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2008: A Year in Review

The new year is upon us. But before the calendar is flipped to 2009, let's remember 2008 for what it was. A year to celebrate accomplishments, establish new traditions, remember those who have made an impact and try to forget some strange happenings.

Here is the Woodbury Bulletin's list of the year's top stories in chronological order, which were compiled based on feedback from our news staff and from our online readers.

Remembering "the Chief"

Many in Woodbury mourned the loss of a longtime community leader early in the year, when Greg Orth died in an accidental fall in January.

Orth, who was in the middle of his first term on the Washington County Board of Commissioners, was visiting friends in Mankato Jan. 12 when he fell over a railing that was immediately outside the sliding glass door of his hotel room.

Several members of the community took time to make public declarations about Orth's career and service to Woodbury that spanned as a police officer, police chief, public safety director and Washington County commissioner from 1971-2008.

In August, Orth's surviving family served as honorary grand marshals to honor their father during the Woodbury Days parade.

In February the Washington County Board appointed former longtime commissioner Dick Stafford to serve Orth's seat until a special election took place Nov. 4. Woodbury voters in district 5 elected Lisa Weik to serve the rest of Orth's term, which is up in 2010.

833 school board updates school boundaries

After many weeks, of intense debate and emotional testimony from parents of students in District 833, the seven-member South Washington County Board voted in late April on a plan for new boundaries in the district.

At elementary/middle school level, the board voted 4-3 to approve the blue plan, which included an amendment to permit children living in rural Woodbury, Cottage Grove and Afton neighborhoods to be grandfathered in to their current schools.

The board also chose the plan "C" to establish new high school boundaries to include East Ridge High School with a 5-2 vote.

In the blue plan, the boundary for Liberty Ridge Elementary School at the eastern edge of the district changed, which shook up parents and families in neighborhoods like Stonemill Farms and Bailly's Arbor.

East Ridge goes red and blue and then black and gold

As East Ridge High School draws closer to its opening in fall 2009, its leaders are helping to shape the character and hue of the third high school in District 833. In April the South Washington County School Board voted in red and navy as the official colors for the new high school. But the decision drew immediate criticism from several members of the community, who complained the navy to closely resembled the dominate blue color of Woodbury High School.

The board amended its vote and changed the East Ridge colors in May to black, white and gold.

Amidst all the tension over the school colors issue, East Ridge principal Aaron Harper said he received ""significant feedback from the community" by e-mail, letters and phone calls.

Hargis announces cancer battle at "Relay For Life"

Woodbury Mayor Bill Hargis took time during his annual address at the Woodbury Relay For Life June 20 to give his personal testimony of his current fight against prostate cancer,

Hargis was officially diagnosed with the disease the day before he was set to make his speech.

The hundreds in attendance at the Relay For Life in Ojibway Park applauded Hargis for his effort in sharing his story.

Hargis underwent surgery to remove the cancerous prostate in August and returned to his duties as mayor in September.

He is still receiving treatments and follow-ups from his doctors, but Hargis said when he returned to work in September that his prognosis is good.

"I am very grateful for my family doctor and all the doctors, nurses and medical personnel who gave me outstanding and compassionate care," he wrote in a letter to the community published Sept. 17 in the Woodbury Bulletin.

Community whipped up over possible wind turbine

It's an issue that will have to wait until 2009 to be resolved, but a proposed wind turbine at East Ridge High School has received its fair share of kudos and criticism from within the Woodbury community.

Earlier this year the South Washington County School District indicated it was interested in exploring the possibility of installing a 185-foot wind turbine on the East Ridge High School property. Several members in the community praised the efforts, but some residents and land owners not far from the proposed wind turbine publicly criticized the school district's plans.

District officials said in October that they are ready to move forward with their plans, but before any work to install the turbine can begin, the district needs approval from the city of Woodbury. City council members and planning staff are studying the issue, but are expected to bring the topic up at a future city council workshop.

WHS teacher, baseball coach Dietz remembered

Wayne Dietz, who had been a popular teacher and baseball coach in Woodbury for nearly 30 years died Oct. 15 from complications after he experienced a cardiac arrhythmia while riding his bicycle.

The Woodbury High School math teacher retired from his position as head baseball coach in the spring after leading the Royals to the sectional finals. Woodbury has one State Tournament appearance in his time at the helm, in 2004. He had plans to retire from teaching after the 2008-09 school year.

"Mr. Dietz touched countless lives both in the classroom and in the community and is known for his generosity and kindness," stated WHS principal Linda Plante in a release to students.

WHS girls soccer has undefeated season

It was far from their first state championship in school history, but the Woodbury High School girls soccer team may have been one of the most dominant prep teams in any sport in 2008 when they finished their first ever undefeated season.

The Royals edged out Eden Prairie 2-1 in the AA state championship at the Metrodome in Minneapolis Oct. 30 to finish their season 20-0-2.

The win was the fifth state title for the girls soccer team in school history and the first since 2006.

Another distinction of dominance: the team has appeared at the state tournament in 10 of the last 11 years.

Vets Memorial dedication

It was a cold, rainy afternoon in November, but the weather did not halt the first ever Veterans Day ceremony at the Woodbury Lions Veterans Memorial.

The memorial, which was erected this fall at Woodbury City Hall, represents all of the branches of the military and features a plaza with granite pavers, each engraved with the name of a veteran.

The Woodbury Lions Club and local VFW and American Legion led the effort to raise money for the community's first official veterans memorial, but they also received a hand from the city, who donated land and signed off on a municipal loan to finance construction costs.

When completely finished, it will feature 3,100 memorial pavers that can be purchased by those wishing to honor a veteran in their life.

The purchased pavers are engraved with the name of a veteran and the branch and era they served in. The engraved pavers cost $300 a piece and go directly to cover the cost of the memorial site.

Car slams into twin home

Early on a Friday morning in November, a white Pontiac Grand Am woke up an east Woodbury neighborhood when it came barreling through the garage and into the kitchen of a home on the 700 block of Markgrafs Lake Drive

The driver, a 27-year-old St. Paul man, received serious, but not life-threatening injuries. No one in either of the twin homes was hurt, but the residents were displaced for a short time, while Woodbury police surveyed the accident scene.

Alcohol was believed to be a possible contributing factor in the accident, police said.

King of Kings "lights up" east St. Paul for Christmas

King of Kings Lutheran Church in Woodbury is hoping its recently successful "Holiday Lights in the Park" event at Lake Phalen in St. Paul is the beginning of an annual fundraiser for local food shelves.

During the month of December, well more than 5,000 cars visited the lighted drive-by display along the in Phalen Park. And each of the vehicles paid $8 per ticket to the event that went to non-profits like the Union Gospel Mission and the Second Harvest.

Several co-sponsors helped King of Kings organize the event, but hundreds of church volunteers staffed event, which Pastor Ralph Olsen said brought a bright spot to the east St. Paul community.