Rehoboth Beach City Manager Greg Ferrese gave his last official city manager's report, perhaps his last official appearance after 31 years on the job.
“This is going to be rough,” the normally matter-of-fact Ferrese said as he started his remarks. His simple thank-you to the Village Improvement Association for a $1,200 donation from the annual Chicken Plunge brought him to the edge of tears.
Ferrese began by recounting his first days on the job and how some locals didn’t believe the former borough manager of Ellwood City, Pa., would last very long. He said one of his early memories was when then-Commissioner Walter Brittingham took him to breakfast and introduced him to scrapple.
“I said, ‘Walter, what’s in scrapple?’ He told me, and I had heartburn for two days,” Ferrese said.
“The city really welcomed my wife and me,” Ferrese said.
After thanking Mayor Sam Cooper, past and present city commissioners and the residents of Rehoboth, Ferrese listed the many grants – an estimated $40 million worth over his 31 years – that helped the city build an infrastructure that would establish its reputation as a first-class resort town. He said when he first started in 1983, the city budget was $2.5 million; Rehoboth's budget for 2013-14 is $15.9 million.
Ferrese got most emotional talking about his family; his wife, Kathy, was in attendance at the Nov. 15 meeting.
“I’m sorry. It’s hard. For all the hours we spent away. Storms, hurricanes, nor’easters, snow events, meetings,” he said. “Thanks for all your patience.”
It was a nor’easter that provided what Ferrese said was his most gratifying project: the rebuilding of the Boardwalk in January 1992.
“Ten o’clock in the morning, the phone rings. It’s the mayor. He says, ‘Get down here right away. We lost half the Boardwalk,” Ferrese said. The city was able to obtain emergency funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after then-Sen. William Roth lobbied President George H.W. Bush for funding. Ferrese said Rehoboth had completely rebuilt the Boardwalk in time for Memorial Day.
Ferrese said he does not plan to leave the area in retirement; without the 24/7 city manager’s job, he said now he will finally get to enjoy it. Still, Ferrese said he plans to travel, with his first vacation set for the Black Hills of South Dakota.
“I don’t want to wear a watch; I just want to enjoy life with my family,” he said. “I’ll miss working with my staff and my department heads. I will not miss Friday night meetings. Mayor, thanks for your support. ”
Ferrese left to a standing ovation from the commissioners and the audience. Even the normally reserved Cooper got emotional.
“Greg, we shared a lot. Good times and bad,” he said, his voice quivering.
While his last meeting was an emotional affair, Ferrese said afterwards that he does not want a farewell party.
“I came in with no fanfare, and I want to leave with no fanfare,” he said.
Ferrese is set to retire Thursday, Dec. 5. City officials have begun contract negotiations with a potential replacement, but a contract has not yet been finalized.