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Year In Review, Part I: Retiring 2012

Year In Review, Part I: Retiring 2012

Long-time Superintendents retired in Exeter, Farmersville and Lindsay; City Manager retired in Woodlake in first half of a news-filled year in 2012.



Jan. 4 – Paul Ennis, 68, of Woodlake was found dead in his home on South Pepper Street. Police search for three suspects.

Jan. 6 – Bill Lewis announced his retirement after 16 

Jan. 6 – The City of Woodlake released an independent audit of the Woodlake Police Department citing high turnover, low department morale and a lack of training.

Jan. 6 – Exeter elementary and high school districts begin discussions of unification after a feasibility study estimates the new district would net $1 million over their individual revenues from the state, a threshold agreed to by the districts in previous talks.

Jan. 10 – Lindsay residents get more vocal in their opposition of the City’s plan to renovate Lindsay City Park.

Jan. 11 – Lt. Col. David Turner died at the age of 94. Turner was a celebrated war hero who overcame impossible odds to evade capture and return home after being shot down over occupied France in World War II. He was nearly captured by Nazi soldiers, suspected to be a German spy and nearly starved trekking through the Pyrenees Mountains before escaping through Spain. After the war, Turner was a local business owner, became a fixture in the Exeter Kiwanis Club and was a devout member of the Exeter First Baptist Church. He was Exeter’s Man of the Year in 1970.

Jan. 11 – Kaweah Delta Health Care District opened its new Woodlake Health Clinic at 180 E. Antelope Ave., the former site of the former Woodlake Family Health Clinic.

Jan. 21 – Snowden Elementary classmates Miguel Diaz and Rene Porras competed for the K-3 Tulare County Chess Championship. Diaz edged out Porras in the final round. Both are members of the extremely successful Farmersville Knights Chess program.

Jan. 24 – Lindsay City Council repealed the 25-year-old Lindsay Improvement District fee, which had become a tax on local businesses that forced them to join the chamber of commerce.

Jan. 26 – Former Strathmore resident Juni Fisher became the first woman to win the Western Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award. She also won Female Performer of the Year for the third time and Song of the Year for the second time.

Jan. 27 – Family Health Care Network opened its new 4,000-square-foot facility at 730 N. Farmersville Boulevard in Farmersville.

Jan. 28 – Lindsay Chamber of Commerce held its 100th annual awards dinner. Honorees were: Man of the Year, Alan Guire; Woman of the Year, Janie Castro; Organization of the Year, Lindsay Strathmore Coordinating Council; Volunteer of the Year, Hope Poteet and Kathy Rivas; Employee of the Year, Danny “Dan-O” Smith; Business of the Year, M&G Harvesting; President’s Award, Maria Knutson; Youth of the Year, Valerie Esparza; Curby Award (Recycler of the Year), Lindsay Unified School District.

Jan. 30 – Lindsay City Council voted to move forward with the extension of Sierra View Avenue through Lindsay City Park despite pleas from community groups, including Dolores Huerta, president and founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation. The road is the final hurdle in the City’s attempt to complete all plans for the renovation of the park.



Feb. 3 – Hal Munter, the voice of the Cardinals for more than 40 years, died at the age of 86. Munter was also a founding member and the only treasurer of the Lindsay Community Theater, a member of the Lindsay Kiwanis Club since 1960 and served as Lt. Governor for Kiwanis District 18, served on the Lindsay Unified School Board and the Healthy Start Healthy Lindsay Committee. Munter was Lindsay’s Man of the Year in 2005 and he and wife Helen were the Honored Couple for the 1994 Orange Blossom Festival.

Feb. 4 – Tulare County Fire Lt. Casey Lewis crawled into a black abyss of smoke to save Gary Dowds, 61, of Lemon Cove from a home fire just before he would have died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Feb. 6 – Attempts to recall four of the five members of the Lindsay City Council failed after organizers of the petition decided not to turn in the signatures on the morning of the deadline. Yolanda Flores, spokesperson for the group, said they were worried about protecting the confidentiality of those who signed the petition.

Feb. 8 – Newcomer George Sanchez was the swing vote in a 4-3 vote of the Woodlake Unified School Board to give themselves health benefits. Besides Sanchez, the vote was split with three elementary district board members in favor and three high school district board members opposed.

Feb. 11 – Asian Citrus psyllid, a citrus pest known to carry the devastating citrus greening disease, is found in an insect trap in an orange grove near Lindsay.

Feb. 13 – Farmersville City Council voted to update its fee schedule to replace declining tax revenues, loss of redevelopment agency.

