When Candace Collette Vessella left her government job, the plan was to retire peacefully and enjoy the next chapter of her life. Things do not always unfold as we plan.
Now an elected official on the Lewes Board of Public Works and president of the Friends of Lewes Public Library, Vessella is busier and happier than she ever imagined.
In college she started as a library science major at Southern Connecticut State University, switching later to communication, which led her to government relations work with the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lockheed Martin and most recently BAE Systems Inc.
Vessella started her career in the Navy in the Washington area where she served for 25 years, becoming a commanding officer and working for the Naval Reserve Intelligence Command in Washington, D.C. From there she moved onto lobby on Capitol Hill on behalf of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Her energetic and confident personality helped her raise awareness about energy issues, eventually working as director of government relations for Lockheed Martin, where she worked closely with the Departments of Energy and Defense, NASA and the Coast Guard.
In 1990 she cofounded the Maryland Space Business Roundtable where she made contacts in many federal agencies, that would serve her well when she moved onto BAE Systems, a large global defense company.
Her close work with defense and energy agencies gave her extensive knowledge about power, an education that benefits her in her latest position as a member of the Lewes Board of Public Works.
She was recruited to run for the board of public works, and is now serving a two-year term.
“I did not aspire to elected office,” said Vessella, 56, with a laugh. “When I retired, I specifically told my friends that I wasn’t going to run for any office.”
She said her plans changed last year because she felt she could be useful on the board. “When I ran there was a dearth of information about the board, so my commitment was to get that information out there so a nontechnical person could understand what BPW does.”
Since her election, the board has been releasing more information about how it functions, and Vessella has been able to learn a lot, passing that information to residents.
“One of my philosophies has been to always tell the truth,” Vessella said.
At home on the circle
In the mid-1990s, Vessella was working as vice president for government relations and contemplating retirement. A friend bought a house in Lewes and raved about the town’s beauty.
Vessella decided to pay Lewes a visit. While sitting in the gazebo behind King’s Ice Cream, Vessella looked around and knew this would be the town she would call home.
She purchased a fixer-upper, fixed it up and later sold it after she met Adrian Nakayama in 2002 in Old Town Alexandria. The couple decided to retire to Lewes.
“We were looking at life questions, looking at our futures, and we were lucky to have the ability to retire at young ages,” said Vessella.
The couple was married in 2005 under a large magnolia tree at the house they bought together on DeVries Circle. Another fixer-upper, their energy as a couple and devotion to the project kept them going until the house was finished later that year.
“We were able to retain the old parts of the house and added to it so we could play with our friends,” said Vessella, a smile creeping across her face.
Since getting married, Vessella and Nakayama have become regular locals. Nakayama can be seen running six miles every morning around town. He and Vessella make regular trips to the Lewes Bake Shop and local restaurants.
The pair of active adults keeps even busier with two West Highland terriers, Dolce and Duncan, who, like their owners, are full of energy.
When Vessella was getting ready to move to Lewes, she purchased a white Smart car and decided she should have a white dog to match. Appropriately, the license plate on the car reads "Dolce2."
At home, Vessella spends most of her time in the kitchen, surrounded by an army of food processors, blenders and flavored oils.
She moves easily from sink to stove to coffee pot without missing a beat.
“I am mostly a main-course cook,” Vessella said. “I like to get creative with sauces. Lately I have also started baking breads more often.”
Nakayama, 62, has the luck of high metabolism and keeps Vessella busy as he dines on freshly baked breads, cookies and Vessella’s favorite, gingerbread.
Her love of cooking made her a natural to work on a cookbook project to benefit the Friends of Lewes Public Library. Set to come out at the end of April, the Friends cookbook compiled 350 recipes, including secret recipes from Lewes restaurants.
“When the project was brought to me, it was easy for me to say yes,” Vessella said. “It was truly a great experience, and I met such lovely people while doing the cook book.”
Advance sales of the cookbook are going on now, with its debut planned for the Friends May 5 book sale in Lewes.
“The library is now a part of me, and I look forward to working with more great people in Lewes,” Vessella said. “There is always lots going on at the library.”