From high-profile downfalls of public officials to a horrific quadruple shooting, to game-changing investments in downtown and lingering debate over an Indian school mascot, a number of headlines topped local news coverage for the Waterville area in 2015.

In Waterville, perhaps the two biggest stories this year — the ouster of former high school principal Don Reiter and the mounting investments in the city’s downtown — have offered a stark contrast.

The city has also enjoyed lots of promising news for the heart of its downtown. A Massachusetts technology company, Collaborative Consulting, announced earlier this month it would open a business in the Hathaway Creative Center building with hopes of adding 200 jobs over the next few years. The company also plans to work with Colby College, Thomas College and Kennebec Valley Community College in offering staff training and professional development.

News of the potential job boost came on the heels of several other downtown projects that officials say amounts to a wider vision for development in the area. Colby College this year purchased three vacant and deteriorating buildings on downtown’s Main Street with plans to help revitalize the area, while Bill Mitchell, owner of GHM Insurance Agency, also purchased historic buildings on Common Street so they can be renovated and used.

Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro has pointed to these and other revitalization efforts this year to say the city is on a promising path with significant economic and cultural development and investments.

In the Reiter case, the celebrated and beloved principal was suddenly put on administrative leave at the start of the school year for an unspecified reason. After nearly three months of uncertainty, hearings before the Waterville Board of Education revealed that Reiter had been accused of asking an 18-year-old female student for sex.

The school board voted Nov. 16 to fire Reiter, who later decided not to appeal the decision. The trouble isn’t over for Reiter, who was also charged with a misdemeanor count of official oppression, with District Attorney Maeghan Maloney saying she believes the former principal abused his position of power in soliciting sex from the student.

Meanwhile, two former students of Reiter from New Ipswich, New Hampshire, have also alleged inappropriate relationships with Reiter. Those allegations remain unresolved as police in both Waterville and the New Hampshire town investigate.

PUBLIC OFFICIALS IN SPOTLIGHT

While the Reiter case drew attention to the former principal of Waterville’s high school, it was one of several stories in 2015 that highlighted concerns over the misuse of authority and power by public officials.

In Anson, former Tax Collector Claudia Viles stands accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in excise tax money over several years. She resigned from the job in September after being indicted on criminal charges in connection with the allegations, which have spotlighted a situation in which Viles had total control over the tax-collection office with little oversight.

She has pleaded not guilty to 13 fraud-related charges, which came after a town audit revealed money missing from municipal accounts in 2014.

Even as the allegations against Viles mounted this year, town officials said they couldn’t take any action against Viles because she was elected to her job. In response, the town held a special town meeting and voted to change the tax collector position from an elected to an appointed position.

In New Vineyard, longtime town administrative assistant Arlene Davis resigned after selectmen wouldn’t give her a new contract, a move that later revealed the town had not been keeping meeting minutes as required by state law.

The chairwoman of the select board subsequently admitted the town had violated the state’s open records law and pledged not to do so anymore.

STUNNING DEATHS

In Oakland, the community was stunned by a shooting the night of Nov. 4 that left four people dead, including the shooter, and authorities say they still do not have a motive for the killing and may never know why.

Sisters Amanda Bragg, 30, and Amy DeRosby, 28, as well as Michael Muzerolle, 29, were killed when Herman DeRico, 42, opened fire with a handgun in the 41 Belgrade Road house the four lived in. After killing the three adults in the building’s first-floor apartment, DeRico shot and killed himself in the driveway. Bragg and Muzerolle’s 3-year-old daughter, Arianna, was the only survivor of the shooting.

Four days after the shooting, hundreds of people gathered for a candlelight vigil at the Oakland boat launch to honor the memories of the victims and show solidarity as a community.

Meanwhile, another killing resulted in the state’s longest ever manhunt this summer. Robert Burton, of Abbot, ultimately turned himself in to police and has been indicted by a Piscataquis County grand jury on a charge of murder in connection with the death of Stephanie Gebo.

Gebo, 37, a single mother of two, was shot to death June 5 at her home in Parkman. She had broken up with Burton a week earlier and was so afraid of him that she had changed the house locks and slept with a handgun under her pillow, police said.

On Oct. 16, the mysterious disappearance of Geraldine Largay in 2013 was brought to closure, when the Maine Warden Service announced it had found the skeletal remains of the missing Appalachian Trail hiker. The remains of the Tennessee woman were found in a wooded area in Redington Township two or three miles from where she was last seen in July 2013.

The state medical examiner later determined that Largay’s death was accidental, the result of lack of food and exposure to the outdoor elements. Even so, authorities say they don’t know exactly where Largay got off the trail and may never know why.

OTHER CONTROVERSIES

The controversy over the use of Skowhegan High School’s Indian nickname and mascot for sports teams has continued to grab headlines even after the school board narrowly voted to keep it. Critics of the nickname include the Penobscot tribe, who have called on school officials to drop the name because they say they’re offended to have their ancestral image displayed as a sports mascot.

Following the vote, supporters and critics of the mascot have held dueling rallies and written letters and petitions aiming to buttress their positions on the issue.

In June, controversy erupted in the wake of two separate carnival ride accidents in Waterville put on by Smokey’s Greater Shows. A woman and three children received minor injuries from the accidents, and the carnival company and an employee were later charged by the Office of the State Fire Marshal in connection with the incidents.

The accidents raised questions about how carnival rides are inspected in Maine and how fire marshals go about reviewing the safety measures of the ride operators.

In September, the Oakland Police Department announced it was trying to get Facebook to take down a page that threatened to post nude photos of underage local girls including students at Messalonskee High School.

Several such pages, called “The Purge of Maine,” were taken down by Facebook, but the incident sparked an outpouring of criticism on social media and launched investigations by several law enforcement agencies around the state. Authorities never identified a suspect in connection with the pages.

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