For the first time in recent Rehoboth Beach history, voters have elected a new mayor in consecutive mayoral races.
In 2017, outgoing Mayor Paul Kuhns defeated former Mayor Sam Cooper, who had held the seat since 1990. During the city’s 2020 election Aug. 8, voters elected former Commissioner Stan Mills as Rehoboth Beach’s new mayor. Mills defeated Kuhns by nearly 300 votes – 876 to 587.
Immediately following the election results, Mills thanked the voters and said it shows how many people care about the future of Rehoboth Beach.
“A clear message was sent,” said Mayor-elect Mills, who was a commissioner for 12 years, ending in 2019. “Experience matters.”
In past years, a large crowd would gather at the convention hall doors to hear the election results. This year the crowd was sparse, and winners, losers and members of the public didn’t stick around long after the announcement was made by city election officials.
In an email Aug. 9, Kuhns said he was very disappointed with the results. He said he wasn’t sure what the vote meant for the future of Rehoboth.
“It looks as though the voters wanted a change in leadership,” he said.
In the race for two open commissioner seats, Jay Lagree and Patrick Gossett were elected over Hugh Fuller and Rachel Macha. Sitting commissioners Lisa Schlosser, elected in 2017, and Steve Scheffer, appointed in December 2018, did not run for re-election.
With 882 votes, Lagree was the high vote-getter of the day.
“It feels like it’s time to get to work,” said Lagree, who will be enjoying his second stint on the board of commissioners. In 2017, he was appointed to a 10-month term by Kuhns to fill Kuhns’ vacant commissioner seat after he defeated Cooper.
Lagree said the city has some tough financial challenges ahead, but he thinks the new commissioners and the sitting commissioners are up to the task.
“I haven’t felt this good about the city’s leadership in years,” he said.
Receiving 824 votes, Gossett said he was humbled by the support. The city is facing a challenging time and the commissioners have a big job ahead, he said, but the members are looking forward to the challenge.
All three winners said they recognized some of the remaining board members publicly supported Kuhns in his bid for re-election. All three said they don’t foresee any problems moving forward.
It’s an opportunity for compromise and working on things down the middle, which is something people were concerned wasn’t happening, said Gossett.
Macha and Fuller received 582 and 563 votes, respectively.
By the numbers, this election had some of the highest totals in Rehoboth history. Earlier in the election cycle, the city provided all the voting results of every election since 1990.
The total number of votes in this year’s election – 1,471 – is the highest in the last 30 years. The number of absentee ballots in this year’s election – 1,146 – is also the highest and would be more total votes than all but five years since 1990 – 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2017. The next-highest number of absentee ballots cast was 436, in 2017.
Roughly 85 percent of registered voters participated this year – 1,471 of 1,731. That’s the second-highest total since 1990. In 2005, approximately 90 percent of registered voters – 1,191 of 1,346 – cast a ballot.
Mills, Lagree and Gossett will be sworn into office for their three-year terms at the regular commissioner meeting Friday, Sept. 18.