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Port Orchard's top 10 stories of 2012

Trooper Tony Radulescu was shot and killed during a traffic stop. - File Photo
Trooper Tony Radulescu was shot and killed during a traffic stop.
— image credit: File Photo

Looking back at 2012, the year was marred by tragedies, the election and changes within the school district.Here are a list of last year’s Top 10 stories in the Independent:

1. State trooper killed

Washington State Patrol Troop Tony Radulescu was shot and killed Feb. 28, during a traffic stop on state Route 16 near Gorst.

Radulescu stopped a 1999 green Ford F350 pickup that Josh Blake was driving on state Route 16 near Gorst around 1 a.m.

When he did not respond to radio calls after reporting his traffic stop to dispatchers, a Kitsap County sheriff's deputy went to the scene and found Radulescu lying wounded next to his patrol car.

He was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, where he died of his wounds.

Blake, a 28-year-old ex-convict, shot himself in the head later that day inside a trailer on a rural South Kitsap property as a SWAT team closed in on him. He was rushed to Tacoma General Hospital, but was pronounced dead that afternoon.

Five other people were also convicted in connection with the shooting.

Jessi Leigh Foster, the 32-year-old ex-girlfriend of Blake, pleaded guilty to rendering criminal assistance and was sentenced to six months in the Kitsap County jail. Foster made phone calls and sent text messages trying to help Blake escape after he shot Radulescu.

Megan Mollet, 19, the witness in the killing of Radulescu, was sentenced to 12 months in Kitsap County Jail. She was handed out the maximum concurrent sentence for rendering criminal assistance in the first degree and lying to police.

Corinne Nelson, 26, pleaded guilty to rendering criminal assistance in a deal with Kitsap County prosecutors. She was sentence to 14 months in jail.

Steven Michael Banks, 43, was charged with rendering criminal assistance and sentenced to a year in jail.

Andrew Bartlett, 31, was acquitted by the Kitsap County Superior Court jury of rendering criminal assistance, but was convicted of making a false statement to police and was sentenced to six months in jail.

2. U.S. Congressman Norm Dicks retires

In March, U.S. Congressman Norm  Dicks announced his retirement after 36 years in office.

The 71-year-old congressman from Bremerton served 18 consecutive terms for Washington’s 6th District, beginning in 1977.Dicks is a graduate of the University of Washington Law School and served as a staff member for Sen. Warren G. Magnuson beginning in 1968.

His congressional career has included developing federal assistance for forest workers in timber communities, increasing environmental protection for Puget Sound estuaries and commitment to maintaining a U.S. Navy base in Kitsap County.

Dicks, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, has often used his tenure and sway to bring federal funds to Washington, Sen. Patty Murray said in a statement.

In the Nov. 6 general election, Democrat Derek Kilmer defeated Republican Bill Driscoll to claim Dick’s Congressional District 6 seat .

County favors same-sex marriage, marijuana measures

3. Kitsap County voters, along with the rest of the state, approved two controversial measures concerning same-sex marriage and legalization of marijuana.

More than 54 percent of county voters approved Referendum Measure 74, that would allow same-sex marriages, while more than 55 percent passed Initiative 502 to allow the recreation use of marijuana.

With more than 52 percent, county voters also approved Initiative 1240 that would allow the creation of charter schools in the state.

Locally, incumbent District 2 County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido defeated challenger Linda Simpson with more than 52 percent of the vote.

In the governor’s race, county voters favored Attorney General Rob McKenna over Governor-elect Jay Islee by a slight margin.

More than 54 percent voted to give President Barak Obama four more years in office. Republican challenger Mitt Romney received more than 42 percent of the vote.

4. Longtime educator dies

Kurt Wagner, a longtime educator in the South and Centrsal Kitsap schools, died April 13 of cancer.

The 57-year-old Wagner spent most of his career in the South Kitsap School District.

He attended Central Washington University and attained degrees in English Literature and Education.

Wagner began as a teacher at East Port Orchard Elementary in 1980, then became a principal at Silver Ridge Elementary in Central Kitsap. He was principal at Seabeck Elementary before returning to East Port Orchard as its principal in 1995.

He took a sabbatical leave from SKSD in 1987 to complete his master's degree at Washington State University.

Wagner began working as an administrator overseeing curriculum and instruction and recently served as the district's deputy superintendent.

Former South Kitsap High School principal Dave Colombini, who was the district's director for School and Family Support, became the assistant superintendent for instructional services after Wagner’s death.

5. LaRose resigns

South Kitsap School District’s Superintendent Dave LaRose, 46, resigned and became superintendent of the Culver City Unified School District in Southern California.

LaRose’s new school district features about 6,500 students, which is more than 3,000 fewer than his current job. He succeeded Bev Cheney as the district’s superintendent in 2008.

He served as the district’s superintendent for school and family support for two years before he replaced the retiring Cheney. He became the principal in 2004 at Orchard Heights Elementary School after moving with his family from Gilbert, Ariz.

He was director of community schools there and guided before and after school programs, as well. LaRose also has been a teacher, middle school assistant principal and an assistant superintendent.

He said family was the impetus behind his move to Southern California.

