Cache Valley Daily’s top stories of 2020

LOGAN – It goes without question that the top story that weaved its way through each aspect of everyday life through the majority of 2020 was the coronavirus pandemic. The editorial staff of Cache Valley Daily has weighed in and voted on what they felt were the other top stories of the year. The stories that were selected chronicle both tragedy and triumph, community and controversy. Without further ado, our top stories for 2020.

1 – Coronavirus pandemic affects everyday life in Cache Valley

Every aspect of life in Cache Valley was affected in some form once with coronavirus pandemic hit. The disruption affected schools, business, entertainment, sports and more. To date, the virus has claimed the lives of nearly 50 residents in Cache, Box Elder and Rich counties. Hundreds of residents have been hospitalized and thousands more have had to face quarantines and isolation due to contact tracing. Eight months after the virus was formally detected in Utah, it still plays a role every day in the lives of residents throughout the region.

2 – Notable, longtime public officials retire

After serving Cache County for over 30 years, Clerk/Auditor Jill Zollinger surprised county officials with her retirement announcement on August 20th. Zollinger began working in the Clerk’s office in 1989 and successfully ran for office in 2000. Zollinger’s retirement set off a chain reaction in political seats. She was replaced by Logan City Councilmember Jess Bradfield, which caused the Logan City Council to ultimately select Ernesto Lopez to fill Bradfield’s seat.

Zollinger was not the only public official to retire after a long stint in an important position. Lloyd Berentzen announced he, too, would be stepping down this year after nearly 20 years as the Executive Director of the Bear River Health Department. He will remain with the department until April 1, 2021. Berentzen will be replaced by Jordan Mathis.

3 – Murder-suicide in Providence

In July, a Providence man killed his wife before taking his own life at another residence in town. Residents of Deer Creek Apartments were asked to shelter in place late in the evening of the Pioneer Day holiday while officers tried to track down the killer of Heidi Bentley. Matthew Bentley was found shortly after with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Three children, who were inside the apartment at the time of the shooting, are now left without parents. Family members launched fundraising efforts to help the children after the incident.

4 – Coaching controversy within the Utah State University football program

Just three games into a rocky season, Director of Athletics John Hartwell announced he was letting go of Gary Andersen as the head coach of the USU football team. Frank Maile would take over as the interim coach to finish the season, which ended prematurely after a player boycott. The players were upset that Maile was not given a fair shot at being named the permanent head coach, and that university President Noelle Cockett made comments they felt illustrated cultural and religious bias. Hartwell was involved in the meeting with players and Cockett, but has remained silent on the issue. The USU Board of Trustees, as well as Utah’s Board of Higher Education called for an independent investigation into Cockett’s remarks. Maile has also called for an investigation into the comments.

On December 10th word spread that Arkansas State head football coach Blake Anderson would be the next head coach at USU. He was formally introduced on December 14th in the middle of the controversy surrounding Maile and Cockett.

5 – Logan City Police dismiss Miguel Deras from police force

In the fall of 2019, Logan City Police Chief Gary Jensen defended the hiring of former University of Utah police officer Miguel Deras. But as investigations revealed Deras’ actions with sensitive photos of University of Utah athlete Lauren McCluskey, Jensen ultimately decided to terminate the employment of Deras with the Logan City Police Department in August. Logan City launched their own investigation of Deras‘ actions in May. McCluskey’s family filed a lawsuit against the University of Utah for how it handled their daughter’s reports of extortion before she was murdered by Melvin Rowland in 2018.

6 – Logan City scales down plans for Center Block development

The proposed development of the former Emporium building and surrounding properties in downtown Logan remains a hot topic for Logan City officials and downtown business owners. The design and scope of the project, including controversial parking plans behind it, continued to be discussed by Mayor Holly Daines, the Logan City Council and the Logan City Historic Preservation Committee.

7 – Mask mandates cause controversy

Politicians mandating residents wear masks creating controversy at the state and local levels. Doctors and epidemiologists praised the effectiveness of masks, while proponents of personal choice pushed back. Logan City instituted its own mask mandate in July and August as the area had been hit with an outbreak. Mask wearing eventually became a standard way of life in order to keep businesses, churches, cultural events and sporting events open.

8 – Community responds to food pantry and non-profit needs during pandemic

Major, organized food drives for the Cache Community Food Pantry were cancelled in the spring and the fall because of the pandemic. But that didn’t stop the community from coming together to donate food and money to help those in need. The Cache Valley Media Group and other organizations sponsored drive up and drop off food drives and even food parades, resulting in larger-than-expected donations to the pantry. Other non-profits also saw the community come together after traditional fundraising events had to be cancelled or altered.

9 – North Logan’s Kenadi Dodds makes it all the way to America’s Got Talent finale

North Logan teen Kenadi Dodds had a magical run on network television‘s America’s Got Talent. She wowed NBC’s judges with her country music style, impressing with her voice, her skill at the piano and with the guitar. Dodds drew comparisons to a young Taylor Swift and made it all the way to the finals. The Dodds family was featured several times during her multiple performances, bringing awareness to their struggle with blindness.

10 – Logan crash critically injures 4 teens

Four teenagers were traveling through Logan Canyon on their way home from a family trip to Bear Lake this summer when an intoxicated Dustin Anderson swerved into oncoming traffic and collided head on with their vehicle. The 45 year-old had a blood alcohol content level was five times the legal limit. The accident critically injured each of the four teens, resulting in one being paralyzed and another requiring amputations.

Honorable Mentions

Some stories did not make our top 10, but are still worth mentioning.

  • Random Acts performance series preserves live entertainment in Cache Valley.
  • Northern Utah notables pass away in 2020, including Larry W. Miller, Jennie Christensen, Kelly Rindlisbacher, Allen Dee Pace, A.C. Christensen and others.
  • Voter turnout for both the 2020 Republican Primary and General Election shatter previous records
  • Local politicians played prominent roles on statewide political stage, including Providence resident Daren Parry who ran for 1st District Congress; Nibley resident Karina Brown ran for Lieutenant Governor; and, Lewiston resident Craig Buttars has been appointed to serve as the new commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
  • Small Satellite Conference goes virtual at Utah State
  • Park Valley man tries to solve mysteries of pioneer cemetery
  • Tremonton dedicates mural to “Candy Bomber” Gail Halvorsen as he turns 100 years old

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