At the close of 2011, the editorial staff at the Tribune Chronicle looked at the stories and newsmakers that it believed would grab headlines in 2012. They were:
Natural gas drilling and the money it could bring to the Mahoning Valley was a big story in 2011 that got bigger throughout 2012.
Kristi Gittins of Chief Oil and Gas shows a core sample of Marcellus shale that was drilled in Salladasburg, Pa.
Among the highlights were the hundreds of millions on dollars in mineral rights that landowners leased to energy giants BP America and Houston-based Halcon Resources, among others. Those deals were followed by BP's announcement that it is making North Jackson home to its Utica Shale Operations and plans to start drilling experimental wells by April 2013.
And just days before the new year, the first drilling rig in Trumbull County was erected in Hartford.
Along with the shale activity came protests, numerous town hall meetings and rallies against hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is the process used to extract the natural gas from the shale rock. Opponents claim that the millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals injected under high pressure into the wells could potentially destroy the fresh water.
Large-scale protests and demonstrations were staged at Mosquito Creek Reservoir in May and the future site of a horizontal well in North Jackson in October.
2. Doug Franklin, Mayor of Warren
The City of Warren said goodbye to Michael O'Brien, who was mayor for eight years, and welcomed Doug Franklin.
Franklin was chosen over Jim Graham during the primary election in 2011 and then ran unopposed in the general election to become the city's first African-American mayor.
Among the issues his administration has dealt with in the past year are the shuttering of eight massage parlors; the debate over whether to issue a new bond to finance the consolidation of city operations into a one stop building; the planned $3.1 renovation of the Kresge Building for the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center; the idling of the former RG Steel and layoff of more than 1,000 steelworkers; and a house fire that killed a family of four.
3. 2012 elections
The Mahoning Valley was a hot bed of political activity both on the national and local level.
Like it does every four years, the race for the White House brought well-knowns such as Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton, Speaker of the House John Boehner, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, his running mate, Paul Ryan, and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, among others.
A few area races also featured familiar faces ... and foes.
In the 64th District State House of Representatives, Tom Letson was challenged by Republican Randy Law - whom Letson, a Democrat, originally beat for the seat. And farther south, former U.S. congressman, Charlie Wilson challenged Rep. Bill Johnson for his old 6th District seat. The incumbents won in both cases.
The frenzy of the political season was evidenced by the increased number of voters who couldn't wait until Election Day to make their picks. In Trumbull County alone, nearly 29,000 voters cast early ballots, compared to about 25,000 in 2008.
4. V&M Expansion
V&M Star, Youngstown's new state-of-the-art pipe mill along U.S. Route 422, produced its first pipe and remains on track for sales production to begin by early 2013.
The seamless pipe to be produced in the mill will support the long-term development of shale exploration in the United States and especially northeast Ohio's Utica Shale.
Company officials have said the initial production capacity will be 350,000 tons of seamless pipes per year.
To build the pipe, the company has hired a work force needed to staff the new $650 million facility, creating a payroll of more than $46 million.
5. CSB Investigation
The story of child abuse and rape that led to an investigation of the Trumbull County Children Services Board culminated in the conviction of husband and wife Cody and Felicia Banks Beemer and the exit of the agency's director.
The rape occurred during what was supposed to be a supervised visit at the CSB office in April 2011, and the acts were reported after being recorded on a cell phone.
Felicia Banks Beemer was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison, and Cody Beemer was sentenced to 25-to-life.
CSB executive director Nick Kerosky was given a buyout in February, leaving his position amid the controversy.
6. Future of the Cruze
With the ongoing success of the Lordstown-built Chevrolet Cruze in 2011, expectations were high for GM going into 2012.
In November, the Cruze posted a 27 percent increase over sales in November 2011, helping the General Motors Co. record its highest November U.S. sales since 2007.
Prior to that, in August GM announced a $200 million investment to retool its Lordstown complex, a move that indicated increasing success for the Cruze.
Most of the investment is aimed at body retooling in the Lordstown plant, but also includes $20 million for upgrades to the Parma stamping plant, and GM officials have said the investment will help retain 5,000 jobs in Northeast Ohio.
According to a December report, Chevrolet remained the top-selling local make, with the Cruze outpacing all other models.
7. Raider football
Eyes were on new Warren G. Harding football coach Steve Arnold toward the end of 2011 and throughout 2012 as the Raiders made an impressive turnaround.
The team went from 2-8 to 9-1 in one season, earning a return to the Division I, Region 1 playoffs.
Arnold has said he wasn't surprised at the team's performance.
"Some people I saw in the summer and the fall said success would be 5-5," Arnold said. "I didn't take this job to go 5-5. I expect to win."
Arnold, a Warren native, had been the school's basketball coach since 2002 and assistant football coach from 1990 to '99.
The Raiders' improvement tied the biggest single-year turnaround in Harding's 120-year history.
8. Amish attacks trial
In a story that gained national attention, 16 Amish men and women from nearby Bergholz were tried and convicted of hate crimes - one of which was committed in Trumbull County.
Convicted of cutting the hair and beards of nine Amish men and women were Sam Mullet Sr., the leader of the group, and 15 other Amish, including Johnny S. Mullet, Daniel S. Mullet, Levi F. Miller, Eli M. Miller, Emanuel Shrock, Lester Miller, Raymond Miller, Freeman Burkholder, Anna Miller, Linda Shrock, Lester Mullet, Elizabeth A. Miller, Emma J. Miller, Kathryn Miller and Lovina Miller.
The attacks were said to have been committed due to religious differences between the victims and Mullet's breakaway group.
Sentencing is set for Jan. 24.
9. Valley horseracing
Plans to build a horse racetrack and video slot terminals in Austintown got a little giddy-up in 2012.
In July, Penn National Gaming Inc. filed an application with Ohio's racing commission to move its track from Toledo. It also applied with the state's lottery commission for the necessary licenses to have video slots on site.
The company, which plans to begin the education, training and hiring process early in 2013, has estimated the track could bring about 1,000 construction jobs as well as 1,000 more direct and indirect jobs.
The local track - to be known as the Hollywood Slots at Mahoning Valley Race Course - is expected to be open for business in early 2014 off Lanterman Road.
10. Execution on hold
Charles Lorraine was set to be executed in January for killing Raymond and Doris Montgomery in their Trumbull County home in May 1986.
Lorraine's execution was stayed, however, by a federal judge over concerns that the state deviated too often from its own rules for lethal injection.
A later ruling opened the door for other death row inmates to be executed. But for Lorraine to get back on the list, the stay would have to be lifted and the state Supreme Court would have to issue a new execution date.
In July, Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins said he was optimistic that the Ohio Attorney General's Office would soon file a motion to lift the stay still in effect for Lorraine.