Following is a recap of some of the most important news stories of the year.
► School board member demands investigation, residents respond by forming SCRAM!
A demand from a school board member for an investigation by the agency that accredits the Cherokee County School System sent ripples through the community this year.
Cherokee County District 1 School Board member Kelly Marlow sent a letter to the school accrediting agency AdvancEd on June 11, asking for a formal investigation into the school district, and residents responded by creating a group that hoped to oust the board member.
SCRAM!, or Smart Citizens Rally Against Marlow!, was created online June 19, and quickly gained speed. In six months, the group amassed more than 1,800 members.
AdvancEd found the Cherokee School District was not in violation of their policies, and the agency did not conduct a further investigation into the district as Marlow had requested.
The Cherokee Board of Education unanimously voted July 24 to hold an ethics hearing, and determined Marlow violated board policy by sending the letter to AdvancEd and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Marlow was sanctioned, and the board voted Oct. 2 to make her pay for a portion of the cost of her ethicviolation hearing— $3,600.
Marlow filed an appeal to the State Department of Education on Nov. 1, hoping to present her case to the state Board of Education and overturn the local sanction.
Meanwhile, a panel appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal determined on Nov. 14 that Marlow could remain seated on the school board as her felony indictment moved forward in court.
►Marlow, two associates arrested on felony charges
School Board Member Kelly Marlow became even more embattled when the Canton Police Department took out warrants for her arrest in July.
Police said Marlow, her political adviser Robert Trim and Cherokee GOP Secretary Barbara Knowles were charged after they allegedly falsely accused Cherokee school superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo of trying to run them over with his car after a school board meeting.
Marlow, Trim and Knowles turned themselves in at the Cherokee County jail days later. The three were indicted on Oct. 14 on multiple felony counts of each making false statements.
The trio has strongly denied that they did anything wrong, as has Petruzielo.
The alleged incident, which took place June 13, was caught on a video camera in downtown Canton.
The case against them stalled in court in November when the judge recused himself because his wife was a school teacher. Marlow and Trim were expected to plead not guilty during an arraignment hearing that was scheduled in late November when the judge made that announcement.
►Woodstock solider dies
U.S. Army Special Forces soldier Spc. Joshua “Jay” Strickland, 23, of Woodstock, was killed by an Afghan solider Sept. 21 while on duty in Afghanistan.
In November, the city of Woodstock honored Strickland, a former Etowah High School student, by adding the fallen soldier’s name to a list with 12 others on the veteran’s memorial at the Park at City Center, during its Veteran’s Day ceremony.
Strickland was one of three soldiers shot and killed by an Afghan solider during a training exercise in Gardez, Afghanistan.
He was buried Oct. 5 at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, Wash., where his wife, young child and two stepchildren lived.
The soldier’s mother, Beth Strickland Funk, said her son died fulfilling his life-long dream of serving his country.
►Bride dies in car crash hours after wedding
One day before the end of the year, tragedy struck when a Ball Ground woman was killed in a car wreck hours after her wedding.
Kali Shay Dobson, 25, was riding in the passenger seat of a Pontiac Firebird with her new husband, Ryan Patrick Quinton, 27, of Jasper, when the car overturned and she was thrown out, authorities said.
The couple had been married at the Wheeler House in Ball Ground just before the wreck.
Friends and family were devastated by the crash that killed Dobson, a former Pickens High student, just as she was off to begin the new chapter of her life with her husband.
►Tornadoes touch down
Two tornadoes touched down in Cherokee County on June 13, causing millions of dollars in damage and injuring nine people.
The National Weather Service classified both as EF-1 storms, with winds reaching more than 100 mph as they snapped dozens of trees, downed power lines and left thousands without power.
The first tornado moved through Canton about 7 p.m. with no warning, and the second hit south Cherokee near the Cobb County border about 30 minutes later, officials said.
The tornado in Canton struck just as the Cherokee County School Board meeting got underway that night, forcing those in attendance to take shelter along the walls of the historic Canton High School Board Auditorium as the storm passed.
Later that night, as emergency personnel worked to clean up the mess left by the tornadoes, School Board member Kelly Marlow and two of her associates were involved in the incident they were later charged in.
