No timetable to fill vacant Rehoboth seat

Mayor: I was caught off guard by the vote
October 3, 2017

Rehoboth Beach Mayor Paul Kuhns said he has no timetable for filling a commissioner seat left vacant when he was elected mayor in August. He said he plans to discuss the matter with the other commissioners before naming a new nominee.

At the Sept. 15 commissioner meeting, Kuhns nominated former Commissioner Pat Coluzzi to fill the spot. That nomination led to a 3-3 split, with Kuhns and commissioners Lisa Schlosser and Kathy McGuiness in favor and commissioners Stan Mills, Patrick Gossett and Toni Sharp opposed.

Mills, Gossett and Sharp favored the nomination of Susan Gay, who won 600 votes in the August election to finish third, behind McGuiness and Schlosser. Gay was eventually nominated and confirmed to the planning commission, but subsequent votes on Coluzzi still ended in a 3-3 deadlock.

Kuhns said he was not planning to nominate a new candidate until further discussion with the commissioners, discussions he said would mainly be behind the scenes.

“I was caught off guard by the vote,” Kuhns said.

He said his mistake was thinking things would be the same as they had been under former Mayor Sam Cooper, where commissioner nominees went through with little controversy.

“I had reached out to people and given them my ideas, and I expected that if they wanted to vote differently or suggest someone else, they would have told me. They made a couple of suggestions at the last minute, but they never told me they weren’t going to vote with me. If I had known it was going to be 3-3, what’s the point?” Kuhns said.

Kuhns would not identify potential nominees, but said that the opposition was hurtful to him and Coluzzi.

“I believe that the three people embarrassed Pat Coluzzi so much. It was a very personal thing against Pat Coluzzi,” he said.

Kuhns cycled back to the last two times when a commissioner seat was filled via appointment by his predecessor: Patti Shreeve in 2007 and Patrick Gossett in 2013.

“Patrick Gossett was selected four or five years after he lost to Pat Coluzzi, and everybody went along with it. He was the most qualified because he had been in town, and he’d been a commissioner. Again, from a qualifications standpoint, no one matches her,” he said.

The commissioners who opposed Coluzzi’s nomination maintain their support for Gay. There were also concerned the commission would divide into factions, with Coluzzi, Kuhns, McGuiness and Schlosser on one side, and Mills, Sharp and Gossett on the other. 

“I believe Susan Gay, the third candidate, and only other person in all of Rehoboth to actively seek a commissioner’s seat, was the best fit. I found it hard to dismiss over 600 votes from the electors for her,” said Mills, who also said he made his position clear to Kuhns well before the meeting. “In subsequent votes I still did not support Ms. Coluzzi.  I am expecting and hopeful that Mayor Kuhns will seek nominations that are more middle of the road – not already swayed heavily to one side or the other – and that all or at least a majority of sitting commissioners are comfortable supporting.”

Mills said he has sent Kuhns a list of 10 nominees and is leaving the matter in his purview.

Gossett said, “I am looking to fill the seat with somebody who can help bridge the city. There’s this perception of a divide. I think all of us are in the vision of maintaining the character of the city. It’s a unique situation. I think it’s a conversation that needs to be had by all at the same time.”

He said before the Sept. 15 vote, Kuhns asked for input and then presented a slate of candidates. Gossett said he did not have a problem with Coluzzi personally, but wanted to support Gay, who gained more votes than many winning candidates do.

“That’s a person that has shown interest and is ready for the job. If you put yourself out there, that should be a strong consideration,” Gossett said.

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