Lewes City Hall, filled to capacity May 23, is officially operating under new leadership.
Following an outpouring of gratitude for the decades of service to the city by outgoing Mayor Ted Becker, newly elected Andrew Williams was sworn in as mayor. Becker received a standing ovation as he departed council chambers and symbolically transferred the gavel to Williams.
Kicking off his first meeting as mayor, Williams appointed Candace Vessella to fill the vacancy on council created by his election victory. She will serve Williams’ remaining term, which ends in 2023. Vessella serves as president of the Friends of the Lewes Public Library and most recently served on the board of adjustment, and the parks and recreation commission – positions she will no longer hold. Vessella will avoid conflicts of interest by recusing herself when matters of the library come before council and adhering to the advice of City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas if recusal is deemed necessary. The new councilwoman also served on the Lewes Board of Public Works from 2011-13, specializing in policy development and public relations.
Vessella served in the military for nearly 26 years, retiring in 2008 after serving as a commanding officer and working for the Naval Reserve Intelligence Command in Washington, D.C. She will have to lean on her past knowledge, as Williams wasted no time in appointing her as a non-voting member to several committees, including the historical preservation and architectural review committee.
“They’re an important committee in the city because the spirit and the history of our city are protected by HPARC, and so I’m excited to work with them in an ex officio capacity,” Vessella said.
Vesella was approved unanimously by council and will join as the assistant treasurer. She will be sworn in during council’s next workshop at 9 a.m., Wednesday, June 1. Khalil Saliba will now serve as the deputy mayor, previously held by Williams.
The Lewes Board of Public Works is forming a finance committee, on which Treasurer Carolyn Jones will serve ex officio. Council combined the traffic and safety committee with the bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee, appointing Saliba to serve as a non-voting member. Secretary Tim Ritzert will take over for Williams as liaison to the public art committee.
The mitigation planning team will now comprise Williams and Vessella. Williams acknowledged the city is tasking Vessella with a lot of responsibility, but he noted they will be leaning heavily on her expertise and exceptional background for leadership.
Experimenting with something permitted by the code, Williams nominated two residents to serve as intergovernmental relations officers, instead of using members of council. Former state Rep. Dave Ennis will serve as liaison to the state, while the liaison to Sussex County will be Thomas Bane.
“The idea with these roles is that they’ll sort of track these meetings, the important events, that maybe affect Lewes, the state or Sussex County,” Williams said. “We may have them report [at council meetings], and if they take meetings, they will take [a member of council], and I think it’s a good opportunity for the citizens to get involved in a meaningful way.”
Nominations were unanimously approved.