Most officials don't stick around to bury the hatchet

Several empty chairs where elected officials normally sit are empty on the Return Day stage. BY RON MACARTHUR
November 12, 2012

If it wasn't for tradition, Sussex County Return Day would have disappeared long ago. We owe a lot to the Return Day Committee and the Georgetown Historical Society for their hard work to keep the event going.

As in years past, there was the oxen roast, a large parade, burial of the hatchet, the mayor's hatchet toss, numerous parties and the reading of the Sussex election results by town crier Layton Johnson. Some politicians who ran against each other rode together in horse-drawn carriages or cars or trucks while some walked and some rode in separate vehicles.

But there was something missing. Politicians, who normally fill the Return Day stage on The Circle to watch the parade, listen to the results and watch as the hatchet is buried, were missing in action. By my count, there were fewer than 10 elected officials on the stage by the end of the day. Only U.S. Rep. John Carney from our Washington delegation hung around on stage. Sussex County Council members George Cole, Sam Wilson and Vance Phillips, Rep. Dave Wilson, Sussex County Register of Wills Cindy Green, outgoing Sussex Clerk of the Peace George Parish and Sussex County Recorder of Deeds Scott Dailey were also there. I could have missed somebody, but if I did, it wasn't a large group because many chairs reserved for elected officials were vacant.

Maybe it's a sign just how polarizing the 2012 election was. Maybe some politicians simply did not want to bury the hatchet. Maybe some were more interested in partying.

None of that matters if you buy into the premise of what Return Day is all about. It's a long day for elected officials, but they need to stay around until the end. They are supposed to be symbolically burying the hatchet, but it's hard to do that when you are not there.


  • Ron MacArthur has lived and worked in Sussex County all his life. As a journalist for more than 40 years, he has covered everything from county and town meetings to presidential visits. He also has a unique perspective having served as an elected official and lived on both sides of the county.

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