Rehoboth Beach election has four candidates for two seats

City’s 2021 election is Saturday, Aug. 14; absentee ballots available until noon, Aug. 13
August 5, 2021

Story Location:
Rehoboth Beach Convention Center
229 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

Rehoboth Beach’s 2021 municipal election features four candidates for two commissioner seats – newcomer Tim Bennett, incumbent Commissioner Richard ‘Dick’ Byrne, Planning Commissioner Rachel Macha and former Commissioner Mary A. ‘Toni’ Sharp.

Sitting Commissioner Pat Coluzzi is not running for re-election.

The election will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 14, in the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center, 229 Rehoboth Ave. To be eligible to vote, a person had to register by July 15. Absentee ballots for voting are now available and will be sent to any qualified elector who files an absentee ballot request form, available at, no later than noon, Friday, Aug. 13. The deadline for the city to mail out ballots is Tuesday, Aug. 10. Ballots must be received by mail or in person before the polls close on the day of the election.

At this point in last year’s election, the outcome was still unknown, but absentee balloting had already determined who was going to win. That won’t be the case this year. During a Board of Elections meeting Aug. 3, Chair Stephen Simmons said the city had mailed out 536 absentee ballots, with 326 of them being returned. During a similar gathering of the board last year, Simmons had said 1,189 absentee ballots had been mailed, with 913 returning. There ended up being a total of 1,146 absentee ballots turned in last year.

This year there’s not the staggering number there was last year, but it’s certainly pushing the amount for a normal election, said Simmons.

For more information, contact Donna Moore at 302-227-6181, Ext. 108, or go to

Candidate profiles:

• Tim Bennett

Education: BA in marketing and public relations, Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio

Occupation: Business owner, Tribury Productions

Residence: Rehoboth Beach

How long have you owned property or resided in Rehoboth? 4 years – I purchased a property in Rehoboth Beach four years ago and moved to the city full time in June.

Relevant experience: Business owner and Fortune 500 corporate business leader with extensive sales, marketing, and strategic communications experience. Budget management responsibility in excess of $300 million. Served as an active board member of several nonprofit organizations. 

• Richard ‘Dick’ Byrne

Education: BA political science, BS social science education, MA educational administration, doctorate (ABD) public administration

Occupation: Retired; 40 years in education and administration: 10 in K-12 public school system, 30 at university level, 20 at executive level

Residence: Full time

How long have you owned property or resided in Rehoboth? Owned property since 2002 and have lived here full time since 2009 with my wife Sherri Wright and two rescue pets

Relevant experience: 30 years university administrative leadership, fiscal management, personnel, community partnerships, consensus building, fund development; Rehoboth Beach commissioner, elected in 2018; chair, Rehoboth environment committee; chair, Rehoboth animal issues committee; member, Rehoboth trees and green infrastructure committee; member, Cape Henlopen Senior Center board of directors; leadership roles with numerous Delaware nonprofits – Delaware SPCA, Sussex Family YMCA, Delaware YMCA Association, 14th RD Committee, local HOA president.

• Rachel Macha

Education: BS in management – Wilmington College; MM business – Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

Occupation: Customer service and customer experience executive in the technology, software and service industries

Residence: Rehoboth Beach; Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

How long have you owned property or resided in Rehoboth? 21 years

Relevant experience: Member, Rehoboth Beach planning commission; member, Rehoboth Beach Parks & Shade Tree Commission; supported development of Rehoboth Beach Main Street Respect Rehoboth campaign; currently serving on advancement committee, Salesianum High School, Wilmington; former vice president and secretary for Highlands Community Association, Wilmington; served on Ronald McDonald House of Delaware board of directors for 10 years and on its numerous committees for 18 years.

• Mary Antoinette ‘Toni’  Sharp

Education: Bishop Lynch College Preparatory

Occupation: Former health insurance executive; former Rehoboth Beach commissioner

Residence: Rehoboth Beach

How long have you owned property or resided in Rehoboth? I purchased my property in 1998 and built my home in 1999.

