For the first time in more than 30 years, and possibly the history of the city, there are three candidates vying for mayor in Rehoboth Beach.
The filing deadline for the city’s 2020 municipal election passed June 8, and when all was said and done, Commissioner Edward Chrzanowski had joined the mayoral race, joining incumbent Mayor Paul Kuhns and former Commissioner Stan Mills who had already announced they would seek the seat.
Kuhns was elected mayor in 2017, defeating former Mayor Sam Cooper, who had held the seat since 1990. Kuhns was a sitting commissioner at the time. Chrzanowski, elected commissioner in 2019, is in his first term. Mills served as commissioner for 12 years before deciding not to run for re-election in 2019.
According to city spokeswoman Krys Johnson, city records show there were no more than two mayoral candidates dating back to at least 1990. In an email June 10, Cooper, a life-long Rehoboth Beach resident first elected mayor in 1990, said he could not recall another mayoral election with three candidates.
Kuhns said he was a little surprised both Mills and Chrzanowski are running. He said he had heard Mills was thinking about running but was under the impression he would not.
As for Chrzanowski, Kuhns said they had a cup of coffee last week, and the topic never came up. This is a democracy, and sometimes people just feel like they can do a better job, Kuhns said.
Kuhns said he didn’t think Mills or Chrzanowski filed because of the city’s response to COVID-19.
“The way I look at it, the No. 1 thought of the city, and all the commissioners, was public safety. We did the things we thought were necessary,” said Kuhns.
In an email June 10, Mills said the race should be interesting because there are three people seeking the highest level of office, all with different levels of experience. He said he’s a champion of open government and that his experience makes him an attractive choice for those who want a new mayor.
“I expect candidate experience, candidate attitudes toward open government, and voter confidence in each candidate will be weighty factors, among others, in how voters decide who to elect as their next leader in Rehoboth Beach,” said Mills.
Chrzanowski’s term as commissioner ends in 2022. Donna Moore, city election official, said if Chrzanowski is not elected mayor, he will remain a commissioner. If he is elected mayor, the board will appoint a commissioner to fill the vacancy, she said.
Chrzanowski did not respond to requests for comment.
Four candidates for two commissioner seats
Voters will decide if Rehoboth has a new mayor, but it’s already decided that Rehoboth will have two new commissioners. Sitting Commissioners Lisa Schlosser and Steve Scheffer are not seeking re-election.
The four candidates include two former commissioners, Patrick Gossett, who served for nine years, and Jay Lagree, who served for 10 months after being appointed to fill Kuhns’ seat when he became mayor; and two first-time candidates, Purple Parrot owner Hugh Fuller and Rachel Macha, a member of the planning commission, and parks and shade tree commission.
In an interview June 11, Macha said she thinks there’s a clear separation among the four candidates. There are candidates who have been commissioners and really ignored some important decisions, and there are candidates who will provide fresh ideas and forward thinking, she said.
There’s a feeling the city has been here before, and voters will see that, said Macha.
Lagree also recognized the difference between the candidates. In an interview June 11, he said he was glad Gossett and Mills were in the race because they’re people who do their homework and understand the demands of being an elected official in Rehoboth.
“The city has a $26 million budget, and it’s a big job,” said Lagree. “If you don’t do your homework, the information will fly by your head.”
Schlosser is in her first term, while Scheffer was appointed in December 2018 to fill the vacancy that occurred when former Commissioner Kathy McGuiness took office as state auditor. This is the third year in a row neither incumbent has run for re-election – in 2018, Gossett and Lagree; in 2019, it was Mills and Toni Sharp.
In an interview June 11, Gossett said COVID-19 has presented the city with a unique situation that’s going to need new commissioners, like him, who can hit the ground running, rather than get bogged down in the basics. The commission needs experience, level-heading thinking and action based on research, he said.
Priorities may change, but its values don’t, said Gossett. It’s a choice to own property in Rehoboth, to open a business in Rehoboth, to vacation in Rehoboth, and who among the candidates, he said, should voters trust to help keep those values?
Schlosser said she didn’t run for re-election because it’s an appropriate time for fresh voices on the board. Long-term service should be applauded, but not complacency and a failure to lead, she said.
Schlosser said when she ran for office, she was concerned about the city’s direction. Rehoboth was not adapting to modern times, lacked innovation and was being run with outdated management processes and technology, she said.
“I ran for a three-year term to disrupt the status quo, bring a fresh voice to the board of commissioners, and to help institute modern practices in the city,” said Schlosser. “We now have a transparent budget and effective long-term capital plan; modern practices such as live-streaming our meetings; and new initiatives that help support the economic vitality of our town, such as renewed support for RB Main Street.”
Scheffer said he decided not to run primarily because he wanted more time with his wife and family. While he enjoys helping to make Rehoboth Beach better for all, he said, he is not a politician.
With Schlosser stepping down, Pat Coluzzi and Susan Gay are the only women on the seven-member board of commissioners, and Macha the only woman in the race. When Coluzzi was elected in 2018, she joined Schlosser, McGuiness and Sharp, the first time in Rehoboth history the board was majority women.
Fuller could not be reached for comment.
Rehoboth 2020 municipal election information
The election is Saturday, Aug. 8. Absentee ballots will be available beginning Wednesday, June 24. Ballots will be sent to everyone who has an absentee ballot request form on file. The deadline for the city to mail ballots is Tuesday, Aug. 4. Ballots must be received by mail or in person before the polls close on the day of the election.
To be eligible to vote, a person must register on or before Thursday, July 9. Any qualified elector may request an absentee ballot to vote by filing a request for an absentee ballot form, which is available online, no later than noon, Friday, Aug. 7. For more information, contact Donna Moore at 302-227-6181, Ext. 108, or go online to www.cityofrehoboth.com.