors have a disagreement over Dr. Clark’s style of management and decision making and Dr. Clark has elected to resign his employment in the best interests of the District, its staff and students.”

After a two-month hiatus, Sequim elementary school students return to in-person instruction on Jan. 26.

Sequim mayor William Armacost draws the national spotlight — including an interview with CNN that aired on Jan. 29 — for his 2020 comments about the QAnon conspiracy.

February

Clallam County commissioners on Feb. 3 joined a growing chorus in criticizing Gov. Jay Inslee’s regional reopening plans.

A Sequim man climbed a Port Angeles bridge to jump to his death on Feb. 9. The 36-year-old Evan James Johnson became the 10th person aged 30-39 to take their own life in Clallam County in the past 14 months.

Clallam County Superior Court judge Brent Basden on Feb. 10 ruled in favor of the medication-assisted treatment (MAT) facility, effectively ending litigation against the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s proposed 16,800-square-foot facility on South Ninth Avenue that will treat opioid-addicted patients.

Voters on Feb. 12 approved two levy proposals from the Sequim School District — an Educational Programs and Operations replacement levy worth $29.7 million over four years, and a four-year, $15 million capital projects levy for significant technology, security and other building upgrades across the district.

Rachel Anderson is appointed a Sequim City Council member on Feb. 16.

A Sequim man died at McKinley Paper Company in Port Angeles when a 1,500-pound cardboard bale struck him in the company’s unloading zone. The 47-year-old Joseph Coolidge Oiness was a driver for Hermann Brothers Logging & Construction Inc.

Construction begins in earnest in February on a major renovation at the Dungeness River Audubon Center — later in the year renamed the Dungeness River Nature Center. The multi-million-dollar expansion is still taking shape, with no set date for reopening announced as of late 2021.

Organizers in early February decided to cancel the 2021 Lavender Street Fair, slated for July.

Sequim’s Rebekah Parker is named Clallam County Fair Queen for 2021 and was slated to preside over the year’s fair with 2020 queen Ann Menkal.

Sequim City Councilors named Charisse Deschenes the interim city manager on Feb. 22. Later in the year she is named a finalist for the position, but councilors opt to hire Matt Huish of Sandy, Utah.

Four Sequim teens — Allie Gale, Hannah Hampton, Zoee Kuperus and Sydney VanProyen — vie for the Irrigation Festival Royalty crown. The pageant goes online for the first time later in the month, with Hampton named queen and Gale, Kuperus and VanProyen princesses on Feb. 27.

March

Jefferson County commissioners on March 1 signed a $275,000 settlement with Sequim resident Joe D’Amico and his two companies — Fort Discovery Corporation and Security Services Northwest — that dismisses 10 lawsuits against the county. D’Amico had filed more than 170 public records requests over the past three years.

Former Sequim resident Richard O’Neill on March 14 wins a Grammy, after being nominated three times previously, for Best Classical Instrumental Solo Performance. The music that won him the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences award was Christopher Theofandis’ Concerto for Viola and Chamber Orchestra.

Sequim-area boat builder Lee Goolden in March reached an agreement with Clallam County officials to end a dispute over the reconstruction of Tally Ho, his 48-foot 1910 wooden yacht; the pact sees Goolden move his project 36 miles east to Port Townsend.

In late March, Sequim composer/musician Jennifer Thomas saw — or rather, heard — her music used by three competitors at the 2021 World Figure Skating Championships in Stockholm, Sweden. Her music was used again during a few international gymnastics, floor routines at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in July.

Sequim School District employee Hanna McAndie on March 29 filed a sex discrimination lawsuit against the district and former superintendent Robert Clark.

April

Leaders with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe proposed in early April a roundabout in Blyn to improve vehicle and pedestrian safety. Clallam County commissioners, however, declined to support the $2.5 million project. Sequim city councilors offered a general letter of support for safety.

Sequim school district board directors in early April heard a proposal to shift the district’s elementary school model from two K-5 schools to a preK-2 school and grade 3-5 school. The plan didn’t gain enough traction for a vote, however.

Matt Klontz, the City of Sequim’s Engineer and Assistant Public Works Director since October 2015, is named the city’s public works lead. In October, he resigned the role to work at the Port of Port Townsend as Director of Capital Projects and Chief Engineer.

Bryce and Gail Fish made a posthumous, $255,000 donation via the Sequim Sunrise Rotary Foundation to the expansion of the Dungeness River Audubon Center in mid-April. The donation goes to bird-friendly, exterior glass windows for the to-be-completed project.

