Colleagues pay tribute to David Hill

June 5 death of Henlopen Acres mayor surprises many
Henlopen Acres officials were shocked at the passing of Mayor David Hill June 5 from unspecified causes. Hill, 72, had served as mayor since 2012. BY FILE
June 10, 2014

Current and former commissioners of Henlopen Acres fondly remembered their late mayor, David Hill, who passed away suddenly June 5.

Town Manager Tom Roth said Hill was 72; Roth did not know the cause of Hill's  death. Roth said Hill had medical issues, but the mayor did not like to talk about them.

"He was very easy to work with," Roth said. "He'll be missed."

Hill was wrapping up his third term in office, having won reelection in 2011. After serving five years as the town treasurer, Hill was selected to serve as mayor by his fellow commissioners in September 2012.

Hill's predecessor as mayor, Wanda Davis, said Hill's passing was a shock. One of Hill's final public appearances was a dedication of a plaque for Davis at the town's Zwaanendael entrance.

"I knew he wasn't feeling well but had no idea his condition was that serious," Davis said. "He was fair and listened to the town's residents. I will miss him! He always had a funny story and made me laugh."

Davis, who served as mayor from 2001 to 2012, recalled Hill's first election as commissioner.

"He was great to work with, dependable, always prepared, researched the issues and formed his own opinions. After thoughtful consideration, he made his decisions on what would be the best decision for the town and the town's property owners," she said.

When Davis decided to not seek another term, Hill was voted in as mayor by his fellow commissioners. "It was not difficult at all to see him take over as mayor. The town has been in good hands having him in that position," she said.

For years before Hill’s tenure as mayor, the town and the Rehoboth Art League crossed swords over what the art league could do on its property. The town and the art league battled all the way to the Delaware Supreme Court over whether the art league could build a new, larger Chambers Studio.

After taking the mayor's seat, Hill began a dialogue with the art league over permitted uses of the property, with the two sides eventually reaching lukewarm detente.

Art league President Diana Beebe said Hill was a frequent presence at the art league campus, often walking his dog, Lucy, through the property and attending events.

“We were saddened to hear the news of Mayor Hill's passing," Beebe said. "He was instrumental in restarting conversations about the art league's zoning, and even proclaimed 2013 as the Rehoboth Art League Diamond Celebration Year in recognition of the cultural and historical contribution the RAL has made to the community and the State of Delaware."

Andy Brittingham, the youngest commissioner at 25, said, “He was quite the insightful man, who was driven for success and resolution. He showed passion for what he did and was devoted to the work he did for the town. It surely is a loss, not just for the town, but for his family to lose such a great man.”

The commissioners met June 9 to discuss what would happen to Hill's seat, which was up for reelection this year. Roth said the commissioners are debating two plans. First would be to select a new mayor from among the current commission.

The second option, Roth said, would have Commissioner Winnie Kee, as president pro tem, similar to vice mayor, serve as acting mayor until after the Saturday, Aug. 30 election, then select a new mayor with a full complement of commissioners at the September organizational meeting, when the mayor is traditionally selected.