Relevant experience: Former two-term city commissioner, Rehoboth Beach; former chair, Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Trees; former chair, personnel committee; former commissioner liaison, Rehoboth Beach Main Street; former member, communications committee; member, streets and transportation committee; board member, Save Our Lakes Alliance 3; board member and volunteer, Rehoboth Beach Farmers Market; former communications and marketing executive.

Questions and answers:

• The city is set to receive $835,000 in federal COVID relief funds. Burt Dukes, the city’s chief financial officer, recommended the money be spent on infrastructure. Is that how you’d like to see the money spent? If yes, on what projects? If not, how should the money be spent?

Tim Bennett: I would recommend the COVID relief funds, along with the $1 million from the sale of the city’s Kent Street property, be used for the Wilmington-Baltimore Avenue Streetscape project, specifically to underground utilities in that area. Undergrounding utilities there, enhancing pedestrian access, and expanding outdoor dining options could make that whole area a new and unique destination for the city. Rehoboth should be the outdoor dining destination for coastal Delaware.

Richard Byrne: I believe the city should financially compensate those essential public employees who gave so much extra to keep our city safe, healthy and well during the COVID outbreak. I support spending approximately one-quarter of the funds on necessary employees during the pandemic and three-quarters on necessary infrastructure needs as detailed in the [capital improvement plan] and [comprehensive development plan] – street paving, sewer lines, stormwater management, Delaware Avenue restrooms, underground utility lines and water meters. Parking revenue fell short during COVID; however, that item doesn’t fit well within the rules for the funds.

Rachel Macha: As I outlined during my campaign, the city should take advantage of available federal infrastructure funds. As for the $835,000 the city is set to receive, I agree these funds should be spent on infrastructure projects. Unless there are more critical projects that were deferred due to COVID, I recommend we look at a project plan to bury overhead lines, repair our sidewalks, curbs and streets, and assess needed stormwater infrastructure repairs.

Mary A. Sharp: This windfall presents a unique opportunity to engage our community, asking them to weigh in on projects that provide high value in our neighborhoods. Careful consideration of uses, such as funds for essential workers, deserves serious discussion. My experience tells me that funding deferred infrastructure maintenance may not be the highest-value project and is better considered as part of each annual budget. It should be our highest must-have annual funding priority during the budget process, not funding canal docks, tot lots, big-belly trash receptacles (outside city limits) and a whole host of “nice to have” projects.

• Similar to many of the city’s small businesses, the city is facing continued staffing shortages. Unlike small businesses, the city can't shut down for a day if needed. What should the city be doing to attract employees to fill those open positions?

Bennett: Cities no longer just compete with other municipalities for employment needs. The private sector has been very aggressive in attracting workers with health benefits, time off, additional earned vacation time, and other a la carte compensation packages. If Rehoboth is not competitive in the marketplace, it will have to adjust in order to fill needed roles. For seasonal/part-time positions that may not offer full benefits, the city can explore other benefits such as lunch vouchers, free parking or more flexible schedules.

Byrne: This is currently a critical issue for our city with negative consequences. For example, Rehoboth Beach is currently not collecting recycling on the Boardwalk because of the serious staff shortage. There is an opportunity for the city to do several things: conduct a review of recruitment and hiring policies; review employee compensation and benefits; gather data on employee retention; step up recruitment practices by promoting quality of life and the advantages of working and living here; consider creative incentives: hiring bonuses, referral bonuses, student loan repayment and/or tax incentives to attract younger workers from outside the area.

Macha: To attract employees, the city needs to network with other coastal municipalities that have successfully attracted workers to fill positions and leverage these best practices to recruit employees. Like businesses, “out of the box thinking” is necessary to attract employees in our current environment. Compensation incentives, such as sign-on bonuses or guaranteed annual bonuses after a specified period of employment, other benefits or compensation incentives, and flexible work hours/hybrid or remote work models should be considered.

Sharp: This question should have been asked months ago. This problem is common knowledge in both the public and private sectors – and not unique to the city of Rehoboth Beach. I would ask our city manager for a comprehensive plan to solve this challenge, asking, “What is the plan to solve this? What resources are needed?” As the previous chair of the personnel committee, I recommend we take a serious look at the compensation and benefits study that was done a few years ago. This study should guide us to offer competitive packages to attract the most qualified candidates for employment.

