Saltwater Portrait

Jack Riddle: A man of many trades

Banker: Saltwater Sussex complements Soybean Sussex
April 24, 2018

Jack Riddle lives in western Sussex County and commutes every day to his job in eastern Sussex. He's been doing that for more than 12 years at Community Bank, where he has served as president since 2015.

His schedule is full to overflowing with appointments and events on both sides of the county. It's rare that his calendar has an open date.

The jovial Riddle is as comfortable closing a high-dollar deal as he is talking about sports with just about anybody.

And he has a unique perspective as someone who has interacted with people from both sides of the county. From his Lewes office, he talks about the differences between Soybean Sussex and Saltwater Sussex.

There are obvious differences including a major difference in housing costs, job opportunities, traffic and the number of tourists.

"Western Sussex actually benefits from Eastern Sussex especially by providing jobs," he said. "But to say it's all at the beach is not true. There is plenty on the other side of the county."

He agrees that many people who have never been outside the Cape Region are shocked when they drive just a few miles inland.

He says it's all about choices, which is the real calling card for Sussex County. "You can choose to spend a lot less money on housing and be 40 to 45 minutes from the beach, or you can spend more and be right in the thick of it," he said.

"I love tourists because they bring the money that makes everything we have here possible. Sussex County is the center of the world," he said.

He said the area offers fine dining, great nightlife, nonstop special and cultural events, and almost limitless outdoor activities. And within a short driving distance is a NASCAR track and access to numerous professional sports venues. "When you look at what's available, it's mind-boggling," he said.

And he and his wife, Susan, take advantage of everything Sussex County has to offer.

"Or you can just sit on a dock on the river. It's unbelievable. I take exception to Slower Lower Delaware. It's not slower; just different, but not slower," he said. "I see why people want to retire here. It's in the middle of it all."

Riddle predicts there will be a slow migration westward as more people discover how far their housing dollars go.

"Some people are already figuring out they can cut their housing cost by two-thirds by moving to western Sussex," he said. "And they are still only 40 minutes away from everything offered at the beach."

Riddle says he doesn't see a slowdown in housing even with a slight increase in interest rates. "Some people will always pay whatever it takes to be near the sand," he said.

He said it's funny that his two daughters, Stefanie Kotzur and Laura Riddle, couldn't wait to get out of the area. "They went to the city, and spent hours on the weekends driving to the beach. It wasn't long before they came back," he said. "I understand it's all about a balance," he says.

That's one of the reasons Riddle recently joined the board of directors of the Delaware Solid Waste Authority, which may seem a little out of character for those who know him.

"We can't wreck this environment," he said.

Jack and his wife are new grandparents, and he says that's another reason he joined the board, to help safeguard the environment for his granddaughter.

A 40-minute commute, oh my

Riddle says his commute is normally about 40 minutes. "When I tell people that I commute they think it must be the end of the world. When I worked in the city, it might take me 40 minutes to find a parking space," he said.

The 1976 Seaford High and University of Delaware and Salisbury State University graduate started his banking career in Philadelphia working for Girard, which changed to Mellon, which changed to Citizens, for more than 24 years. "Philadelphia is the not the place to raise kids, so I came back to Sussex County," he said.

Riddle spent summers during his teen years with his family at Leisure Point in Long Neck. "It was much different then," he said with a laugh.

He said many of the manufactured home parks were still using cesspool septic systems. "Everything changed when Sussex County provided sewer service. The area took off," he said.

Riddle said he can recall driving to Rehoboth Beach after Labor Day and only Grotto Pizza and Nicola Pizza would be open.

Giving back is important

Riddle believes strongly in giving back to the community – it's a principle that has guided his life. Under his leadership, Community Bank actively supports community organizations.

Riddle is an active member and past president of Lewes-Rehoboth Rotary, and serves as the assistant district governor of Area 41 overseeing five clubs. He and his family are active members of Crossroad Community Church. He has served on the Nanticoke Health Services board of directors for more than 20 years. He and his family also helped spearhead a fundraising effort to repair the Seaford public tennis courts in 2017. They were recently named Middle States Family of the Year by the United States Tennis Association.