Missing Dan Kramer, a real Sussex County character
Dan Kramer passed away Sept. 14; I'm missing him.
Dan, a watchdog of Sussex County government, missed only a handful of meetings and workshops for more than two decades. And he spoke at nearly every one of them, if only to remind council he was watching.
Dan relished in the fact that he was a “burr in the saddle of Sussex County Council.”
Dan said that county council's policies and actions had improved over the years. But he still said at times they were “a bunch of turkeys.”
Dan lived a simple country life, calling himself a drop-in-the-bucket farmer. He was proud of the beans he grew each summer.
Before starting his weekly trips to Georgetown, he attended Woodbridge School District Board of Education meetings. Dan lived with his wife Martha near Greenwood not far from the Delaware-Maryland line, which falls in the Woodbridge district.
The meetings he did miss where when he was battling cancer and then undergoing extensive face reconstruction. It was during this period that he broke down and purchased a computer so he could watch council's live stream. He was like a kid with a new toy and soon became proficient in research and emailing. He also wrote a blog, Kramer's Korner.
There was also a period that he refused to speak at meetings because of what he called “The Kramer Rule.” Council enacted a new policy that persons wanting to comment must sign in and state what they planned to talk about.
Dan was convinced that the policy was put in place to deter him. When council removed the reason for speaking policy, he picked up where he left off.
So how did Sussex government become so important in his life? Mostly by accident.
He attended a few meetings and overheard a county official talking to a reporter about items that were not on the meeting's agenda. That was it. He filed a complaint against the county with the Delaware Attorney General, and he was off to the races.
Over the years, Dan and I had many, many conversations – and not all about Sussex government. He provided me with many leads to stories and had people on the “inside” giving him information.
“Ron, I've filed another FOIA complaint. Give me a call.” That message was left on my phone numerous times.
At times, he was brash, but he nearly always said something to make you think.
Dan's relationship with councilmembers varied. Some ignored him while others, such as former councilmen Finley Jones and George Cole, developed a unique type of professional relationship with him. They at least listened to what he had to say.
Current Council President Mike Vincent recently said Dan spoke from the heart, and it's hard to find fault with that.
When it's all said and done, did Dan Kramer make a difference?
He sure did. He put a spotlight on conducting county council business the right way. By holding elected officials accountable, he was able to at least start conversations on better ways to keep the public informed. Thanks for that Dan. We can't let the year end without a fond farewell to a real Sussex County character.