Kuhns defeats Cooper in Rehoboth mayoral race

McGuiness, Schlosser win commissioner seats
August 14, 2017

Rehoboth Beach will have a new mayor for the first time since 1990.

Commissioner Paul Kuhns defeated incumbent Sam Cooper to win Rehoboth’s top seat, with 761 votes to Cooper’s 543. A loud cheer went up outside the Rehoboth fire hall when the mayoral results were announced.

Kuhns will be sworn in at the commissioners’ Friday, Sept. 15 meeting.

“Wow,” Kuhns said. “Overwhelmed by the support that I’ve seen from the voters in town.”

Kuhns said while he had hoped to win, he wasn’t expecting the victory.

“So much support from the neighborhoods, so much support from the business community. I can’t thank everyone enough,” he said. 

He said he had to think about what the first order of business will be, but that he has ideas of where he wants to go.

“My biggest fear was I have all these ideas, that if I lose, nothing gets done. Now I have to find all these ideas. We’re going to have a great team. I see going forward a good community participation as well as good commissioner participation,” Kuhns said. “Just very excited, and I think it’s great for the city. It’s going to be a little bit different than it has been in the past but I think it will be very favorable over time.”

Kuhns said the message from the voters was that it was a time for a change, and he would like to institute more long-term planning.

One of Kuhns’ first decisions will be who fulfills the final year of his term as commissioner. Kuhns said he was hoping to get feedback from the other commissioners, and that he was hoping to have someone ready to go by the Sept. 15 meeting.

“A lot of people have thrown their hats in the ring. We have a lot of qualified people around town. I think it will probably be a difficult decision. Do I have somebody specific in mind? Not at the moment,” he said. Kuhns will nominate a successor whom commissioners must approve.

Cooper was philosophical after what could very well be the end of his nearly 40 years of service in Rehoboth, first as commissioner from 1981 to 1990 and then mayor for the next 27 years. He had hinted leading up to the election that if he had won, it could be his last term. 

“The voters spoke, right?” he said. “For me, it’s a new chapter. I’ll have a lot more time on my hands for other things. I will do a lot of things I haven’t been able to do.”

Cooper congratulated Kuhns after the vote was announced. He said he got caught up in a wave of voters wanting to see change in the city’s leadership, plus angst about the cost of the soon-to-open City Hall complex.

“If I lost because of City Hall, I’m grateful the city has a building it deserves. And if that's what it took, so be it,” he said.

Cooper said he was proud of all the various projects the city completed over his term, such as the Rehoboth Avenue Streetscape project, the Boardwalk reconstruction and maintaining the character of Rehoboth. He said he’s not sure whether he’ll remain involved in Rehoboth politics.

“I think sometimes people should just bow out. But I know it’s going to be very hard for me. I know I’ll hear about conversations of things, and I know what the answer is, and they’ll be fumbling trying to find the answer. I don’t know, that's a role I’m going to have to decide,” he said.

McGuiness, Schlosser win commissioner seats

Joining Kuhns will be commissioners Kathy McGuiness and Lisa Schlosser. 

McGuiness will serve her second term in her second stint as commissioner. She previously served from 2000 to 2013. McGuiness was the top vote-getter overall with 903 votes. 

“Very excited. We have a lot of work to do. I look forward to transparency. Maybe putting a few more meetings on the docket. I am honored and humbled and just really pleased and proud,” she said. 

McGuiness said she was surprised by the large number of votes. 

Schlosser, a first-time candidate, defeated another first-time candidate, Susan Gay, 706-637. Schlosser thanked Cooper for his service and said Gay was a great candidate with a lot of knowledge.

“I think the city was ready for change. I believe that the majority focus will be on listening to the priorities and evolving and being more transparent and forming a better private/public partnership with the businesses in town,” she said.

Schlosser said she was happy with the mayoral results, feeling it was time. 

“I’m just happy and ready to get to work,” she said. 

Overall, 1,315 of the 1,706 eligible voters turned out, or 77 percent. Of those voters, 879 voted by machine and 436 by absentee ballot.