Bill Zolper: Town manager, lifesaver

March 21, 2023

Last Wednesday, March 15, was a tough day for the Carolina street neighbors.

Our dear neighbor Judy Lavery’s classic Dewey Beach house burned down. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to her and John. But, it could have been a lot worse for all of us, had it not been for the quick thinking and action of our Town Manager Bill Zolper.

Around 2:30, my 27-year-old son came running down the hall to where I had been working and said, “Dad – You’ve gotta come out here. I think Judy Lavery’s house is on fire!” I ran out of our house at 11 Carolina, which is across the street from Judy’s place, and there I saw Bill Zolper and a guy looking dazed and confused.

I knew Bill many years ago as a Rehoboth Beach lifeguard, but have only gotten reacquainted with him for a short time since we moved back to Carolina Street full time last summer. What I can tell you after Wednesday’s interaction is that he’s a man of action and someone we can all trust.

On that afternoon when I rushed outside, I saw Bill next to Judy’s house, and he was visibly amped up. He had just come out of Judy’s house, and there was a man next to him who was visibly confused. Turns out he was the painter, who was working on the third floor.

Bill turned to me, then slowed down and calmly explained that he had just banged on the door and screamed to see whether anyone was home. Turns out Bill was just doing his normal rounds of checking whether the trash had been picked up and our top of the street beach entrance had been cleaned.

He saw smoke at Judy’s house and immediately got into go mode. He again explained to me that he knocked on the door and screamed, “Anyone inside?” A minute later the dazed painter came down and out from the stairs. It turns out the fire started somewhere on the first floor.

The bottom line: If Bill Zolper didn’t come in, knock on the door and shout, “fire, get out,” the painter would have died. As I watched the stiff wind and the fire engulf the house and creep up the dunes, I thought to myself, “Our town manager just saved this guy’s life!”

When you see Bill, give him a shout-out. Thank him for his service. I’m proud to say he’s my town manager. He’s also a life saver! Thanks, Bill.

And thanks for all our firefighters. Great job. You saved a number of our houses and the dunes!

Chris Brown
Dewey Beach
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