Dewey Beach: Time to grow up

October 27, 2017

Nearly 40 years ago, community leaders incorporated Delaware's newest municipality. They adopted the motto that had taken hold years before. But they weren't thinking that Dewey Beach: A Way of Life would mean constant contentiousness and infighting.

But that's the impression left by the 112-page independent investigation into the revolt by department heads seeking Town Manager Marc Appelbaum's ouster. Investigators found an unprofessional atmosphere in city hall where, under Appelbaum's unorthodox leadership, brusque, crude and inappropriate behavior was common; and autonomous departments were led by people who resisted supervision by a town manager authorized to supervise. This all led to a broadly disseminated, guerilla-style letter filled with highly inflammatory complaints which on careful examination proved "mostly uncorroborated and not credible."

The most charitable assessment: growing pains for a still-adolescent municipality. The least charitable: barely organized chaos.

Despite his often-inappropriate behavior, Appelbaum showed that Dewey could be operated in a fiscally sound fashion.

At least new Mayor T.J. Redefer has that foundation to build on as he leads the search for a new town manager. He must also decide whether further action is required against those involved in the largely discredited action which cost the town more than $200,000 in legal fees and a $100,000 settlement to Appelbaum.

The police department, in particular, faces questions due to an officer's stolen sidearm, and its handling of unreported money from the sale of excess federal equipment.

It's time for Dewey to hire a highly professional and qualified city manager clearly charged with running the town. It must also be clear that all department heads will report to and be held strictly accountable to the town manager.

That person can facilitate the work of so many good people who have strived to beautify their town and make it more family friendly, while maintaining a responsible party atmosphere in keeping with the town founders' original vision.

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Laura Ritter, news editor, and Dennis Forney, publisher, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.