Dungeness River Audubon Center director Powell Jones, right, helps guide a tour of the center’s renovation to Sequim Sunrise Rotary Foundation board members in mid-April. Sequim Gazette photo by Michael Dashiell

Dungeness River Audubon Center director Powell Jones, right, helps guide a tour of the center’s renovation to Sequim Sunrise Rotary Foundation board members in mid-April. Sequim Gazette photo by Michael Dashiell

Kurt Grinnell, a longtime Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Council member and CEO of Jamestown Seafood, died April 20 in a single-vehicle wreck near his home on Mount Pleasant Road.

Representatives with the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society in late April announced the purchase of Kitty City, a 7,200-square-foot building just west of Sequim that will house cats, kittens, small animals and veterinary services.

Myron Teterud, known locally as Sequim’s Superfan for his avid passion for school and community events over the past six decades, died on April 29. Later in the year, the Sequim Alumni Association and other community members advocate the naming of the Sequim High School athletic field for him.

May

A T-shirt worn by Sequim mayor William Armacost and posted to social media prompted support and criticism throughout the community in early May. The shirt, taken while Armacost was shopping at a local store, reads: “This is the USA – We Eat Meat – We Drink beer – We Own Guns – We Speak English – We Love Freedom – If you don not like that get the f*ck out.” Armacost told the Gazette he regretted wearing the shirt.

For the second time in as many years, Sequim hosted a hybrid in-person/virtual Irrigation Festival on May 8, adding another year to Washington state’s longest-running community celebration (126 years).

Sequim’s JCPenney branch, a retailer for more than 100 years on the Olympic Peninsula, closed its doors on May 16.

Organizers of the Clallam County Fair on May 18 decide to cancel the community event for the second year in a row.

A sign at the west entrance informs of the indefinite closure of the Clallam County Fairgrounds in Port Angeles in May. Clallam County Fair officials cancelled the annual fair for a second year. Photo by Keith Thorpe/Olympic Peninsula News Group

A sign at the west entrance informs of the indefinite closure of the Clallam County Fairgrounds in Port Angeles in May. Clallam County Fair officials cancelled the annual fair for a second year. Photo by Keith Thorpe/Olympic Peninsula News Group

June

A Sequim man, David Scott Johnson, is arrested on June 1 after allegedly threatening to burn down the Longhouse Market before crashing a stolen vehicle into a State Patrol truck, injuring an officer. On Oct. 28 he’s sentenced to nine years in prison.

Locals celebrated the restoration of Harris “Brick” Johnson’s iconic totem at Pioneer Memorial Park on June 5.

A June 6 fire destroyed a home and trailer near the Sequim Civic Center, displacing five residents.

The Dungeness River Audubon Center expansion project gets a $300,000 boost from Kansas-based Sunderland Foundation in early June.

Nearly 190 Sequim High School students celebrated their graduation on June 11. Joining them was educator Vern Fosket, who retired from his position as band director after 38 years of leading music groups, the past 24 at Sequim High.

A heat surge that led to a Bonneville Power Administration transformer fire led to the temporary power outage for more than 11,000 residents on June 26.

The Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce on June 29 named essential workers as its Citizens of the Year for 2020, the first time the chamber selected a group since it began awarding the honor in 1968.

July

A jury in July finds Larisa Jean Dietz guilty of attempted murder dating back to a 2019 knife attack. On Sept. 13 she is sentenced to more than 17 years in prison.

An early morning fire destroyed two vehicles and buildings at the Olympic Ambulance building on West Hendrickson Road.

Sequim’s Lavender Weekend is still a huge draw, organizers note, despite cancellation of the popular street fair.

August

A 39-year-old Sequim man — Samuel Elliot Ketchum — is charged with a hate crime on Aug. 16 for allegedly threatening to kill an Afrcian American man while using slurs on Port Angeles’ Ediz Hook. He was later found not competent to stand trial and ordered to mental health treatment at a state psychiatric hospital.

Clallam County’s mask mandate sparked a rally of more than 100 protesters in downtown Sequim on Aug. 18.

Husband-and-wife duo Paula and Joe Fazio, downtown Sequim business owners (Sequim Beauty Salon and Fazio’s Barbershop), retired in August after 40 years in the trade.

A man, later identified as 63-year-old Steven A. Cyr, is found dead inside a Diamond Point trailer on Aug. 30.

September

Sequim school officials in early September placed assistant superintendent Jennifer Maughan on administrative leave. She remains on leave at the end of 2021.

A crowd of 200-300 protesters packed the Clallam County Courthouse on Sept. 3, seeking to confront county leaders and health office Dr. Allison Berry about COVID-19 vaccination mandates.

A Sept. 7 Sequim School Board meeting is postponed after attendees disrupt activities during the public comment portion of the meeting. The board’s meetings are held virtually for the remainder of 2021.