• If the city goes through with mandatory recycling, should property owners who rent be fined if their renters aren’t following the rules for recycling? If not, how do you propose enforcing good recycling habits for vacationers?

Bennett: Yes, homeowners are responsible for what happens on their property. Renters must follow the rules of the city. It is the homeowner’s, or the rental agent’s, responsibility to make sure renters are aware of the recycling policy. The city should also begin to enforce the rules that are already in place for recycling. I also suggest that rental properties be charged an additional fee or an increase to their rental tax to cover the cost of the new program for the entire city rather than charging all residents for the new program.

Byrne: The proposal being considered would require all residences to pay for recycling at a cost of $135 a year. It’s a bargain when you think of the negative consequences of throwing everything away. I believe almost all residents and renters want to do the right thing – recycle according to the rules. This will require education, a consistent communication and promotion strategy. It will be critical for property owners who rent to take responsibility for providing appropriate information in the lease agreement. The city could consider setting recycling fees to the occupancy numbers in the rental license.

Macha: Many believe that we have mandatory recycling already, and others believe that the cost of this mandatory recycling is included in their annual trash collection assessment. If the cost of recycling has already been included in the annual trash fee, then we need to break out those costs. Property owners who rent have a responsibility to inform vacationers of our rules for recycling. This can be easily accomplished by posting information on their property in a prominent location. Recycling is a normal activity in most cities. So, I expect that most vacationers visiting Rehoboth will comply with our recycling request.

Sharp: We do not effectively enforce this now. “Enforcement” has become selective enforcement driven by complaints, not universal compliance. Now is a perfect opportunity to examine our trash and recycling programs. Both are not properly understood, not properly enforced, and not equitable. For example, year-round residents pay the same as properties with rental licenses, yet endure reduced recycling pickups in the off-season. The trash and recycling programs that do not differentiate between full- and part-time residents, and those who run a rental business out of their homes are definitely not equitable. I advocate a comprehensive review of these programs ASAP.

• It looks like the city is going through with hiring a city planner – at least on a contractual basis. What would your prioritized list for them look like? Why?

Bennett: A city planner would be a great asset to the city as we have several projects on the docket – three proposed hotels, for example. As a city staff person working with the planning commission, this person would immediately be able to assist on the Wilmington-Baltimore Avenue Streetscape project and the delayed Comprehensive Development Plan. In the mid-term, the planner can be proactive on the hotel projects and avoid many of the pitfalls that have derailed other large development projects.

Byrne: Rehoboth Beach will benefit from the expertise of a contractual city planner. Rehoboth has numerous needs: Consider an architectural review process and update the 2007 Architectural Design Manual; conduct a thorough analysis of the city zoning code, commercial and residential; examine the establishment of a new mixed-use zone category to encourage revitalization of specific commercial areas; add expertise to streetscape projects; review development regulations to update, streamline and add clarity and consistency; assist the planning commission in a variety of ways; advise on what is possible in the future in order to protect and enhance quality of life.

Macha: As a member of the planning commission, I support the engagement of a city planner. On July 20, the planning commission finalized a document that was forwarded to the mayor and commissioners stating that the 2010 Comprehensive Development Plan outlines the need for a city planner as necessary to achieve the CDP’s visions for the future of Rehoboth Beach. The document outlined rules of engagement, specific skills, background and knowledge that a city planner should possess to be successful in the role and identified implementation issues that need to be considered when hiring a city planner.

Sharp: I am all for doing everything we can and should to advance toward reasonable, rational and sustainable growth. Just as you need a blueprint to build a house or a business plan to start a business, it is imperative a city planner be given the vision we have for our community. These priorities should not come from commissioners; they must come from the Comprehensive Development Plan, which outlines the city’s top issues and how we should handle them. Regrettably, our CDP is more than a decade old, as the planning commission has yet to complete the 2020 CDP.

