PACIFIC COUNTY — The decade spanning from 2009 to 2019 brought with it countless stories.

The decade, and Pacific County residents, were shaped by memorable tales. Tragedy, hope and excitement were common themes among front-page articles the Chinook Observer printed during this period.

Here’s a look back at some of the biggest stories from the last 10 years:


The decade got off to an exciting start when Ismael Murrieta-Leonardo was born at Columbia Memorial Hospital on Jan. 2, 2009. Murrieta-Leonardo was the first baby born at CMH in 2009.

Soon after, the county faced record-breaking floods in mid-January, which were declared a federal emergency. At the time, Pacific County commissioners estimated the floods caused at least $148,000 in damage.

Throughout 2009, the county struggled to rebuild while the economy was still in disarray. The county’s jobless rate hit a five-year high. Gov. Christine Gregoire’s 2010 budget proposed to cut funding for Naselle Youth Camp. This led to a months-long battle, which ultimately saved the camp.


2010 proved an interesting year for crime. In February, then-state trooper Scott Johnson survived being shot in his head. Martin Jones is serving a 50-year sentence for the incident. New DNA evidence is being tested in Jones’ case, which could lead to a retrial.

Johnson went on to become the county’s sheriff in November, in the same election year which landed Jaime Herrera Beutler a spot in Congress.

On the north end of the peninsula, the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife captured a record high of 10 bears off Stackpole Road at a couple’s home. The couple was accused of feeding bears over about a dozen years.

The infamous Barefoot Bandit also made local news. Colton Harris-Moore, who stole thousands of dollars in property, was arrested in July 2010. One of his thefts included an Ilwaco boat worth $450,000. Harris-Moore was paroled in 2016.


2011 brought the reprise of stories repeated throughout the decade. Naselle Youth Camp and the peninsula’s Boys and Girls Club both almost closed due to budget issues. The two ultimately were saved — although as 2020 begins, the Boys and Girls Club’s future is in serious doubt.

Sheriff Scott Johnson was awarded the state’s Medal of Honor. Doug Knutzen of Pacific County Technical Rescue received the U.S. Coast Guard Silver Lifesaving Medal.

In August, 12-year-old Dale Ostrander was rescued after drowning in the Pacific Ocean. His recovery was considered to be remarkable by doctors.


Ocean Beach Hospital faced a tumultuous period in 2012. The hospital cut about 15 jobs, fired its CEO, and almost closed because of a $2 million deficit.

In February, Brian Brush was sentenced to 88 years in prison for murdering Lisa Bonney in 2009. Bonney was a Long Beach mother of two.

In December, local same-sex couples began to legally marry.


Residents of Washaway Beach confronted loss of their homes as the coast quickly eroded. Several houses and buildings have since been pulled into the ocean by the tide, a decades-long trend that residents are actively working to counter.

After Superintendent Rick Pass left Naselle Grays River Valley School District in May, the district’s Board of Commissioners appointed Lisa Nelson to the position. She’s still the district’s superintendent. Pass joined Naselle in 2009.

In November, Victoria Taylor became the sixth woman in U.S. Coast Guard history to become a surfman.


In February, Mark McClain left his job as deputy prosecutor under then-prosecutor David Burke. In November, McClain was elected to take Burke’s position.

A year after marijuana was legalized in Washington, Mr. Doobees became the county’s first marijuana retail store when it opened a Raymond location.

In June, kayakers rescued a family whose boat capsized near Long Island.

With the start of the 2014-15 school year, Ilwaco High School welcomed a new soccer program for students.


During the July 4 holiday, Jeffrey Beach was murdered. The Pacific County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t named any suspects or made any arrests since the murder.

In Ocean Beach School District, schools faced anonymous threats that led to school closures and an FBI investigation. In 2016, schools faced similar threats again.

At the start of the 2015-16 school year, 5th grade students moved to Ilwaco Middle School.


During winter, Peninsula Poverty Response opened its Overnight Winter Lodging (OWL) program. The program ended in 2018 because of a lack of volunteers.

Retail marijuana came to the Long Beach Peninsula when Mr. Doobees opened a business in Seaview.

Ahead of the November election, 83% of the county’s Republicans voted in favor of Donald Trump. Local Democrats overwhelmingly supported Bernie Sanders before Hillary Clinton won the national Democratic nomination.


After President Donald Trump took office, local residents participated in a nationwide women’s march. Trump’s induction into office also led to local concerns about deportation. The Chinook Observer received reader concerns about how individuals were being detained, and how often arrests were happening. ICE arrests on the Long Beach Peninsula have since been covered internationally by publications such as The New York Times and BBC.

In late winter, the Ilwaco High School Lady Fishermen basketball team earned the fifth-place spot in the state championship tournament.

At the start of the 2016-17 school year, Ocean Beach School District opened the Ocean Beach Alternative School. The district hadn’t had such a school since 2009 when local budget cuts led to the closure of Ocean Beach School District’s Tlohon-nipts Alternative School.


2018 was a big year for law enforcement-related stories. At the start of the year, stories about immigrant deportations covered front-pages of the Chinook Observer after reporters learned ICE tried to share information with the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office. In early January, Baltazar “Rosas” Aburto Gutierrez was arrested by ICE after talking to reporters from the Chinook Observer and The Seattle Times.

In April, former go-cart operator Tony Merrill pleaded guilty to 10 felonies, related to selling drugs at his downtown Long Beach go-cart business, and purchasing stolen guns.

In November, Sheriff Scott Johnson was voted out of office after serving two terms. Robin Souvenir, who last worked as chief of the Shoalwater Bay Tribal Police, replaced Johnson. Both sheriffs have made the news for controversial hires. Most recently, Souvenir’s hiring of his brother-in-law Matt Padgett made front-page news after Padgett was fired in December 2019.


At the year’s start, U.S. Coast Guard members continued to work without pay during the nation’s longest government shutdown. Community residents gathered to support service members and their families.

During spring, Seaview and Long Beach residents considered the possibility of annexing Seaview into Long Beach. Seaview residents shared their concerns, ultimately ending the discussion.

In June, the Chinook Indian Nation hosted its long-running First Salmon Ceremony. Nation members hope to become federally recognized in 2020.

At the start of the 2019-20 school year, Ocean Beach School District reorganized its schools by grade through a feeder school model. Grades K-2 are at Long Beach Elementary; 3-5 at Ocean Park Elementary; 6-8 at Hilltop Middle School; and 9-12 at Ilwaco High School.

Another big change came to Ocean Beach School District when Amy Huntley was hired as Ocean Beach School District’s superintendent, making her the fifth person in 10 years to hold the job.

October brought the closure of the Long Beach Peninsula Boys and Girls Club. The club had faced financial struggles and closure scares during its 11-year tenure, but 2019 marked the club’s first outright closure. Club leaders hope to re-open the club in 2020.

In December, Naselle’s high school football team earned second place in the state championship.

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