A look back at the top stories of 2012

As the calendar year draws to a close there is much to reflect on including all that has happened across the country and even the globe from the Summer Olympics to the presidential election to the shootings Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., as well as the myriad of stories that have captured the attention of our readers. To that end, the staff has compiled a list of the top stories of 2012. Here they are in no particular order:


In February Tahoma’s wrestling team put together the first state championship run since 1996, racking up 190 points with 12 of those coming from pins in the finals.

Joey Palmer, who is now a freshman at Oregon State, won the crown at the 132 pound weight class while Aaron Davis pinned his way through the bracket to earn the title at 220 pounds. Tahoma sent 15 wrestlers to Mat Classic and 10 placed.

It was redemption for the program, which came close in 2010 when the Bears placed second.

This season Tahoma’s wrestlers plan to win another state crown at Mat Classic XXV.


In mid-January Mother Nature dumped snow on the region followed by freezing ice which brought the area to a screeching halt. Students missed a week of school in the Tahoma and Kent school districts. Crews from King County and the cities of Covington and Maple Valley worked tirelessly to clear the roads and clean up lasted well into the spring.

Glenn Akrmoff, public works director for Covington, told the Reporter in January the ice storm, which lasted three days, didn’t come as a surprise to him.

His experience with previous storm response meant it was wise to prepare for the ice storm even though it caught so many others off guard.

“They (forecasters) compared it to ‘96 and I was working in Olympia at that time,” Akramoff said in January. “The next thing that happened (after the snow that year) was ice.”

In Maple Valley, crews worked to clear six inches of snow off 30 miles of streets with sand, deicer and salt, while at the same time carefully monitoring the National Weather Service updates, Public Works Director Steve Clark told the Reporter in January.

The public works department also kept in communication with Maple Valley Life and Fire Safety.

Clark told the Maple Valley City Council after the storm that the city benefited from preparations that had been made during the late fall, as well as the new maintenance facility located at Southeast 264th Street. The city purchased the 2.79 acre property for $1.1 million in November 2011.

“Overall, I think we were well prepared to respond to this event,” Clark said. “We had the pieces of equipment ready to go. It really elevated morale.”


In late May, Fred Meyer, the anchor of Maple Valley Town Center located at Four Corners, opened its doors ending a long, winding journey for the retail chain which is owned by Kroger.

On the day of the ribbon cutting, Deputy Mayor Victoria Laise Jonas told Peter Powell, who spearheaded the development of the plaza through his firm Powell Development, that, “history is being made in Maple Valley as we speak.”

For the city, the arrival of the big box retailer was a sign of shifting attitudes toward economic development in the past three years. Fred Meyer had been interested in locating a store in Maple Valley for a number of years but the city had an ordinance on the books since incorporation that prevented big box stores that were larger than 60,000 square feet.

Powell described the project, which was more than seven years in the making as, “a labor of love.”

Now Maple Valley Town Center is also home to a number of businesses such as the Nutty Squirrel Gelato shop, restaurants such as Farrelli’s and Hop Jack’s, a new MultiCare clinic, The Spot coffee and wine bar, and branches of Chase Bank and BECU,  to name a few.


Though Seth Dawson had coached Kentlake swim and dive teams for barely 18 months he made a deep impression on the young people he coached.

His death in a small plane crash in mid-February, a day before the 4A state swim and dive championships were to start at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, shook the swim community in South Puget Sound.

Dawson was one of three people on the plane, which crashed near North Bend Feb. 15. The others were fellow swim coaches.

He coached a wide variety of kids who came to the pool deck ranging from longtime club swimmers to kids looking for something to stay in shape in the offseason of another sport.

He was particularly pleased with the way the girls season ended in November 2011.

“This means a lot to the team, the girls worked very hard this year and everyone contributed something to the team’s success,” Dawson wrote in an email after the girls state swim meet. “I think the key to winning the trophy was perseverance. The kids never gave up, they kept swimming hard and all of our relays really stepped up. We had some really great swims and scored points in all three relays. I was very proud of our kids and their accomplishments.”

When he took over the boys program, he was the fourth coach in four seasons, but Dawson told the Reporter in November 2010 he intended to stop the revolving door.

“I plan to be here a long time,” Dawson said after his first practice with the boys team.

Dawson grew up in Vancouver, Wash., where he swam at Hudson’s Bay High before competing on scholarship at California State University at Bakersfield, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and sports management.

Hiring a swim coach is a difficult proposition, Kentlake Athletic Director Bruce Rick told the Reporter in February, because practices and competition take place off campus and after school when administrators don’t have the opportunity to supervise the program.

“You really need to hire someone you can trust to run the program without supervision,” Rick said. “Not only did Seth take care of that aspect of it, he was a great teacher of mechanics on how to be an exceptional swimmer. He had coached everybody from the elite to swimmers who were turning out for their first year. He gave everybody equal time."


A 4-1 vote by the Black Diamond City Council July 19 placed Proposition 1 on the ballot asking the citizens if the form of government should change from strong-mayor to council-manager.

The proposition ignited months of debate in the town of about 4,000. The issue was debated on the editorial pages of this newspaper leading up to the election in November.

Proposition 1 did not pass, with 59.24 percent or 1,247 voters checking the ‘no’ box and about 41 percent voting in favor of the change.


Maple Valley resident Kristi Blair started Wings of Karen, a breast cancer fundraising organization, in honor of her mother Karen Denamark, who battled breast cancer before she died in 2007.

Wings of Karen’s first fundraiser event, a 5K Bra Dash in early September at Lake Wilderness Park raised $30,000.

Blair started the foundation as a response to the one-two punch breast cancer delivered. First, it took her mother who was diagnosed in 2004. Having discovered it late, Denamark was subjected to rigorous treatments before she died.

Unlike other breast cancer foundations, all funds raised through Wings of Karen remain local. Donations made to Wings of Karen go to the research and clinical program of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, a collaboration between University of Washington Medicine, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Children’s Hospital.


The ambiguity over the state medical marijuana law brought controversy to Maple Valley after Green Society Group, a medical marijuana management company, opened in late April.

The Maple Valley City Council had previously approved a year-long moratorium on zoning for collective gardens and dispensaries for medical marijuana in July 2011.

GSG received a stop work order and unsafe notice from the city of Maple Valley after his permit was allegedly denied by the city due to the city’s moratorium on medical marijuana gardens and dispensaries.

The city’s hearing examiner ruled GSG to be a collective garden in August and upheld one of the city’s citations against it. The city later filed a request for an injunction against GSG, as well as a complaint of moral nuisance in August. The city and GSG reached a settlement in October.


Election Day this year in the 47th Legislative District had a razor-thin race between Rep. Mark Hargrove and challenger Bud Sizemore. Hargrove narrowly won by 157 votes.

Hargrove had 50.08 percent (27,101 votes) while Sizemore has 49.79 percent (26,944 votes). There were 71 write-in votes for .13 percent.

In the 5th District, Sen. Cheryl Plfug and Rep. Glenn Anderson were replaced by Mark Mullet and Chaz Magendanz, respectively.

Reach Assistant Editor Kris Hill at or 425-432-1209 ext. 5054.


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