Feb. 23 – Woodlake Rotary Club celebrated its 70th anniversary.

Feb. 27 – Dr. Desiree Rodgers, who practices at Kaweah Delta’s Pediatric Specialty Clinic in Exeter, was named an African American Woman of Distinction by the Department of Education for Black History Month.

Feb. 29 – The Exeter Chamber of Commerce held its 89th annual Awards banquet. Honorees were: Man of the Year, Chris Brewer; Woman of the Year, Judy Davenport; Business of the Year, The Foothills Sun-Gazette; Heritage Award, Jon and Robyn Stearns; Beautification Award, Exeter Woman’s Club; Curby Award (Recycler of the Year), Garuda International.



March 1 – Gerald Denni of Strathmore was named Vice Chair of Sunkist Growers board of directors during its annual meeting in Sherman Oaks, Calif. Denni is a citrus grower, general manager of Golden Valley Citrus and co-owner of Mittmn-Denni Citrus Management.

March 1 – Lindsay City Council and Lindsay District Hospital Board held a ribbon cutting for the $5 million Lindsay Wellness Center, 860 N. Sequoia Drive in Lindsay. The facility is built on the ground of the former Lindsay Hospital which closed in 2001.

March 1 – Strathmore High School wrestling coach Paul Corona III was arrested on charges of possession of child pornography after his cell phone containing explicit photos of a student and staff member were turned over to school officials.

March 1 – Strathmore High School graduate and Exeter resident Isis Frausto-Vicencio is selected to travel to the NASA Center for the National Community College Aerospace Scholars program.

March 2 – Danielle Elizabeth Downing, 23, of Farmersville was arrested in connection with the death of her newborn, who was found left in a trash can in October 2011.

March 3 – A committee made up of a cross section of the Woodlake Community held its 50th annual Awards Dinner. Honorees were: Man of theYear, Bill Lewis; Woman of the Year, Donna Fraser; Youth of the Year, Ivan Reynaga and Phoebe Castro; Lifetime Achievement Award, Frank Lupercio and Alice Fesperman; Business of the Year, Family Health Care Network; Youth Mentor Award, Mike Flores, Sr.; Community Organization Award, Camp Zap; Spirit of Woodlake Award, Tim Hire; Curby Award, Castle Rock School’s Knight Vision PTO.

March 3 – Exeter/Farmersville councils of the Knights of Columbus held its 21st annual Community Services Safety Recognition Dinner. Honorees were: California Highway Patrol, Brian Jones; Exeter Ambulance District, Ray Allen; Exeter Police Department, Randi Garcia; Farmersville Fire Department, Darrell Locke; Tulare County Fire Department, David Cornett; Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, Benjamin Quintana; Woodlake Police Department, Harmondeep Gill.

March 8 – Charles Richard “Dick” Hoskins of Lindsay died at the age of 79, but not before living an amazing and adventure-filled life. Hoskins investigated UFOs during his time in the U.S. Air Force, whitewater rafted into his 70s, went dog sledding along the Iditarod trail, kayaked in the arctic circle, sailed to Antartica as well as Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania.

March 14 – Exeter Police arrested 12 Exeter Union High School students for selling cocaine, marijuana and prescription drugs during an 8-month undercover operation. Officer Alex Salinas posed as a student named Johnny Ramirez during the operation. Among those arrested were Eli Perkins, Joseph Barba, Matthew Tidwell and Jorge Garcia, all of whom were at least 18 years old.

March 23 – Former Exeter Mayor Jesse Robinson died at the age of 79. Robinson was also involved in Boy Scouts, Exeter Masonic Lodge, Visalia Ramblers and was past president of the Exeter Police Reserve.

March 25 – City of Lindsay is informed it may only receive 35% of its normal water supply from the Friant-Kern Canal due to drought like conditions throughout the Valley.

March 29 – Melanie White of Exeter was named to “Business Street Online” e-zine’s 40 Under 40 list. White is a fourth generation Hellwig to work at Hellwig Products underneath owner Mark Hellwig, her father. Hellwig Products manufactures springs and sway bars for high performance off-road vehicles.

March 29 – Chad Appleton, 28, of Woodlake was killed after crashing a car near Elderwood that he and another had stolen from Tulare. The other man who stole the car, Chad Sagel, 20, of Visalia was left in critical condition following the crash.

