The presidential election dominated national news and local discussion in 2012 as Ohio was bombarded by political ads and nonstop candidate visits.

The presidential election dominated national news and local discussion in 2012 as Ohio was bombarded by political ads and nonstop candidate visits.

But there was more than red and blue on the minds of Delaware residents this year, as the city and county began to sense an upturn in the local economy via new development and encouraging numbers.

Here's a look back at some of 2012's top stories in Delaware and the surrounding area.

Building optimism

Delaware County squared off in 2012 against Franklin County and came away with a big prize: the 80,000-square-foot Cabela's scheduled to open in 2013 just north of the Polaris Fashion Place off Interstate 71.

"We were in competition with Easton (Town Center) and other folks for the Cabela's, and we knew it," said county Commissioner Dennis Stapleton of the negotiations that eventually landed the outdoor recreation retailer. "It was a good example of a successful public-private partner-ship.

"Cabela's isn't just a store, it's a retail destination," Stapleton said. "It will bring not only construction jobs to the county but also retail jobs and management positions. Those are well-paying jobs. Plus, they are expected to do anywhere from $50 (million) to $100 million a year in sales. If you times that by 1.25, our sales tax, well, that's going to boost the county's coffers."

But the good news didn't stop with Cabela's: The county also lured Menard's to build on U.S. Route 23 in Orange Township, and Tanger Outlets to propose a 92-store mall at I-71's Sunbury/Delaware exit at Routes 36/37.

Though still in the early planning stage, the Tanger Outlets mall also is promising, Stapleton said.

"I'm more cautious about that only because we haven't even met with Tanger yet," he said, "but they are talking about 270 permanent retail positions, and, like Cabela's, an outlet mall can be a destination. People come to shop, stay overnight and then shop again the next day."

Stapleton said he recently attended a presentation by the Delaware County Convention and Visitors Bureau during which he learned the county generates "a billion dollars a year, that's a billion with a 'B,' in tourism. That's how important tourism is to us."

He said the explosive growth in the county over the past decade has "not been a matter of luck or happenstance. I've talked about this before, but it all comes down to planning. We had commissioners in the past with the vision to make sure we had a great water and sewer plan. We are blessed with outstanding infrastructure."

Stapleton mentioned several other county highlights from 2012, including:

* Coming to the aid of Concord Township residents in a dispute with American Electric Power about the construction of new power lines.

* Purchasing land for the Sawmill Parkway project.

* Funding a business incubator.

* Earning a $42,500 Justice Assistance Grant for prisoner re-entry into society, with a matching $14,166 contribution from the county.

* Instituting a new euthanasia method for the county dog shelter.

* Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Delaware County EMS.

* Planting cherry trees at Ohashi Technica to acknowledge the county's long-standing ties to Japan.

* The Ohio Machine professional lacrosse team opening its inaugural season, playing its games at Ohio Wesleyan University.

* Gaining the designation of Purple Heart County.

* Moving forward with the renovation of the Strand Theater in downtown Delaware.

* Being designated a "storm-ready county" by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In addition, about 70 new jobs were created when car-part manufacturer American Howa opened a new plant in April on Stover Drive in Delaware's Johnson Drive Industrial Parkway.

The company supplies parts to Toyota, Nissan, Honda and other car manufacturers.

City officials said the facility exemplifies Delaware's regional strength as a manufacturing hub.

GOP's county sweep

Though Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney couldn't defeat President Obama in November, Republicans swept Delaware County races on Election Day.

Republican Gary Merrell won out over Democrat John Hartman for the four-year term on the board of commissioners starting Jan. 2.

Incumbent Republican Ken O'Brien kept his seat on the board of commissioners after beating Democratic write-in challenger Richard Bird for a four-year term starting Jan. 3.

In the Statehouse, incumbent Republican Andrew Brenner held his seat against Democratic challenger David Hogan to represent the redrawn 67th Ohio House District.

