Lewes election set for July 18

July 3, 2020

Lewes voters will choose two city council members from a pool of five candidates in the Saturday, July 18 election. It will be the city’s first election since 2014.

Seeking reelection are incumbents Fred Beaufait and Dennis Reardon, while challengers Kay Carnahan, Tim Ritzert and Andrew Williams are attempting to get a seat at the table. 

The deadline to register to vote is 4 p.m., Monday, July 6. For those who do not wish to vote in person, residents are permitted to vote via absentee ballot. All registered voters should have received an absentee ballot application by mail from the city. An application will be mailed to residents who register before the July 6 deadline. 

Polls at city hall will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on election day. In order to enter the polling place, voters must be wearing a face covering. Social distancing will be observed, and the number of people inside will be limited.

The Cape Gazette recently sent all candidates the same four questions. Their responses are listed below alphabetically.

1. Biographical information including but not limited to age, how long you’ve lived in Lewes and what you do/did as a career. 

Fred Beaufait: Born in 1936, grew up in Vicksburg, Miss. Earned bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Mississippi State, master’s from University of Kentucky and PhD from Virginia Tech in structural engineering. My wife Lois and I made our home in Lewes in September 2004 after I retired from the presidency of New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn. I had a 46-year career in higher education, with time spent working for an engineering consulting firm and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Throughout my career, I’ve honed my decision-making and problem-solving skills, which I believe serve me well as a member of council.

Kay Carnahan: Born in 1959, I grew up in north Wilmington and attended Penn State, where I met my future husband, Thomas Nobile. We married in 1984 and lived in eastern Pennsylvania. We moved to Lewes full time at the end of 1990 and bought a home in the historic district in 1991. I worked for local newspapers in production from 1990 through early 2005. I currently work as the marketing coordinator for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Gallo Realty since 2005. Full disclosure: I am a former employee of Dennis Forney and Trish Vernon at The Whale newspaper.

Dennis Reardon: Born and raised in Wilmington. Age 79. Parents bought a cottage in 1948.  Summered in Lewes through high school and continued visiting all my life, becoming a Lewes homeowner in 1976. My wife Allison and I moved to Lewes full time in 2006. Graduated LaSalle College and University of Baltimore School of Law. Worked for the State of Delaware 22 years primarily as chief commissioner of Family Court overseeing other commissioners who presided over civil matters and criminal trials. Admissions director for a residential, educational program for developmentally disabled individuals with challenging behaviors and six years with a manufacturing company.

Tim Ritzert: Born Washington, D.C. Age: 66. Bachelor’s in political science from James Madison University with minor in business administration. Worked for Virginia Power and e.spire Communications in design, project management, contracts management, regulatory affairs. Came to Lewes approximately 35 years ago. Smitten by Lewes' charm and sense of authenticity. Family purchased vacation home in Lewes, making weekly visits possible. Purchased home 10 years ago and made Lewes my full-time residence shortly thereafter. Developed keen interest in local government issues. First attended planning commission meetings, adding BPW, mayor and city council, and numerous committee meetings to list as my understanding of and curiosity about local governance increased. 

Andrew Williams: I was born in Lewes and have spent 28 of my 44 years living here full time. My time away was spent at Dickinson College, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the beginning of my married life and current career in New York City. For the past 12 years, I have served as director for GlobalData PLC, a leading data and business intelligence firm, providing data and analysis to clients across multiple industries such as energy, consumer goods, technology and healthcare in order to make informed decisions and develop solutions for their respective businesses. 

2. The city and BPW have been publicly feuding for nearly a year. Have mayor and city council’s actions related to the BPW to date been the correct path? If not, what would you have done different?  

Beaufait: The issue of pre-annexation became the catalyst for the current disagreement between the BPW and the city regarding oversight authority. The charters for BPW and the city, viewed collectively, acknowledge that the city has oversight authority over the BPW. Any ambiguity of this fact must be eliminated. This is a legal issue, not one to be resolved by popular vote. The council has taken the only action that it could. The city council did not initiate this dispute nor has it taken any actions until pushed into a corner and left no choice but to respond to the board’s actions.

Carnahan: The divisive, expensive lawsuit could have been avoided if the public had been involved from the start. If the facts would have been explained to the public by both the city council and BPW, a referendum would have confirmed the path forward. This would have been the perfect time to include everyone from the start, not act in secret. Because we cannot go backward, my recommendation is that a mediator be hired, the two groups should meet, and the issue be resolved.

Reardon: I am optimistic that ongoing negotiations, with our legislators’ participation, will succeed. The city and BPW disagree over city oversight of BPW policies and whether BPW must follow city ordinances. Both entities have state charters and both charters grant the city oversight authority, but BPW claims total independence (even though the city owns the utility services). After years of unsuccessful discussion, BPW unexpectedly sued the city, and the city had to defend Lewes citizens’ interests. The suit was a complete waste of money. The Superior Court summarily dismissed BPW’s claims, ruling in the city’s favor.

Ritzert: The correct path has not been pursued. A commitment to mediation in lieu of a legal remedy must be the highest priority. Reconcile misunderstandings and mistrusts by use of professional mediator. Each organization must extend mutual respect to the other. Restore ratepayers’ and taxpayers’ trust. The community had no "buy-in" prior to the press reporting dispute news. Mayor and city council has committed hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to an effort without public support or public will. I note that in no previous election cycle has any candidate run on a platform to change the BPW charter.