At least 50,000 Cherokee County customers were left without power, and many roads were closed due to fallen trees and debris.
Nine injuries were reported, but none were life-threatening, said Robby Westbrook, director of Emergency Services for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office. One man had to have 40 stitches for an injury he received in the Canton storm, he said.
►Outlet Shoppes opening draws thousands, interstate gridlock
As many as 25,000 people crowded The Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta on July 18, as shoppers from all over poured into Cherokee County to check out the new mall.
The crowds taxed area roads, backed up traffic toward Atlanta and exceeded expectations of mall developers and store operators.
By noon, the 1,781-car-capacity parking lot was already full, following the official ribbon-cutting and opening event at 10 a.m.
Traffic was backed up onto Interstate 575 at the RidgeWalk Parkway exit, causing long delays for motorists.
President and CEO Gary Skoien of Michigan-based Horizon Group Properties, who developed the mall along with CBL & Associates Properties, spoke to a crowd of hundreds at the ribbon-cutting event and said the “$85 million project” brought together government officials, private contractors, retailers, bankers and more.
The 370,000-square-foot shopping center opened with fountains, covered walkways, landscaped islands and about 90 stores, with space for an additional 30,000 square feet of expansion.
►County continues to shoulder Bobo burden
Cherokee County continued to address its troubles with Jimmy Bobo’s Ball Ground Recycling.
As Cherokee taxpayers remained stuck with the bill for $100,000 a month for Bobo’s defunct recycling operation, a forensic audit into the Resource Recovery Development Authority’s dealings with the company was conducted with a price tag of about $500,000.
Authorities began an investigation to find out if any criminal activity happened in the deal between Bobo’s business and the county to guarantee debt on $18 million in bonds to move the facility from Blalock Road.
Cherokee County also continued searching for a new operator for the vacant recycling operation.
►Aquatic center opens
With a price tag of $16 million, paid for out of the county’s voter-approved $90 million parks bond passed in 2008, Cherokee welcomed the county’s first and only aquatic center on May 9.
The Cherokee County Aquatic Center complex includes a 50-meter competition pool, an indoor 25-yeard recreation pool and an outdoor leisure pool with a water playground, two water slides, beach entry and pavilions and concessions.
Leaders said the parks bond not only improved the quality of life for residents, but would help attract more businesses to the area.
Cherokee Board of Commissioners Chairman Buzz Ahrens said the idea for the project dated back about 12 years, with a final, unanimous vote by the board to move forward with the project in late 2011.
►Woodstock teen severely injured in hit-and-run
Emily Bowman, a former Kennesaw State University student from Woodstock, sustained a severe brain injury when she was hit by a truck as she walked along a road in Athens in February.
Bowman, who was 19 at the time of incident, spent four months in hospitals in north Georgia, as many who were touched by her situation held fundraisers around Cherokee County to raise money for her family.
The man who police said hit Bowman and fled the scene, William Wilson Heaton Jr., 22, was later indicted by a Clarke County grand jury on 13 charges in June.
A week later, Bowman finally returned home but was bound to a wheelchair and unable to speak or communicate with her parents.
►Uncle Si scarecrow saga
The small city of Ball Ground gained national attention when a scarecrow based on a character from the popular TV show “Duck Dynasty” went missing from Main Street in downtown Ball Ground on Oct. 17.
The Uncle Si Robertson scarecrow was entered into the city’s first scarecrow contest by the Ball Ground Elementary School fourth-grade classes, and when it went missing, police offered a $1,000 reward for information.
Authorities were tipped off by a resident who saw the scarecrow on a local front porch, and police found that a Canton teen had stolen the scarecrow while passing through Ball Ground.
Ball Ground Police Chief Bryon Reeves said the teen got nervous after taking the scarecrow and burned it to try and get rid of it, but police located the scarecrow scraps near a burned area of grass.
A week after the original scarecrow was stolen and destroyed, a new Uncle Si scarecrow appeared on the downtown sidewalk, thanks to an anonymous donor.
The new scarecrow stood on Main Street next to a bale of hay where the old scarecrow once sat.