Dewey Beach Mayor Dale Cooke will not seek re-election

With town in great shape, leader wants to spend time with family
June 18, 2021

Dewey Beach Mayor Dale Cooke announced at the end of the commissioners’ June 11 meeting that he would not run again in the municipal election set for Saturday, Sept. 18.

“I’m 74 going on 75,” Cooke said. “It’s time for someone more telegenic, more photogenic and a little more eloquent than I am. I’d like to live my last few years in town and enjoy the beach without any pressures.” 

In a June 14 interview, Cooke said he had been debating whether or not to run, and finally came to a decision just before his announcement. He said he has no plans to leave Dewey Beach.

“I love Dewey. I have a ball here, and I’m not going anywhere. They’ll have to drag me out,” he laughed. 

The town is in fantastic shape under the leadership of new Town Manager Bill Zolper, Cooke said, and all department heads and commissioners are doing a great job. Town finances are surprisingly strong despite effects of the pandemic, he said, so it’s a perfect time to take his leave. 

“I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed doing it, but it’s time for a change,” Cooke said, noting that he hopes a woman will run for the position. The town’s last female commissioner was Diane Hansen, whose final term ended in 2017.

Cooke is currently liaison to the town’s infrastructure committee, and he was previously a planning and zoning commissioner. In the future, he said, he would like to serve on a committee, which will keep him connected to the town and give him more time to see his sons and grandchildren in Maryland and North Carolina.

“I want to see my family more, and I want to be able to just up and go to my grandkids’ ball games if I want to,” he said.

First elected in 2002, Cooke served as commissioner until 2008; he was re-elected in 2015, 2017 and 2019. He served a one-year term as mayor in 2016 and was also interim town manager for several months until a new town manager was hired in March 2018.

Cooke was elected mayor at a special town meeting in April 2020 to fill the vacancy created by the death of Mayor TJ Redefer, and he was elected to a full one-year term as mayor in October 2020.

Redefer was the perfect mayor, Cooke said; he knew everyone in town and loved the political aspects of the job. 

“We need somebody like him,” Cooke said.

In addition to Cooke, seats held by Commissioners Paul Bauer and David Jasinski are also up for election in 2021. Commissioner candidate and voter registration deadline for the 2021 municipal election is 5 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 19. For more information, go to

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