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TOP STORIES OF 2013 PART 1

A collage of photos from the top stories of 2013. - File Photo.
A collage of photos from the top stories of 2013.
— image credit: File Photo.

As 2013 comes to an end, the Renton Reporter staff is taking a look back at some of the stories that most affected our readers this year.

From the seeming conclusion to the library debate, to the murders of two residents by their grandson, to the sentencing of Jarrod Lane, to happier news like a new Renton Superintendnet and a run at the state tournament by both Renton basketball teams as well as an undefeated season by the Lindbergh Eagles football team, 2013 gave us all a lot to think about.

Here are some of the stories that we followed this year:

Merri Rieger named superintendent.

When Mary Alice Heuschel left her post as the Renton School District’s superintendent to become Gov. Jay Inslee’s chief of staff, she left some pretty big shoes to fill.

The previous year, Heuschel was named 2011 Washington Superintendent of the Year and had made numerous connections for the school district with her prominence and new spotlight on the district. Among other accomplishments, the district credited Heuschel with increasing high school graduation rates and working to close the ethnicity achievement gap.  Assistant Superintendent Vera Risdon was selected as the interim superintendent, with a career that started and would end in Renton.

The district conducted a nationwide search to fill the position and narrowed the field to six local candidates in March 2012. Merri Rieger, Kent’s chief student achievement officer, was among the six, who included Anthony Byrd, of Edmonds; Becky Berg, of Deer Park; Chrys Sweeting, of Puyallup and Flip Herndon, of Bremerton. Rieger was chosen among finalists Herndon and Sweeting.

The Renton School Board cited Rieger’s depth of experience and sense of vision for their selection.

Rieger took office July 1 in the district.

Renton church closes after 128 years

On June 30 the first church ever established in Renton held its final worship service and closing ceremony.

First Presbyterian Church of Renton, established in 1885 and later called Living Faith Presbyterian Church, closed unable to build membership and with rising building costs and limited amenities and experiences for church staff and its congregation.

At its height, the church had more than 650 members and was one of the largest Presbyterian congregations in the greater Seattle area. It was founded by George Whitworth, a former University of Washington president and founder of Whitworth College in Spokane. A split in ideology twenty-five years ago, fractured the membership, when about 450 members left to start their own church down the road. There were differences of opinions on the inclusion of women and gays in the ministry.

But the church continued on with scant numbers. New members did come to Living Faith, but not near as many as previous years. Church leadership decided that keeping the church was not appropriate, considering the changing demographics and shrinking congregation. The building at 2640 Benson Road is still used by a Latin American church and an Eastern European church.

Court declines to review Valley Medical Alliance

It was a newsy year for Valley Medical Center, a part of UW Medicine under a strategic alliance that’s under fire.

The Washington Supreme Court opted not to review a King County Superior Court judge’s decision about a year ago that the strategic alliance is legal, instead sending the case to the Court of Appeals.

The appeals court could take months to hear the case, leaving a legal cloud over the alliance. Meanwhile, Valley Medical Center and UW Medicine are working to implement the agreement, which has already brought new services to Valley.

The legal challenge was brought by the commissioners of Public Hospital District No. 1, which owns the hospital. The commission’s face changed this year. Anthony Hemstad moved out of the district and was replaced by Barbara Drennen. Dr. Tamara Sleeter unseated commissioner Sue Bowman. Dr. Aaron Heide is still a commissioner but resigned as an alliance trustee.

And Valley CEO Rich Roodman took a pay cut in his new contract and is looking forward to serving as a player/coach as he heads toward retirement.

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