One of the biggest local changes is at Naval Station Everett, where the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz is set to soon take the place of the USS Abraham Lincoln, an icon in Everett for the past 15 years.
The Nimitz and its crew of nearly 2,900 is still anchored in Bremerton where the carrier is undergoing repairs. It's expected to arrive in Everett in late February or early March.
Elections this year will bring change in Olympia.
For the past eight years, Gov. Chris Gregoire has held the top position in state government. She decided not to run for another term. Instead, state Attorney General Rob McKenna is the top Republican candidate, and Congressman Jay Inslee, who has represented south Snohomish County for years, leads Democratic candidates.
Those two will engage in a dogged, and likely expensive, campaign for the job.
As the state continues to wrestle with budget problems, important decisions could be made about how to fund teachers and classrooms. Will the state cut down on the school year? Will the state put more students in each classroom?
Here are seven of the biggest changes coming to Snohomish County:
1. USS Nimitz
Perhaps one of the most recognizable events will be the arrival of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz to Naval Station Everett.
Sailors aboard the carrier have spent the past year completing painting, tiling, welding and updating electrical and other systems on the carrier while it has been docked at the naval shipyards in Bremerton. They are ready to wrap it all up soon and come to Everett, Nimitz commanding officer Capt. Paul Monger said.
"The really big thing for us is to get out of the shipyard and back into operation," he said. "We're really excited about getting to where we can operate at sea and do the things that our sailors are trained to do."
The Nimitz, hull number 68, was commissioned in 1975 and homeported in Bremerton from 1987 to 1997. The carrier moved to San Diego, Calif., in November 2001. It called San Diego home until Dec. 2010 when it returned to Bremerton.
For Nimitz ombudsman Lindsay Baldwin the move to Everett means a new home for her family and new schools for her three children. They're on a waiting list for military family housing at Constitution Park in Lake Stevens and have visited schools in the area, she said. A shorter commute to Seattle is also a bonus, added Baldwin, 35.
"Bremerton has been very good to us but we've known all along that this isn't our home," she said. "It's a little bit exciting to go across the water and introduce ourselves."
The move also means her husband, Brett Baldwin, a chief aviation electronics technician aboard the Nimitz, will likely be deployed later this year.
"For me it means my husband is going to be gone and that's never fun, but he joined the Navy to do his job," she said. "I know he loves what he does."
As Nimitz' home port change coordinator, Ensign Eric Ehley helps sailors find any information they need about Everett including facts about housing and schools.
Like other sailors, Ehley said he's looking forward to coming to the city.
"We've done a lot of moving," said Ehley, 36. "It will be nice to get back to normal operations and get settled into a permanent residence."
The Boeing Co. crossed a few items off its 2012 to-do list early.
In December, Boeing reached an agreement with its Machinists union that decided where the company will build its 737 MAX jet, extended a labor contract that was set to expire in 2012 and got rid of a federal labor dispute.
All three were tasks that could have taken time away from Boeing's major goals for 2012: increase aircraft production across its programs and continue product development.
Having finally delivered its mostly composite 787 Dreamliner in 2011, the company this year will focus on creating the next version of its Dreamliner, the 787-9.
As for Boeing's other programs in Everett, the company has one major aircraft delivery left over from 2011. Boeing pushed back the first delivery of its upgraded 747-8 passenger plane, which is expected to be handed over early in 2012.
This year will also be one for Boeing to ponder the future of its Everett-built 777. Through delays on its A350 program, rival Airbus has given Boeing a reprieve on making a major decision about its popular widebody 777, which will see its 1,000th delivery in March.
Although Boeing signed an agreement early with its Machinists union, the company still has to negotiate a new contract with its engineers' union in 2012.
This year will also be a chance for the Port of Everett to regroup from a recession that wiped out its plans for a major waterfront development, reduced the boats using its marina, and cut back on international cargo.
The port had partnered with a developer who wasn't able to secure financing for a $400 million redevelopment of its marina district. In December, it approved a contract with Dykeman Associates not to exceed $511,000 to develop a new plan for the property and for reconfiguring 2,300 boat slips in the marina.
The plan will be developed after some public involvement, but the basic idea is to develop the property in phases, plan a variety of different uses and builders, and let boaters have a strong say. Other important issues for the port in 2012 include boosting cargo, attracting more boaters, finishing pollution cleanup and creating a new rail siding to connect its terminals with the nearby Burlington Northern Santa Fe line.
State lawmakers, Supreme Court justices, school trustees and voters will all have a say on how to pay for what goes on in public classrooms, from pre-school through college.
With the state facing a budget shortfall in excess of $1 billion, it's almost a certainty funding to public schools will be trimmed to help solve the problem.
Gov. Chris Gregoire has recommended shaving four days off the school year, slashing levy support payments to rural districts and paring millions of dollars in aid to colleges.
