Millville’s Michel steps from HOA to town council

Peter MichelPeter MichelThe Millville Town Council will get a new face this spring, with the addition of Peter Michel.

He’ll take the seat currently held by Steve Small, also a resident of Bishop’s Landing, who was appointed in March of 2016 but opted not to run in 2017.

Michel (pronounced “MITCHE-ell”) will be sworn in for a two-year term at the March 14 meeting, alongside incumbents Susan Brewer and Mayor Robert “Bob” Gordon.

With three candidates for three seats, no election is necessary in March.

“I believe in treating everybody like you would want them to treat you. I don’t get too excited about anything,” said Michel, adding that he feels the best way to handle controversial issues is to “remember there’s two sides to everything, and never listen to someone and think their problem doesn’t matter.”

Michel currently holds the unique position of the first and only resident on the Bishop’s Landing homeowners’ board. After two years, the other two seats are still held by the developer and builder (these positions are usually turned over to the residents when a majority of homes are completed).

Although new council members always have lots to learn, Michel said he is excited about what’s coming down the road for Millville, such as the new park on Dukes Road.

In a letter initially announcing his candidacy, Michel said he’s “committed to protecting our safety, property and the long-term financial health of our Town.”

Upon joining the council, Michel will leave the Bishop’s Landing board.

“I think I can do more with the same amount of time for the town as I did for [the neighborhood],” Michel said, although he said he didn’t wish to juggle both.

Michel stepped into Millville community service simply by helping neighbors with odd jobs. They eventually suggested he serve on the HOA.

“I said, ‘Me?’ They said, ‘Yeah, you’ve got the temperament,’” Michel said.

He wanted to serve his neighborhood, and now he wants to serve his town.

In Virginia, he served on the Englewood Mews Townhouse Association for three years and chaired their Committee on Architectural Review. Serving on that well-established board was a far cry from becoming the first citizen on the new Bishop’s Landing HOA, which involved resolving conflicts during the building process.

“I try to listen 90 percent of the time and talk 10 percent of the time,” he said.

Michel’s service is a team effort, as his wife, Colleen, has provided support and input.

Indeed, it was her father who first encouraged them to visit the Delaware shore. The Michels moved to Millville fulltime about two years ago, finding it to be affordable and a happy medium between the fine atmosphere of Rehoboth Beach and excitement of Ocean City, Md.

“We wanted to be in a place they would want to come visit,” Colleen Michel said of their two grown children and four grandchildren.

He retired after 35 years with the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department, including 16 years as arson investigator. That experience included firefighting, investigations, enforcement and providing expert witness in various courts.

Although he’s not a local firefighter anymore, Michel said he favors the newly mandatory Millville Volunteer Fire Company ambulance-service subscription, which, for a $35 fee, provides discount ambulance service to all Millville property owners and their guests.

Michel served as a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam from 1968 to 1971, earning two Purple Hearts. He is also a Delaware notary public who attends Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church and enjoys home improvement and going to the movies.

Like other council members, Michel said he will likely recuse himself from votes regarding his neighborhood, to avoid the perception of conflict-of-interest. Across the street, the unfinished (and barely begun) Dove Landing is also tied to the Bishop’s Landing homeowner association, so Michel may abstain from those votes as well.

“I’ll do my best and think of the town first,” Michel said. “The rest of it will work itself out.”