Republican Margaret Ann Ruhl won a second term, beating Democrat John Ryerson to represent the redrawn 68th Ohio House District.

For the county recorder's job, incumbent Republican Melissa Jordan beat Democrat Rick Beer.

In one of 2012's many presidential campaign stops in central Ohio, Romney swung through Delaware in October for a rally at Bun's Restaurant.

Fun at the fairgrounds

Driver Scott Zeron and Michael's Power crossed the finish line first to become the 67th winner of the Little Brown Jug in September.

Tens of thousands crowded into the Delaware County Fairgrounds on Sept. 20 to watch the harness-racing event -- the second leg of the Pacer Triple Crown -- during a full day of horse racing.

The Jug punctuated a week of festivities at the Delaware County Fair, which featured the usual rides, games, food, animal and livestock showings, and plenty of racing and crashing at the fairgrounds' motorsports complex.

The fair rounded out its 197th year of festivities Sept. 22.

New leaders in law

A resignation in April brought on leadership changes at two local law enforcement agencies in 2012.

Former Delaware Police Chief Russ Martin took the reins of the Delaware County Sheriff's Office after he was appointed sheriff in May. The move expanded his jurisdiction to include the entire county.

He replaced former Sheriff Walter Davis, who resigned in April in a deal that ended his career in elective office and stopped an investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation into how and on whom he spent money during the 10 weeks last summer when he was at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.

Davis was reimbursed for money spent renting a car, parking at an Arlington, Va., hotel and dining out with others, according to receipts he filed with his office. He refused to answer questions about who he was with on those outings.

Meanwhile, Delaware Assistant Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski took on the role of interim chief until he was ultimately appointed chief in October following a five-month nationwide search by city officials.

Pijanowski, who started his career in Delaware, took the role after 24 years with the local police department.

Interchange upgrades

The Ohio Department of Transportation began construction in April to remove I-71's interchange with Routes 36/37 from a list of the state's most dangerous.

Completed this fall, the $4 million project added dual left- and right-turn lanes on the northbound and southbound exit ramps to Routes 36/37, eastbound and westbound right-turn lanes on the road and side-by-side single left-turn lanes on the bridge over I-71.

The changes were designed to alleviate congestion, particularly on the exit ramps. During rush hour on I-71, northbound traffic can back up more than a mile south of the exit onto Routes 36/37.

The interchange is the only exit along a 22-mile stretch of I-71.

Grave decision

Care and maintenance of Oak Grove Cemetery is now in the hands of Delaware city leaders after the independent board in charge of the site dissolved in September.

The cemetery board, which had controlled cemetery maintenance and operations since 1906, disbanded when the operation became financially unsustainable due to rising maintenance costs and the growing number of families opting for cremation over burial.

It officially handed the reins to the city Nov. 1.

City officials now are looking for ways to make the cemetery economically viable.

'No' to chickens

In the spring, Delaware officials spent months debating the rights of residents to raise chickens on city lots.

The debate came to a close in April when City Council voted unanimously to prohibit the keeping of chickens within city limits.

The ban does not apply to projects conducted by youths for 4-H and other agricultural societies.

YMCA's in charge

In January, Delaware handed over its recreational programming to the YMCA, whose Houk Road facility marked its first year of business in November.

The YMCA now oversees the city's Mingo Park facility as well as the city's parks and recreation offices.

Residents can sign up for programming on the YMCA website, where there is a place for public comments.

Leader recovering

Sunbury Village Administrator Dave Martin, known for his charitable work and his role as Father Christmas in Sunbury's holiday parade, was injured in a motorcycle accident Nov. 18 in Knox County.

The 62-year-old Martin's bike collided with a deer, sending Martin to the hospital with serious injuries. He is now recovering in a rehabilitation center.

Village officials know that his rehabilitation will take several months, but are hopeful he will make a full recovery.

Tom Sheehan contributed to this story.