This month, the Legislature begins a 60-day session in which the 147 members will consider Gregoire's ideas as they grapple with how to plug the hole in the budget.
Washington's Supreme Court justices may make the job more difficult. They're expected to decide a case in which the state is accused of failing to adequately fund public education. If the justices conclude the state is coming up short, they could compel spending increase rather than decrease and they would cause a lot of havoc for legislators and the governor.
Voters, meanwhile, may be asked to help. Gregoire wants to put a measure on the ballot to hike the sales tax by a half-cent. She wants most of the dollars it generates used to prevent the cuts to schools and colleges.
Even if the sales tax measure doesn't reach the ballot, voters throughout the county will be asked to extend -- and maybe enlarge -- the property tax levies used to operate elementary and secondary schools in their communities. School districts in Edmonds, Monroe, Stanwood-Camano, Granite Falls, and Lakewood plan on asking voters to approve property tax levies on the Feb. 14 ballot.
Federal and state officials are expected to give the thumbs up or down later this year for the proposed partnership between two of Western Washington's largest health care organizations.
The business agreement would bring together Providence Health & Services, the parent organization to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, and Seattle-based Swedish Health Services.
The two health care organizations have combined revenues of $3.4 billion and employ thousands in Snohomish County.
Under the proposal, Swedish would join a newly created regional division of Providence Health & Services.
Swedish officials submitted documentation to the state Department of Health on Nov. 29. State officials will consider whether a more in-depth review, called a certificate of need, is required, said Donn Moyer, state health department spokesman.
The proposal also is being considered by federal regulators, including the Federal Trade Commission.
Voters in 2012 can shake up life as we know it.
The year's biggest political prize, of course, is the presidency, with the winner occupying the Oval Office for the next four years.
Locally, though, Washington's clout in Congress will grow as it gains a 10th seat in the House of Representatives. It's a pretty solid bet the Republican and Democratic parties will pour in money and pull out all the stops to capture it.
In the meantime, a new governor will be chosen and this year's race could be one for the history books.
Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee and Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna are the two heavyweights duelling to succeed Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is retiring. McKenna is out to become the state's first Republican executive since the 1980s while Inslee is trying to be the first person to go directly from the House of Representatives to the governor's mansion.
Incumbent state lawmakers may find re-election a little more challenging. Because of redistricting, they will be competing in newly configured districts where there will be gobs of voters who've never cast a ballot for them before.
Tax hike proposals could show up, too. State lawmakers may put increases in the sales tax and transportation-related taxes in front of the electorate.
Finally, who knows what Tim Eyman, Mukilteo's premier peddler of initiatives, will come up with this year.
6. Public Safety
People who live in south Snohomish County likely will learn more about a proposed regional fire authority.
For almost a year, seven cities and two fire districts have been working on a plan to create a new form of fire protective service. A regional fire authority, if eventually approved by voters, would replace city fire departments and county fire districts in some areas. Bothell may join the talks.
In early 2012, those who have been discussing the idea are expected to take a final show of hands for which agencies are committed to joining the fire authority once it comes to fruition. Some may have just been along for the ride and may not be ready to disband their current fire service agency.
The vote could be telling about the future of firefighting and emergency medical services in south county.
Regionalization also is under way for some police departments, primarily in east county.
As of Jan. 1, Snohomish's police force will be absorbed into the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office.
The sheriff's officer has contracts or partnerships for police services in a growing number of cities and towns, many of whom decided that the growing, unpredictable costs of law enforcement were best handled outside of City Hall.
Granite Falls is considering a sheriff's contract. It's likely a decision won't be made until mid-year, city officials said.
Currently, drivers on westbound Bickford Avenue in Snohomish must cross the eastbound side of U.S. 2 to reach westbound U.S 2. A bridge over U.S. 2 at Bickford Avenue will allow them to go over the highway and then merge on a new on-ramp.
A new off-ramp to Bickford for eastbound traffic is also part of the project, as is a new on-ramp for drivers going from Bickford to eastbound U.S. 2.
Work on the $19.7 million project is planned to start in the summer and finish in the fall of 2013.
Construction on the new, $39.1 million bridge over Ebey Slough on Highway 529 in Marysville is expected to be finished in 2012. The plan is to shift northbound traffic to the new bridge in April and southbound traffic to the bridge in August. The current bridge is scheduled to be demolished in 2013.
Also, the city of Marysville recently began work on a $9.8 million bridge that will link the opposite sides of I-5 at 156th Street NE. That project is scheduled to be done by August.
Other major projects scheduled for 2012 include construction of a roundabout at Highway 9 and Highway 531 in Arlington and continued work on the widening of Highway 522 south of Monroe. Completion of the widening is scheduled for 2014.
Herald reporters Mike Benbow, Jerry Cornfield, Michelle Dunlop, Rikki King, Sharon Salyer and Bill Sheets contributed to this report.
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