Lake Havasu City’s Year in Review

December 31, 2018

Today is the last day of 2018. The end of the year is a natural time for reflection, and 2018 gave us a lot to think about. Politics loomed large at all levels of government, through two elections. Teachers and the state of education in Arizona took center stage during election season, but Arizona’s two Senate seats also got a lot of attention with the death of John McCain and the retirement of Jeff Flake. Locally, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the London Bridge’s arrival in Lake Havasu City. Lake Havasu High School got a big beautiful new football field amid a flurry of infrastructure changes in our schools. Those are just a few of the stories that captured our attention this year.

Today’s News-Herald newsroom staff agreed that the stories presented here — in no particular order — represent some of the most important, or at least some of the most interesting, events that occurred in Lake Havasu City in 2018. The list is by no means supposed to be objective, nor is it all inclusive. Chances are, you have a different idea about what the top stories of the year were. If that’s the case, we hope you’ll share your list with us. Go to HavasuNews.com and click on the “year in review” link to leave a comment.

In the meantime, thanks for a wonderful year, and have a happy — and safe— 2019.

1. Elections and Politics: With big elections in August and November, it was hard to escape politics this year. Sen. Jeff Flake’s announcement last fall that he wouldn’t run for re-election created something of a political circus as Lake Havasu City physician Kelli Ward, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Tucson Congresswoman Martha McSally battled in a sometimes-nasty race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. McSally ultimately won the race in August, going on to face Kyrsten Sinema in November’s general election. Sinema won that race in a close count to become Arizona’s first elected female senator. Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain’s death marked the end of an era for the state. His loss in the Senate, right in the middle of the high-profile election to replace his counterpart, kept political watchers guessing about what might happen next. They didn’t have to wait long: Gov. Doug Ducey appointed former Sen. Jon Kyl to fill McCain’s seat until the end of the year, and with the election in the rear-view mirror in December, Ducey appointed McSally to fill McCain’s seat until the end of his term in 2020. In state races, Lake Havasu City and Mohave County saw a contentious race for state representative, with Leo Biassiucci, Jennifer Jones, Paul Mosley and Regina Cobb running to fill two seats in the state House. Cobb ultimately held on to her seat, and voters chose Havasu resident Biassiucci to replace Mosley. State Sen. Sonny Borrelli easily won his seat back against a challenge by Democrat J’aime Morgaine.

2. 50 years of the London Bridge: This year marked 50 years since Robert McCulloch’s big idea that put Lake Havasu City on the world’s radar. McCulloch’s purchase of the London Bridge in the late 1960s got plenty of attention and helped kick-start Havasu’s reputation as a tourism town. The bridge was dismantled from its former home over the Thames in 1968 and moved, brick by brick, to its new home in Lake Havasu City. The foundation stone was laid alongside the Colorado River in 1968. This year, Havasu celebrated the milestone in a big way, inviting the Lord Mayor of London to participate in a ceremony under the bridge, complete with a traditional sheep-crossing ceremony attended by Gov. Doug Ducey and other state politicians.

3. Water fights: Mohave County found itself locking horns with a small irrigation district in Mohave Valley over water rights that were being considered for sale to the Central Arizona Project. The county ended up buying land within the district and threatening legal action to prevent the water sale.

4. State Parks: Construction of state parks around Lake Havasu continued, most notably the continued development of the Havasu Riviera, which includes a new boat ramp. However, it was later revealed that some of the work at Lake Havasu State Park could have destroyed some archaeological sites. That controversy eventually led to the firing of Arizona State Parks Director Sue Black.

5. New football field for LHHS: It might have cost a lot more than planned, but Lake Havasu High School football fans were happy to celebrate home games in a brand new stadium at Lee Barnes Field this fall. The $8 million project included a FieldTurf field, new bleachers, lighting and concession stands.

6. New Mayor: Lake Havasu City Mayor Mark Nexsen decided to retire after three terms in office, setting the stage for his successor, Cal Sheehy, who was elected in the August primary elections. Sheehy, 38, is a graduate of Lake Havasu High School and works as general manager at London Bridge Resort.

7.F-16 makes a crash landing: In April, an Air Force F-16 jet diverted from its training exercise to make an emergency landing in Havasu. During the landing, the jet ran off the runway and through the airport’s north fence, while the pilot safely ejected. The $25 million F-16C aircraft was assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing. The plane’s nose cone became detached during the crash, as did the front portion of the canopy.

8. Deadly crash at Desert Storm: Tragedy hit this year’s Desert Storm poker run after three people, all Lake Havasu City residents, were killed in a boat crash after the official races were over. Brad Kloepfer, 57, his wife Connie Davis Kloepfer, 58, and Paul Selberg, were killed when their boat, The Lickity Split, a DCB M35 Widebody 35-foot catamaran, crashed on the water.

9. Mosley makes headlines: Lake Havasu City State Rep. Paul Mosley got worldwide attention when a video was made public of a traffic stop in which he bragged to the La Paz County Sheriff’s Deputy who pulled him over that he regularly drives up to 140 miles per hour on State Route 95. The deputy reportedly clocked Mosley driving 97 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone near Parker, but the state legislator wasn’t cited after he claimed “legislative immunity,” a perk of office that allows legislators to postpone certain legal proceedings. After much criticism, Gov. Doug Ducey signed an executive order making it clear law enforcement officers can cite lawmakers and other elected officials when they break traffic laws. Mosley later lost his bid for re-election and he’s still awaiting trial for the citation.

10. Havasu gets an Oscar nod: In February, Lake Havasu City’s Days Inn received hundreds of phone calls after comedian Jimmy Kimmel offered Oscar nominees the chance to win an all-expense paid stay at the hotel…if they could keep their acceptance speeches short.

Kimmel hosted the 90th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday evening, when he offered the nominee who gave the shortest acceptance speech a free Kawasaki Jet Ski, as well as a two-day, three-night stay at Havasu’s Days Inn. The winner of Kimmel’s “competition” was costume designer Mark Bridges, who won his second Academy Award for his work on 2017 film, “Phantom Thread.”

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