Members of the Dungeness River Audubon Center on Sept. 10 voted to change the name of the iconic Sequim facility to the Dungeness River Nature Center.

Sequim City Council members on Sept. 13 selected Matt Huish of Sandy, Utah, as their next city manager. Over the preceding three months, the municipality’s lead administrator emerged from a finalist group that included interim city manager Charisse Deschenes. His first day was Nov. 1.

October

An effort led by the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society members and aided by multiple government entities and peninsula citizens in early October gets power lines buried near Kirner Pond, helping save trumpeter swans from striking the lines.

Sequim school board directors considered but then voted to delay a censure motion for fellow director Jim Stoffer for “disclosing to a district employee who has two active complaints against the district information shared confidentially with the Board of Directors.” Stoffer, on sick leave for several weeks, defends his actions in prepared statements to the board through his lawyer. The board does not return to consider the censure for the remainder of 2021.

Construction in October began on a roundabout at Woodcock Road and Sequim-Dungeness Way.

Anji Scalf, executive director of the Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce, resigned her position on Oct. 5. In mid-November, chamber leaders selected Beth Pratt as its new leader.

Political groups filed multiple complaints with the Public Disclosure Commission about election practices in mid-October.

Members and supporters of the Sequim City Band announced the “Fund the Finale” capital campaign, an effort to raise $1 million for the civic music group’s new rehearsal space.

November

A quintet of candidates for Sequim City Council — two incumbents, three challengers — post wins in the Nov. 2 General Election. The Sequim Good Governance League-backed group that includes Rachel Anderson, Brandon Janisse, Kathy Downer, Vicki Lowe and Lowell Rathbun earned nearly 2-to-1 ballot victories over candidates supported by the Independent Advisory Association.

The MV Coho ferry providing service between Victoria, B.C., and Port Angeles went back into service on Nov. 8.

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe in November received a little more than $1 million in federal grant dollars to purchase property in the Sequim are to house its healthcare and non-medical employees.

Sequim schools interim superintendent Dr. Jane Pryne announced she’s stepping down from the district’s lead administrator role by the end of 2021.

An 83-year-old pedestrian was struck and killed in the 3000 block of East Sequim Bay Road on Nov. 23.

Six restaurant owners on Nov. 24 filed a lawsuit regarding health officer Dr. Allison Berry’s vaccine mandate. A court hearing regarding the dispute is postponed until early 2022.

County officials in November received an application from Olympic Disposal to build a waste transfer station and recycling center in Carlsborg.

The bizarre election of Sequim School Board director Kristi Schmeck comes to an end when she resigns her seat in late November. Schmeck attempted to drop out of the race not long after the candidate filing period in May but her name stayed on the ballot. She went on to take the most votes in the 2021 primary and general elections, but — in agreement with a document she filed with the Public Disclosure Commission earlier in the year — she vacated the seat.

December

In early December, Olympic National Park superintendent Sarah Creachbaum announced she’s leaving the position for a regional park service job in Alaska.

Sequim School board directors agreed to hire Joan Zook, a Sunland resident, as its interim superintendent. Zook, the former superintendent of Shelton schools, will serve through the end of June 2022 while the board seeks a permanent superintendent.

Sequim hosted its second Wreaths Across America on Dec. 18, part of a nationwide effort to further honor U.S. military veterans.

CNN's senior national correspondent Kyung Lah interviews Sequim mayor William Armacost after a Coffee with the Mayor session on Jan. 28 about QAnon as producer Kim Berryman and photojournalist Taka Yokoyama and record the conversation that appeared on a segment of "Anderson Cooper 360" the next night. Armacost said he never publicly supported QAnon. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash
A Washington State Patrol officer was seriously injured on June 1 when the driver of a stolen pickup struck his vehicle on U.S. Highway 101 at Discovery Bay. Photo courtesy of the Washington State Patrol
Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash
Safety is a major concern for leaders with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, said Brent Simcosky, director of tribal health services, standing next to the Jamestown Healing Clinic’s future security offices in August, as the tribe continues construction of its medication-assisted treatment (MAT) facility. “We understand people’s concerns. That’s why we agreed to all the mitigation,” he said. “We want to cause people less stress and successfully help people without hurting the community.”

Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash Safety is a major concern for leaders with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, said Brent Simcosky, director of tribal health services, standing next to the Jamestown Healing Clinic’s future security offices in August, as the tribe continues construction of its medication-assisted treatment (MAT) facility. “We understand people’s concerns. That’s why we agreed to all the mitigation,” he said. “We want to cause people less stress and successfully help people without hurting the community.”

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