The seats of Sussex County's two most experienced council members are up for grabs this year.
George Cole, R-Ocean View, has served on council for 28 years while Vance Phillips, R-Laurel, has served for 16 years.
Phillips, who represents District 5, said this week he will seek a fifth term; Cole has yet to make up his mind on a run for an eighth term in District 4.
“I'm mulling it over. I've not made an official decision, but right now I'm leaning toward not running again,” Cole said. “However, if someone comes up with a great reason why I should stay or a burning issue comes up, I might consider running again.”
Cole said he knows there are other Republicans waiting for his announcement, which he says, will be made this spring.
In the history of Sussex County Council, a Cole family member has held the District 4 seat. George's father, Charlie Cole, was elected in 1974 when county council was established, and his mother, Kitty Cole, was appointed in 1985 to the seat when her husband passed away. George Cole was elected in 1986.
While Cole mulls his future on council, two candidates have announced their intention to run for the District 4 seat. Democrat Shirley Price, an Ocean View Realtor and former state representative, announced last week she plans to file for the seat.
Republican Billy Carroll of Bethany Beach has scheduled two coffee meetings over the next three weeks to announce his run for the District 4 seat.
George Parish, former Sussex County Clerk of the Peace, said he would run for the District 4 seat if Cole decides not to seek another term.
Carroll: Council needs more control
“Sussex County is the greatest place to live on the planet, and I want to help keep it that way,” said Billy Carroll.
He said the county has low taxes, it's a great place to raise children and it provides a good business environment.
But, he said, there is a disconnect between county and state governments. Carroll said the county thrives on three of the state's top industries – agriculture, tourism and real estate and construction services – but the taxes and fees generated by the industries are mostly spent upstate.
“We need people in our government to make sure the state spends our money down here,” he said. “We need to take more control.”
And, he says, county council should take a leadership role to make that happen.
Carroll said people he has spoken with are concerned about crime. He said the county has taken some steps by providing money for more troopers, but more could be accomplished. Most of the money from fines collected by local police stays in municipalities, but fines collected in unincorporated areas goes directly to Delaware State Police, he said. “We need to start asking for that money; we need to go to our legislators,” he said. “Then we can use the money to increase the police force in Sussex County.”
Carroll said the county's EMS service is stellar. “You call 911, and you have an EMT at your door within a few minutes. However, if you call 911 for police, you could wait an hour. We need to start asking some hard questions,” he said.
He said county council needs to take more responsibility for issues affecting county residents; he used flooding problems as an example. “We've been told if you have flooding problems, it's the county government's fault. You call county government and they say it's the state's fault,” he said. “We need to start showing some leadership on issues like these.
“I see the state starting to usurp a lot of the things county government should be doing,” he said. “We need to tell them we don't like the way they are doing it. The council should start defining what the problems are and telling the state what we want them to do.”
Carroll, who moved from Howard County, Md., to the Bethany Beach area 20 years ago, has owned several resort area businesses and currently works with his wife, Rosemary, in her photography business. They have eight children who have graduated from college.
He served as a former Republican field director for the Republican National Committee under President George H.W. Bush and has been active in the 38th District Republican Club since 1994.
Carroll attended Southampton College on a soccer scholarship, played major league soccer for several teams and received a degree in business from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Carroll will be at Arena's in the Giant shopping center in Long Neck from 10:30 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, Feb. 19, and at Rehoboth Beach library from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Friday, March 7. Carroll said he will give a brief presentation and listen to issues that concern residents.
Price: Background provides insight
Shirley Price, who served as 38th District representative from 1996 to 2002, is a lifelong Sussex County resident with a background in community service.
She said, for the most part, the county and state are not working together. “There is a disconnect and I'd like to explore ways to do it better,” she said, adding her contacts in state government would assist her efforts. “We need a stronger voice because we are so top heavy upstate. We need to bring some of our own money back to us,” she said.
She pointed to an example how the county and state are coordinating efforts. She lives along Route 26 where a major DelDOT road construction project is underway. “While the road is being torn up, the county is running new sewer lines,” she said.
She said many people do not understand the county land-use process and the ordinances that dictate how council votes. She would like to take a look at the ordinances and propose new ones that would back up the comprehensive land-use plan. “And we need a certified land-use planner to provide information to council so they can make the best decisions for people of the county,” she said.
She said the county does a good job supporting libraries and its EMS system and providing sewer.
Price said growth is always a topic that comes up when she talks with people. “The lack of adequate infrastructure is a major concern,” she said.
She said people want to keep property taxes low and especially in District 4 where many residents are hooking into the county sewer system and paying fees for the first time. “But that's so important to protect the Inland Bays for economic and environmental reasons,” she said. “It's what draws people here.”
Price, who has been a Realtor in the resort area since 2003, also managed the family business, Murray's Bait and Tackle, for many years. She and her husband, Gordon, have two daughters and five grandchildren.
“Community service is important,” she said. “It's in my heart to give back to the community. I think the skills I have can help the people of Sussex County.”
Price has served on numerous state, county and local organizations and committees, including a Girl Scout leader for 20 years. She currently serves on the Center for the Inland Bays Citizen's Advisory Committee, CHEER Services board member, Women's Civic Club of Bethany Beach and Ocean View Historical Society.
Strickler: Bring trust back to government
In District 5, Republican Harry Orvin Strickler of Roxana says he wants to bring trust back to government. “No one trusts our government anymore. I would like to start at this level to bring that trust back,” he said.
Strickler, 55, is a Realtor who also manages Johnny's Pizza Bar and Grill in Ocean City, Md. “I've been interested in politics my entire life. People have asked me to run for office over the years and I decided to stop saying no,” he said.
Strickler, who has lived in the Roxana-Ocean View-Frankford area for the past 15 years, grew up in Pennsylvania, served in the Air Force in Europe for six years and owned construction and demolition businesses in Baltimore for 15 years.
He has had two bouts with cancer over the past three decades; an experimental chemotherapy treatment saved one of his legs from amputation.
Strickler said he walks a lot on Sussex back roads, and he's appalled at the amount of trash he sees. “I would like to help clean up government as well as those back roads,” he said.
Labeling himself a constitutionalist, he said there are too many government regulations, especially when it comes to the environment.
He's been attending county council meetings for the past three months to get up to speed on issues facing the county. He said county council has been doing a good job. “I know people complain about too much growth, but I think they are thinking at ground level,” he said. “There is a lot of land out there; people need to look at the bigger picture.”
Even so, he said, council should be more involved with the land-use process to be able to determine if a developer is a risk or not. He said he's seen too many developers walk away from projects leaving homeowners to fend for themselves.
Incumbent: Republican George Cole of Ocean View, undecided.
Challengers: Republican Billy Carroll of Bethany Beach; Democrat Shirley Price of Ocean View.
The district includes the area of the Inland Bays, including unincorporated areas near Bethany Beach, Dewey Beach, Long Neck, Henlopen Acres, Millville, Oak Orchard, Ocean View and Rehoboth Beach.
Incumbent: Republican Vance Phillips of Laurel.
Challenger: Republican Harry Orvin Strickler of Roxana.
The district includes the area extending from the Maryland line to the Atlantic Ocean, including the unincorporated area near Dagsboro, Delmar, Fenwick Island, Frankford, Laurel, Millsboro, Millville, Selbyville and South Bethany
Noon, Wednesday, July 8, candidates running for office.
Saturday, Aug. 16 deadline to register to vote in primary election.
Tuesday, Sept. 9, primary election.
Saturday, Oct. 11, deadline to register to vote for general election.
Tuesday, Nov. 4, general election.