The filing deadline for Rehoboth Beach’s annual municipal election passed June 3, and with no incumbents on the ballot, six people filed for two commissioner seats. It’s only the second time since the turn of the century that more than five candidates have run in the city’s municipal election.
Four residents and two nonresidents have filed for two commissioner seats in the 2019 race. The four resident candidates are Mark Betchkal, Edward Chrzanowski, Charles Garlow and Suzanne Goode. The two nonresident candidates are Susan Gay and Gary Glass.
This is also the second year in a row with no incumbent running for re-election. Commissioners Stan Mills and Toni Sharp announced the week before the filing deadline they would not be seeking re-election. Last year, former Commissioners Patrick Gossett and Jay Legree did not seek re-election.
With the loss of Mills and Sharp, who have 20 years of experience between them – Mills with 12, Sharp with 8 – the institutional knowledge of the commissioners continues to dwindle. Gossett had 9 years of experience. State Auditor Kathy McGuiness stepped down in December after winning her statewide seat in November, and with her went nearly two decades of know-how. In 2017, former Mayor Sam Cooper lost a re-election bid after being at the helm since 1990.
Since 2000, the most candidates for the city’s annual election was seven in 2014, but that year included a race for mayor. In 2011, another year with a race for mayor, six people filed, but incumbent Dennis Barbour withdrew his candidacy in the weeks before the election, so only five candidates were on the ballot. The previous high for candidates in an election that didn’t include a race for mayor was 2015, when there were five.
For a brief period, it appeared this year’s race might be uncontested – Goode filed her paperwork with the city May 29; Betchkal filed his June 1 – but in the closing hours before the 4:30 p.m. deadline, Chrzanowski, Garlow, Gay and Glass made their candidacies official.
Betchkal said he is disappointed with the focus and direction of the current board of commissioners. He said he wants water rates that are fair across the board to business and residents. He said he also wants to resolve traffic and parking issues to bring more people to town.
“I would like to see a pro-business agenda that is also pro-resident,” he said. “I hope to see Clear Space build on Rehoboth Avenue within the code and without creating traffic safety issues.”
Chrzanowski said he decided to run when he learned who the likely candidates were going to be this year; he concluded that he can provide a better alternative and new approaches to issues.
“I am concerned about the sustainability of our city,” said Chrzanowski, who is president of Rehoboth Beach Main Street. “The city’s future depends upon a vibrant residential community, an economically sound business and commercial sector, and an environmentally stable and safe environment.”
Garlow, a Marine Corps veteran and retired environmental attorney, said he is running principally because he believes the city needs to spend more time addressing climate change.
“As we are in the lowest-lying state in the union, we in Delaware are particularly vulnerable,” said Garlow. “Our city commissioners should strive to make our policies reflect our concern about the environment and make our actions a model for others.”
Gay said she decided to run after being approached by many people.
“I have the experience to be an effective commissioner serving our citizens, and providing a hospitable community for businesses and visitors in Rehoboth Beach,” said Gay, who is currently planning commission vice chair and Rehoboth Beach Homeowners’ Association vice president. “I believe these positions and my years of active involvement in city issues will make me a responsive and responsible commissioner.”
Glass also ran for commissioner last year. He said he is running this year because the city needs more inclusiveness of the views of all homeowners, part-timers and business for the major decisions facing Rehoboth.
“Bringing the community together and building consensus on the city’s priorities are key challenges for the coming year,” said Glass.
In a previous interview, Goode said she decided to run because she doesn’t like how the city’s government is running. She said she thinks City Manager Sharon Lynn and her staff are competent, but she thinks they’re being hamstrung by commissioners who are too favorable toward the business community.
Goode said she would try to reform the fiscal responsibilities facing residents, instead shifting some of the burden to visitors. So many of the city’s costs are related to tourists, she said, and it’s time they pay more for the services.
General election information
The election will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 10, in the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center, 229 Rehoboth Ave.
To be eligible to vote, a person must register on or before Thursday, July 11. It’s important to remember city commissioners approved charter changes that limit voting to individuals, while at the same time relaxing some voter registration and eligibility requirements to bring them in line with state law.
The changes needed approval from the General Assembly. A bill passed passed through the House Jan. 22, the Senate March 19 and was signed into law March 28 by Gov. John Carney.
The changes clarify the one person, one vote rule for all elections – annual municipal, annexation, and borrowing and bond issuance elections; reduce the residency requirement for voter eligibility from six months to 30 days; define condominium and domicile; change the voter registration deadline to 30 days prior to the annual municipal election; reduce the amount of time nonresident property owners have to own property in town before they can vote to three months; and change the city’s process to purge individuals from the books of registered voters.
Any qualified voter may request an absentee ballot to vote by filing a request for an absentee ballot form no later than noon, Friday, Aug. 9. For more information, contact Donna Moore at 302-227-6181, Ext. 108, or go to www.cityofrehoboth.com.