March 29 – Sheriff’s Department received a call of a fire at an abandoned shop near Strathmore. Deputies discovered a burned body later identified as Jorge Luis Nunez Ayon of Bakersfield. Throughout the course of the next two months, Sheriff’s detectives would arrest four people in connection with the conspiracy to cover up and the murder of Ayon. Arrested were Eric Jiminez, 28, Matthew Campos, 23, both of Strathmore as well as Parrish Jones, 29, and Raquel Espinoza, 25, both of Porterville. Detectives learned that on the evening of March 28, Ayon was visting Espinoza at her home in Porterville. While there, Ayon was confronted by Jimenez and Campos. Jiminez accused Ayon of dating Espinoza, whom Jimenez said was his own girlfriend. A fight ensued and Jimenez and Campos repeatedly beat Ayon about the head and body and then strangled him to death, according to the Sheriff’s report. The three suspects loaded the victim into his own vehicle and transported him to abandoned building where he was set on fire. Jones helped burn the body and hide Ayon’s vehicle for several days until it was located burnt in an olive grove north of Strathmore.


April 1 – Work begins to lay fiber optic cables underneath Exeter and Farmersville as part of a federal project to build a broadband backbone through rural towns across America.

April 1 – Orange Blossom Junction restaurant, on Highway 198 just east of Exeter, closed its doors. Owners Doug and Lucy Long and Chef George Quilty took the former Merryman Station and transformed it into a gourmet restaurant with high-end entertainment, most notably guitar masters, movers and shakers.

April 4 – The Farmersville Boys & Girls Club moved back into the Farmersville Community Center after an earthquake retrofit was completed on the building. The club was asked to vacate the building in June 2011 because the City Engineer had deemed it was not up to code.

April 5 – Children’s Hospital Medical Director Phillip Hyden testifies at the preliminary hearing for Christopher Cheary, the Exeter man accused of raping and killing his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter, Sophia, in May 2011. A 25-year expert in the field of child abuse and child protection, Hyden calls the girl’s death “one of the worst cases I’ve seen in my career.”

April 9 – Lindsay Unified School District Board announces Assistant Superintendent Tom Rooney will be the district’s next superintendent.

April 10 – Exeter Union (Elementary) School and Exeter Union High School districts named Woodlake Superintendent Tim Hire as its new superintendent during a joint board meeting.

April 12 – Lindsay Community Theater’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” opens with impressive stage-stealing, man-eating puppet plant.

April 12 – Tulare County District Attorney’s Office announced it would not file any criminal charges against former Lindsay City Manager Scot Townsend and former Finance Director Kenny Walker regarding alleged fraudulent home loans after an expert with the Attorney General’s Office said there was no evidence of criminal activity. The review did not specify if the City of Lindsay had grounds for a civil suit against the former administers.

April 14 – Lindsay kicked off its 80th annual Orange Blossom Festival by crowning Mone Cha as Queen. Her OBF Court included Socorro Ambriz, Lyndsi Ibarra, Artie Serna, Jessica Hernandez and Valerie Esparza. The OBF Honored Person was Frances Loyd.

April 16 – Tulare County Superior Court Judge Melinda Reed orders the City of Lindsay to provide Steven Mecum with records and information he asked to see more than a year earlier. The Writ of Mandate filed by Mecum is sought documents regarding three primary issues: micro business loans, home loans and vacation reimbursement payments. While he did not receive some of the documents he requested, Mecum claims many were improperly redacted or incomplete. He said he received the city’s Enterprise Fund Applications for 2009-2010 and 2008-2009 but with missing pages; warrant lists, former City Manager Scot Townsend’s expense sheets and bills submitted by James Hunter Construction that were all improperly redacted.

April 17 – For the first time in 20 years, Farmersville residents stepped inside a public library in their own town. City Manager Renee Miller held a meeting in the Farmersville Public Library located in the northeast corner of the Farmersville Community Center.

April 17 – The City of Lindsay and the Tulare County Association of Governments announced they had reached a settlement agreement in the lawsuit regarding Lindsay’s misuse of $1 million in Measure R money during Lindsay’s Downtown Improvement Project 2008-2011.

April 25 – Woodlake Unified School District revotes on health benefits for themselves. Vote remains the same, 4-3 in favor of benefits.



May 3 – Woodlake Police arrested two Woodlake High School students for selling marijuana, prescription drugs during a 3-week undercover operation. Arrested were Steven Joseph Cruz, 18, and Martin Velasco-Ramirez, 18.

May 5 – Family Health Care Network celebrated the opening of its new 11,000-square foot clinic at 201 Lakeview Ave. in Woodlake with a health fair, bounces houses and performance by folklorico dancers.

May 7 – Dr. Christina Luna is hired as the next Superintendent of Farmersville Unified School District.