Williams: No, I do not agree with the process that has resulted in the current situation. They have spent a lot of the citizens’ money. Discord within our own city management does not serve Lewes, particularly as we look to build relationships outside Lewes. Professional mediation should bring the sides together again. However, should this fail, presentations and public workshops should be held allowing each side to present their “final offer” and put it to a vote of the citizenry. Since many can vote for BPW but not municipal elections, all utility payers should be considered in this decision.  

3. Development at or just beyond the borders of Lewes continues to persist. What role should the city take in controlling or influencing that growth? 

Beaufait: Unfortunately, the city has only one primary tool to exert any control over the pending growth, and that is annexation. Otherwise, the city can only express, however forcefully, its position with respect to any development outside the city limits. Recognizing that the zones within the city are more restrictive than Sussex County’s zones, the city needed to be able to offer landowners some incentives in order to make annexation into the city attractive. In an effort to accomplish this, the council developed two special zones for annexed properties, which provide for a transition between the county and the city.  

Carnahan: Regarding New Road, last year's public hearings made clear that residents want change to the new annexation zones. We need a citywide conversation, perhaps an eventual referendum, defining a path forward, realizing that an end to annexation means a finite number of residents will bear the tax burden. We need to continue to have a positive relationship with Sussex County Council, because the development on our borders continues to affect every city resident. The city is in negotiations to annex Cape Henlopen High School, which would enable the annexation of the city's well fields. I support that goal.

Reardon: As directed in the 2015 Comprehensive Plan, the city has pursued and should continue to pursue annexation. To that end, two new annexation zoning districts with incentives were proposed after public comment at many public hearings. The planning commission reviewed and unanimously approved the districts, as did council after another public hearing. Annexation is critical; it allows the city to have more control over development in annexed lands. For example, density of development is less than Sussex County allows. Annexation also gives the city more say over infrastructure and provides tax revenue to help pay for city streets, parks, police, etc.

Ritzert: The city needs to assume the role of a valiant steward of the community's expressed interests as set forth in the city's comprehensive plan. The city has negotiated against itself by creating annexation districts that jeopardize the city's identity, values and vision. The city also must build a bridge of understanding with elected county government members and its professional planning staff in an effort to develop shared interests and concerns. A greater commitment to participating in regional planning would likely be helpful. 

Williams: The city needs a proactive approach that focuses on collaboration and compromise to influence growth in a comprehensive manner. Building and maintaining relationships with regulators, state and county agencies as well as state and county representatives should be a priority. From these relationships, all stakeholders can look collectively at various data sources such as city, county and state ordinances to make responsible decisions. We also need to ensure we protect the natural resources that make Lewes the special place that it is. We all desire for Lewes to be an attractive, responsibly planned community, and we can work in collaborative effort to achieve that.

4. Besides those mentioned above, what is the biggest issue facing the city of Lewes? 

Beaufait: Controlling construction on flood plains. Specifically, what change in the natural topography of the land is to be permitted, recognizing that there may be unintended consequences for homeowners adjacent to or near the tract to be developed. Denying the floodwaters access to one area will simply push them to another area. In addressing this issue of building within a flood plain, the matter of sea-level rise follows. While we cannot control sea-level rise, we do have to acknowledge that it is occurring and plan for a rational course of action to manage its impact within our resources.

Carnahan: Key to the city's safer future is the Hazard Mitigation Team's city resiliency plan. This plan (flood plain regulation, building codes, development standards, critical infrastructure protection, and more) will include components from city commissions and committees. As a city, we cannot wait for state or county regulations to save us from sea-level rise. We must work together to understand our risks and maximize our strengths in honest, public conversations. Ten percent of the audience at the 2019 RASCL [Resilient And Sustainable Communities League] event in Dover was composed of involved Lewes residents and governmental officials and staff. Working together, we can face the future.

Reardon: Due to COVID-19, recharging the local economy is critical to our business community and the city. But we must also focus on long-term development, including building in the flood plain, sea-level rise and storm surge. The city understands the importance and is working with its planning commission and Mitigation Planning Team. Membership includes the city, BPW, Lewes Police, the city engineer, Beebe Healthcare and the University of Delaware. The city is also working with the Association of Coastal Towns, which has brought these concerns to Sen. Tom Carper and Gov. John Carney, and is enlisting their aid.

Ritzert: Immediate term: Restore confidence in the community, especially amongst our elderly, that measures are in place to keep the community safe and well-informed. Revive the local business community suffering the effects from the coronavirus-induced shutdown. Long term: Development and annexation threaten the sense of community Lewes offers. The speed and scale of growth that has been allowed both within and outside Lewes' borders is of an enormity that the city's economic viability is threatened, diminishing its authentic historic core, and the impact of growth on the fragile coastal ecosystem we occupy is yet to be fully understood. 

Williams: Local businesses need our support now, particularly given these incredible circumstances they have been faced with. We also should be looking to cultivate sustainable enterprises as well as support those already operating. As a city, we need to think seriously about planning for the existing environmental changes and those that will continue to manifest in the coming years. With our local expertise and strong resolve, Lewes will be able to face these challenges as long as we work together. Let’s be the change that will move us forward.

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