Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, recently made her pitch to the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce. During a Nov. 8 presentation at the chamber’s general membership meeting, she focused on two issues – tourism and medical care for the area’s aging population.
Tourism is the fourth-largest industry in the state’s economy, she said, and Sussex County is the hub of that industry. The state is at an inflection point and there needs to be laser focus on tourism, she said.
Hall-Long, who grew up in Sussex County, has been an elected official in Delaware for two decades.
Describing Sussex’s population as “maturely vibrant,” Hall-Long said she recognizes there are problems finding medical care locally, which is why there is going to be an expansion of medical programs and medical care in Sussex County.
As governor, she said she will make sure there’s a culture of excellence, beginning with making the government quick and responsive.
“I know there are things we can do better,” said Hall-Long.
Hall-Long acknowledged she’d be the second female governor in Delaware if she’s elected, but she has her sights set on being a first.
“I want to be the first nurse governor in America,” said Hall-Long. “Give a job to a nurse, and it will get done.”
Hall-Long is one of two Democrats who have announced their candidacy to replace Gov. John Carney. The other is New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer. Her appearance at the meeting was done before her campaign acknowledged Nov. 10 that it had improperly reported more than $300,000 worth of campaign-related finances.
Update on J1 students
The chamber membership also received a brief update on the status of the J1 student program. Carrie Linch, a program analyst for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, said there were 690 exchange students from 36 countries this past summer in the chamber’s 19971 ZIP code coverage area. She said there were 140 employers, 197 housing locations and 17 sponsor organizations, the third-party companies that facilitate student and employer connections.
Linch said there are a lot of great reasons for exchange students to come to the area, but there’s got to be a discussion about housing. There was a shortage of affordable seasonal housing this season, she said, adding that she knows most businesses are aware of the issue.
During housing visits, Linch said she found some disturbing housing conditions, and if there continue to be issues, the sponsors will simply stop sending students to the area. Without the J1 students, it will be difficult for some businesses to operate, she said.
Linch also encouraged chamber members to figure out a way to bring back the community support group that used to assist the students. This group really did help, and it needs to be reestablished, she said.
Future chamber meetings
Before the meeting ended, Carol Everhart, chamber president and CEO, reminded members of a few upcoming meetings, including the holiday party from 5 to 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 14, at Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, and the next general membership meeting Tuesday, Dec. 5, which will feature Chris Counihan, the new director of the state’s Division of Paid Leave. He will be speaking on the newly enacted Delaware Paid Leave program and its impact on businesses.