May 7 – Exeter Police Chaplain and founder of Mirror Image Ministries, Inc. in Exeter, 62-year-old Alton “Gene” Durrough, is arrested on suspicion of mulitiple counts of sexually abusing a young girl over several years.

May 8 – Highway 198, between Road 204 and Merhten Drive near Woodlake, was dedicated to Tulare County Sheriff’s Detectives Monty Conley and Joe Landin, both of Woodlake. The detectives were killed on Aug. 5, 1985 while investigating a narcotics case near Pixley.

May 10 – The world famous Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls trick roping and riding group and fourth generation cattle rancher Fred Gill arrive in London as part of an equestrian-based performance for Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, celebrating her 60th year as the reigning Enlgish monarch.

May 12 – Frances Sotomayor Ortiz was Grand Marshal of the 59th annual Woodlake Lions Rodeo Parade. Matlyn Matta of Woodlake was named the 2012 Rodeo Queen.

May 14 – Woodlake resident and native Ramon Lara is sworn in as Woodlake’s new City Administrator.

May 14 – Farmersville City Council votes to close half of the street at Freedom Drive and E. Citrus Street to allow traffic from Freedom Elementary School access to Farmersville Boulevard. The issue had divided the town between the City Council and School District and between residents who lived on the street, including two Councilmembers, and those who did not. No timeline was set to complete the action which is dependent on Farmersville Unified School District updating its Environmental Impact Report.

May 15 – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson visited Lindsay High School calling it a “role model” of progressive education.

May 18 – Elezar Castellanos, 26, and Bonifacio Cano, 18, both of Farmersville are among 18 people arrested in connection with a marijuana crime ring operating six illegal grow sites in Allensworth and Strathmore.

May 23 – UC Merced Small Business Development Center named TGN Distributing, Inc. in Exeter as Exporter of the Year. Owner Mark Hull exports remote control car parts all over the world from Exeter warehouse/hobby shop.

May 25 – Fifty-five students graduated in Strathmore High School’s Class of 2012. Valedictorian was Megan Pittman.

May 28 – Leo Mason was named Grand Marshal of the Farmersville Memorial Day Parade. Mason served two tours in Vietnam in the U.S. Army. He also served in the U.S. Navy.



June 1 – Svenhard’s Swedish Bakery announces plans to hire 40 employees and begin production at its 236,000 square foot facility on Industrial Drive in Exeter. The news comes 20 years after the Oakland-based company purchased the former Dixie Yarns manufacturing plant in 1992.

June 1 – About 200 students graduated in Exeter Union High School’s Class of 2012. Valedictorian was Alisa Carstens.

June 1 – Just over 200 students graduated in Lindsay High School’s Class of 2012. Valedictorian was Thalia Laguna.

June 6 – Woodlake Public Schools thanked Wayne Hardcastle for 20 years of service and Charles Mills for 22 years of service on the Woodlake Union High School District Board and John Kimber for 17 years of service and Debbi Baker for 14 years of service on the Woodlake Union (Elementary) School District Board. They were not elected or did not run for the seven seats on the new Woodlake Unified School District Board.

June 8 – A litte over 150 students graduated in Woodlake High School’s Class of 2012. Valedictorian was Kelsey Ruehling.

June 8 – A fire burns down the Sequoia Cider Mill Restaurant at 40311 Sierra Drive, a landmark in Three Rivers. Caught in the fire were an employee and her 13-year-old son. The woman survived but her son was killed. Some say the cider mill has been there for more than 100 years. Local historians have photos of the cider mill dating back to the 1940s. The fire was ruled an accident by Tulare County Fire investigators.

June 15 – A little more than 100 students graduated in Farmersville High School’s Class of 2012. Valedictorian was Brenda Rodarte.

June 18 – Work begins to repave one of Lindsay’s worst roads, Gale Hill Avenue, after months of resident complaints that the City has done little to repair the roads that need it the most.

June 28 – Country music trio Due West performs the first free concert of the KJUG Summer Concert Series in Exeter City Park.

June 29 – Janet Jones retires after 18 years as Superintendent of Farmersville Unified School District.

June 29 – Janet Kliegl retires after 14 years as Superintendent of Lindsay Unified School District.

June 29 – Renee Whitson retires after 16 years as Superintendent of Exeter Public Schools.

June 29 – Jim Pinkham, owner of Pinkham Properties in Exeter, dies at the age of 63. Pinkham is the grower responsible for picking and packing the world renowned Pinkham Hachiya Persimmons. Pinkham was a long-time member of the Exeter Lions Club and served on the Exeter Union High School District Board from 1982-1994.

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