His oldest daughter, 22-year-old Lyndsi, recently graduated from UCLA and plans to settle in the area. The LaRoses youngest daughter, Madison, recently graduated from Peninsula High School and decided she would pursue a nursing degree at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.

6. SK football coach resigns

Longtime South Kitsap High School football coach D.J. Sigurdson resigned to become a full-time assistant principal at the high school in April.

After holding both roles during the football season — SK finished with a 6-4 record in 2011 — Sigurdson said he felt he needed to commit himself to one job. He said he did not expect to move into a permanent administrative position this quickly, but that he had to take the opportunity when it was presented.

A linebacker from 1986-89 at Eastern Washington University, Sigurdson joined legendary coach Ed Fisher’s staff in 1993. Fisher, who compiled a 196-49 record with the Wolves, recommended that Sigurdson succeed him when he left after the 1996 season.

Sigurdson finishes his SK career as the third most tenured coach in program history behind Fisher and Stener Kvinsland (1941-57). Only Fisher won more games with the Wolves than Sigurdson, who had a 107-49 record. He also guided the school to eight state-playoff appearances in 15 years.

During his first season in 1997, SK won its first 12 games before losing the Class 4A state championship, 49-13, against Central Valley at the Tacoma Dome.

Sigurdson’s first six teams advanced to state. The streak, which ended in 2002 at 23 seasons, remains the longest in state history.

7. Former superintendent Cheney returns as interim

Beverly Cheney got her last year back in the South Kitsap School District in July.

The district’s board of directors chose Cheney, who will start no later than Aug. 15, in an unanimous vote over Michelle Reid as SKSD’s interim superintendent.

To help smooth those “troubled waters,” the school board approved an 80-hour contract, at $86 per hour, with LaRose, who left in July to become the superintendent in California's Culver City Unified School District, for consulting services. The contract equals $6,880, but school board president Kathryn Simpson said the contract expense would be the maximum. However, the $6,880 does not include travel expenses that LaRose would receive for travel between southern California and Port Orchard. Upon request, LaRose will work with the interim superintendent to help with the transition.

Cheney, who served as SKSD’s superintendent from 2001-08, said she will not apply for the full-time position. Simpson said she hopes to have a new superintendent hired by March 2013.

Since retiring from the district, Cheney served as interim superintendent of the Bremerton School District toward the end of the 2008-09 school year. She also is on Olympic College’s Board of Trustees.

She initially was expected to be the district’s superintendent through the 2008-09 school year, but when the school board named LaRose as her successor, she elected to retire a year early. Cheney said she is willing to serve in the interim position until July 1, but said she again would be amenable to stepping down earlier if SKSD officials identify a successor sooner than anticipated.

The University of Washington graduate earned her doctorate in education in 1997 from Seattle University.

8. SK student hit by car, dies

South Kitsap High School sophomore Cassidy Holtzman died Nov.1 at Harborview Medical Center from injuries she sustained when she was hit by a car Oct. 26.

The accident occurred while Holtzman was crossing Jackson Avenue between Berger Lane and Azalea Avenue, where her school bus top is located.

Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Scott Wilson said she was hit by a 52-year-old South Kitsap man who was driving a 2006 Ford Taurus just before 7 a.m. There is no crosswalk in the area where she was struck.

Wilson said speed, alcohol and drugs were not factors in the crash.

Holtzman was born in Pennsylvania and moved with her family to Port Orchard after her father, who worked at Naval Hospital Bremerton, was transferred from his position in Connecticut, according to Naval Hospital Bremerton spokesman Douglas Stutz.

SKHS students held a candlelight vigil for Holtzman in Manchester, the day she died.

9. Port Orchard development director resigns

In December, Port Orchard development director James Weaver announced his resignation effective Jan. 2.

Weaver, who lives in Poulsbo, resigned his position with the city and announced he will become a building official with the city of Bainbridge Island beginning Jan. 16.

He began his career with Port Orchard in 2008 when he was hired by former mayor Larry Coppola. He had been a senior planner for Kitsap County prior to that.

Prior to that he worked for the University of California at San Diego and for the city of San Diego, both in planning positions.

Weaver, 43, is credited with bringing the city’s comprehensive plan up to date and in compliance with state growth management regulations.He also oversaw the update of the city’s Shoreline Master Program in 2011 and completed the Parks Plan update in 2011.

He listed other accomplishments as the institution of park impact fees in 2012, update of the city’s sign code, landscape code, and the preparation of a city-wide capital facilities plan.

10. Angel to seek state 26th District senate seat

State Rep. Jan Angel announced in November she will seek the 26th District senate seat being vacated by Gig Harbor Democrat Derek Kilmer, who won the Congressional District 6 seat.

The state’s Democratic Party first will select three candidates to replace Kilmer because he is leaving his position midterm.

After that, the Kitsap County commissioners and the Pierce County Council within the 26th District jointly will make a selection. The successful candidate must be a Democrat, who will carryout senatorial duties for 2013-14, because law dictates that an outgoing politician must be replaced by someone within their own party.

Kilmer’s term was set to run through December 2014.

Angel, R-Port Orchard won a third term as a state representative against Karin Ashabraner.

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