The blanket of economic pain covering the North Coast for three long years started to lift in 2012 as the battered housing market began to revive and more people found work again.
But those welcome developments seemed at times to occur at a painfully slow crawl. By contrast, the Petaluma Little League all-stars delivered an exhilarating experience that passed all too quickly.
The team of 12- and 13-year-olds made a historic, improbable run to the national Little League World Series title game, ultimately finishing third in the world.
That innocent pleasure cast in dark relief the admission by hometown cycling celebrity Levi Leipheimer that he had been part of a doping ring managed by Tour de France legend Lance Armstrong and his team's managers.
Rohnert Park occupied an unusually large place in the year's news, as the place where two long-held and controversial visions achieved reality. Sonoma State University opened the Green Music Center to the public. And across town, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria broke ground on what is set to be the Bay Area's largest casino.
In government, circumstances appeared at times to be nears intractable, as Sonoma County officials made incremental progress in their attempts to come to grips with a heavy public pension burden while facing off with employees resisting further cuts.
In other political arenas, there was swifter change.
November's elections remade the county Board of Supervisors, toppled influential Democrat Assemblyman Michael Allen and elevated a familiar face to replace retiring Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, who stepped down after 20 years in Washington.
Movement was recorded on the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit commuter train system. Nearly four years after voters approved tax increases to pay for it, the train agency started laying and renovating 38.5 miles of track.
Troubling trends were evident in Santa Rosa schools, where an analysis of data showed that school choice policies have led to schools that are increasingly segregated by race.
And for pedestrians and bicyclists, the roads continued to be too unsafe, with the tally of deaths and injuries growing to the point that advocates pushed successfully for new laws.
By year's end, the unemployment rate in Sonoma County, the key marker of economic pain, had declined to 7.7 percent as employers added 8,300 jobs through the year.
That was a marked improvement over the 9.9 percent annual unemployment rate recorded of 2011, when nearly 23,100 jobless residents were looking for work. By this month, that number had dropped to 20,100.
Moody's Analytics said in June that the county's economy, which lost 22,000 jobs in the 2008-2009 recession, was on track to replace nearly all of them within five years.
"There's good reason to think the county's economy is back on its feet," Moody's Managing Director Steve Cochrane said.
Progress also was evident in the housing market, the collapse of which propelled the worst economic crash since the Great Depression. The rate of foreclosure sales fell to its lowest level in more than four years in October. The median home sale price also reached $366,000, up 18 percent from a year before, although analysts said that was because fewer lower-end foreclosure properties were being sold.
Only 8 percent of 480 single-family homes sold in October were foreclosure properties, down from 75 percent of all home sales at the market's lowest point.