• After receiving a second year-long extension, the 2020 Comprehensive Development Plan is now due July 2022. What are the top issues the city’s new CDP should address? Why?

Bennett: The citizens want meaningful input on the CDP. They are concerned about managing growth, overdevelopment, crowded beaches, parking and traffic. Again, a city planner could be of help in crafting the CDP as these listed concerns were issues in the last CDP, now out of date. The CDP needs to address maintaining the character/charm of the city while continuing to thrive as a great place to do business and visit. The beach and the Boardwalk also need attention as they are the two most mentioned assets that all parties value as important to the city’s future.

Byrne: There are two critical issues that need to be addressed in the new CDP. First is to manage and administer a healthy and positive balance among the city’s various communities – residential, business and visitor/resort. The 2010 CDP talks about the challenges of maintaining balance among these groups, and it’s still true in 2021. My approach is to give constant and deliberate attention to achieving a healthy balance that is win-win for all. The second issue is climate change. It’s critical our city proactively plans for serious and disruptive challenges due to climate change.

Macha: As a planning commission member, I carefully analyzed and understand the concerns and suggestions of residents, businesses, tourists, organizations and service providers in the city. Key issues include: Preserving our sense of place by beginning to tackle and updating our outdated, conflicting and confusing city code; arts and culture – 84 percent believe the city should actively promote and implement economic development strategies for the arts, a key component of maintaining a high quality of life; infrastructure – more than 84 percent place a high level of importance on trees, water quality, recycling programs, and easy access to woodland trails.

Sharp: For commissioners to determine the top issues is inappropriate without serious community input from public and private stakeholders which, to my understanding, the planning commission – which prepares the CDP – has only requested once, over two years ago. The lateness and need for extensions are unacceptable. As a commissioner in 2018, I was already asking questions about the status of the 2020 CDP. Clearly, other commissioners did not have the same sense of urgency to direct the completion of it in a timely manner. We must have meaningful, expeditious community input to complete the CDP now, not in July 2022!

• Multiple redevelopment projects within the city’s commercial district are facing multi-year delays in the approval process. Given the length of time it takes to get approval, why should commercial property owners want to redevelop their properties?

Bennett: Rehoboth is a desirable location for residents, businesses and vacationers. Our commercial district is at 100 percent occupancy, and real estate is not easy to come by. Redevelopment projects take time because they need to be vetted, not rushed, and they must adhere to the shared vision of the entire community. Developers know that investing in Rehoboth is smart, not always easy, but a sure thing with a set of expectations. Our citizens and city government are engaged and care about having a clean, safe and friendly community with all the coastal charm you would expect from a beach resort.

Byrne: Our city needs revitalization in several areas. The system needs to be improved and streamlined as it currently lacks clarity and consistency. Creative redevelopment of commercial properties on Rehoboth, Wilmington and Baltimore avenues is necessary. To remain competitive and prosperous, the city must create and maintain a sustainable model to enhance economic vitality. The city needs to distinguish our commercial area in a manner that heads off what could be an inevitable decline in downtown shopping caused by internet shopping and big-box stores on Route 1.The future doesn’t happen by accident.

Macha: With momentum underway to hire a city planner, I am hopeful that we will streamline the process for commercial projects going forward. In my view, commercial property owners see the potential for a vibrant future in Rehoboth and want to be part of it. We need to rehab or replace empty buildings. We need to listen to our stakeholders, which includes a balance of businesses, residents and visitors who are all key to Rehoboth’s success in years to come. We need prompt action to revise our city code to remove inconsistencies, confusing provisions and obstacles to “controlled” progress in Rehoboth.

Sharp: This implies that the city is a roadblock rather than a speed bump in the redevelopment process. While we need to examine how to streamline the city’s processes, our role is more limited than many might think. Before the city can approve redevelopment projects, the state fire marshal, the state health department, potentially DNREC, and other agencies must give the green light. The competition within our commercial areas to meet the expectations of today’s Rehoboth Beach residents and visitors is fierce. Developers know that if they assess the market correctly, they can make a strong return on their investment.

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