By Samantha Joseph
MARTIN COUNTY -- The fabled Mayan apocalypse was a no-show, but 2012 was still a big year for news in Martin County.
The area was a political stomping ground for several candidates on the national scene, including former house speaker Newt Gingrich. It also attracted $1.7 million in state funding for projects including support for work by ARC of Martin County, Alzheimer's Community Care, New Horizons of the Treasure Coast, Midwifery Services and the Elliott Museum.
Other funding coups included a $750,000 allocation for the Colorado Avenue business district.
Making the headlines were everything from shark attacks, projects with national implications, heated commission hearings and the death of an international icon.
This year also marked Hometown News' 10th anniversary and its growth in the last decade from a four-edition paper to one that covers about 250 miles on Florida's east coast.
Here's a look back, in no particular order, at some of the biggest Martin County stories of 2012:
Monkees front man dies of heart attack
On the last day of February, Davy Jones, 66, the 1960s teen idol who was lead singer for the Monkees, died from a heart attack suffered in Indiantown.
His publicist Helen Kensick said Mr. Jones kept a stable of horses locally and was involved with several nonprofits, including the Indiantown Education Coalition's annual fundraiser.
Mr. Jones sang with the Monkees from 1965 to 1971. Their hits included "I'm a Believer," "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and "Daydream Believer." He suffered the heart attack at 9955 S.W. Fox Brown Road and later died in hospital at Martin Health System.
Investigators make arrest in 19-year-old cold case
A former Stuart resident is jailed charged in the disappearance of Gail Parsons, a 10-year-old who disappeared on July 11, 1993.
On Nov. 29, detectives arrested Chester Duane Price, a 42-year-old convicted felon, and charged him in connection with the girl's disappearance.
Andrea disappeared after she went to buy candy from the neighborhood convenience store.
Based on a nearly two-decades-long investigation, detectives felt they had enough evidence to present to the state attorney's office for review and prosecution. A grand jury convened, which indicted Mr. Price.
Shark attacks swimmer
Beach goers got a scare when a bull shark attacked a man surfing at Jensen Public Beach in March.
Martin County Ocean Rescue closed the beach several times during the day after multiple shark sightings.
Rescue workers said the man suffered several bites on his left arm. The attack spurred reports of increased shark sightings in the area.
Dredging the St. Lucie Inlet
Commissioners approved a $6.4 million contract with Norfolk Dredging Company of Virginia to remove shoaling, or sand build up, in the inlet. The goal was to restore the natural flow of water moving from north to south.
Engineers said excessive sand accumulation would eventually block the waterway, closing it to boats and hurting the area's fishing and tourist industries.
Norfolk Dredging undertook the project Jan. 24 with a goal to remove 300,000 cubic yards of sand from the inlet.
The firm completed the work ahead of schedule, leading commissioners to approve further dredging to remove an additional 150,000 cubic yards of sand.
o Wedding planner accused of jilting brides
A 52-year-old Palm City businessman gave several area brides an unpleasant surprise when he "disappeared into thin air" with their deposits.
More than a dozen clients accused Marc Bergeron of absconding with their deposits, leaving them facing the prospect of cancelling weddings, birthday parties and other events for which many of them had paid in full.
Law enforcement officers caught up with Mr. Bergeron in Texas. Arlington authorities arrested him following a routine traffic stop that led to the discovery of outstanding warrants in Florida.
The one-time wedding planner faces charges of committing an organized scheme to defraud, as well as an unrelated charge stemming from violation of probation for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Crackdown on pain clinics increases use of homemade drugs
A crackdown on illegal drug dissemination at some regional pain clinics had an unintentional consequence, leading to an increase in the use of methamphetamines.
Law enforcement sources said prescription monitoring is making it difficult for addicts to obtain controlled substances, so some are manufacturing their own drugs.
In Martin County, investigators from the sheriff's office and Drug Enforcement Administration busted their third meth lab on Nov. 29, after executing a search warrant at a Palm City home. Two months earlier, detectives with the special investigations unit arrested two people for manufacturing methamphetamine at a Stuart motel.
General election ushers in several new officials
The 2012 elections brought runaway victories for some candidates and bitter contests for others. In the end, several newcomers ushered out the old guard.
During the Republican primary last August longtime school board member Laurie Gaylord won the race for superintendent over incumbent Nancy Kline.
During the general election, State Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, trounced his opponent, write-in candidate Trent Wetherald to capture nearly 96 percent of the vote for Martin County Sheriff.
But in the District 2 school board seat, a runoff election led Marsha Powers to a win over Tony George, who waived his right to a recount.
After more than 79,400 of the county's 101,800 registered voters participated in the election, District 1commission contender Doug Smith, District 83's Gayle Harrell and District 82's MaryLynn Magar all defeated write-in candidates.
In Stuart, longtime community leader Eula Clarke regained her commission seat and fellow commissioners later named her mayor.
o Long-time leaders depart
The year also saw the departure of long-serving law enforcement officials and Stuart's fire chief.
After nearly 14 years in the position, Stuart Police Chief Edward M. Morley retired Sept. 30. Longtime Assistant Chief David Dyess took over the job Oct. 1.
Also departing from the city was its first female fire chief, Lori Sunderman, who retired Nov. 30. Assistant Fire Chief David Dyal stepped into the role of interim chief during a ceremony on Dec. 1.
Also leaving a longtime job was Sheriff Robert Crowder, who was one of the region's longest serving sheriffs. He is set to leave office Jan. 7, after a failed bid for U.S. Congress.
o Boaters uncover huge cocaine stash
One of the biggest drug busts of the year came not for intense investigations but a discovery from unsuspecting boaters.
Three boaters fishing about 8 miles northeast of the St. Lucie Inlet hauled in the nearly 42-pounds of cocaine when they recovered an unattended package they found floating in the water.
Deputies conducted a search of the area and were unable to locate any other vessels. But they did seize the cocaine and scheduled it for destruction.
Commissioners pay tribute to longtime leader
A former state legislator's love of a local landmark led county commissioners to rename it in his honor.
William G. "Doc" Myers, a longtime Hobe Sound resident, was a frequent visitor to the South County Ball Park, and following a vote last July, commissioners renamed the recreational site in his honor.
Now called the William G. "Doc" Myers Park, the site sits on 25 acres, located at 10000 S. Dixie Highway.
Mr. Myers died in 2010 at age 79. He was an area physician, who served as a Martin County commissioner in the 1960s and '70s, in the state house from 1978 to 1982 and in the state senate from 1982 to 2000.
oLong-time plan envisioned
Regional planners are working on a 50-year economic development plan for Martin and six other counties in Southeast Florida.
Several planning groups are working on a plan for Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
They've called the plan Seven50, and say it is a blueprint for prosperous communities, a cleaner environment, improved education systems, more efficient transportation and stronger economies for the participating areas