This week’s Sussex County Council meeting was the last for longtime Councilwoman Joan Deaver, the outgoing District 3 representative, who was the first woman to be elected to the council.
Deaver was elected in 2008 as the council’s only Democrat, in the wake of three longtime Democratic council members departing, and served eight years on council, representing the Lewes/Rehoboth area. She chose not to run for reelection this year and will be succeeded by outgoing Planning Commissioner I.G. Burton (R-3rd).
“It has been an interesting eight years,” said Council President Michael Vincent. “We came on council together. It’s been fun. We haven’t always agreed on everything, but I think we’ve been respectful of each other, and that’s the way it should be done.
“I do thank you for your services to the County. You certainly, certainly represented the people of your district very well… Thank you for your service; it’s been fun.”
Councilman George Cole, who sits next to Deaver on the dais, where the two have been known to spar, recalled when he first met Deaver, as an activist.
“She followed her activism, and here she ended up on county council. Her issues were not Republican or Democrat issues. They were land use and the best way to approach it. Even though she isn’t a native, like some of us, she developed this sense of community, which many people do when they move here, because it’s a lovely place.”
The newest member of the current council, Rob Arlett said he has only been able to work with Deaver for two years but that her passion for the issues facing her constituents has been ever-present.
“As an elected official, I totally respect you. You broke the ceiling in Sussex County… You are the very first elected female on this council. I think that is going to go down in history in Sussex County. I think that’s a testament to your passion and to District 3 for standing for principles.”
Councilman Sam Wilson joked that Arlett had stolen his farewell speech and that he therefore had nothing additional to add.
“I wish you well, Joan.”
Deaver was presented with a plaque and decorative gavel, as well as a proclamation noting her service to the County.
“Joan Deaver, both as a community advocate and as an elected public servant, has been the unwavering champion for managed, responsible growth, protecting the environment and promoting the area’s rich quality of life — the essence of Sussex County — for future generations to enjoy,” read County Administrator Todd Lawson from the proclamation.
“It’s really a highlight of my life,” said Deaver. “This has been an amazing opportunity. I wish I deserved all the praise... I really loved watching the County improve every day — every day. It’s much more transparent than ever before. I’m very satisfied and pleased with our progress and the way we keep our money.”
Deaver’s official date of retirement is Jan. 3, 2017.
At the same meeting, the winners of the County’s Election Year Scholarship Contest were recognized. The scholarship contest, which is in its ninth year, gave Sussex County students ages 18 and younger the opportunity to learn about the American election process by predicting the winners of 20 national, state and local races in the Nov. 8 general election.
Students competed for one $200 scholarship prize and five $100 runner-up prizes. There were 430 participants in this year’s contest.
Brandon Bradshaw, 17, a senior at Sussex Technical High School, won the contest and the $200 scholarship prize. Bradshaw correctly picked 19 of 20 races, with a tie-breaking prediction of 41,200 votes from Sussex County for the presidential race winner.
Runners up included Brooke Ward, 17, a senior at Sussex Tech; Dahria Kalmbach, 16, a junior at Indian River High School; Samuel Rojas, 17, a senior at Indian River High School; Keith Chatterton, 18, a senior at Indian River High School; and Julia Swingle, 14, a ninth-grader at Sussex Academy.
“Predicting election outcomes can be a tricky endeavor, as we saw in the most recent election,” Lawson said. “These young people did what a lot of the so-called experts couldn’t do, so congratulations to them. Win or lose, it’s inspiring to see so many students taking an interest in our political process.”
In other County news:
• The County is continuing to collect canned goods and nonperishable food items to be donated to area food pantries.
• The County’s offices will be closed on Dec. 23 and 26 to celebrate the Christmas holiday.
• County Council will not meet on Dec. 20 or 27, due to the Christmas holiday. The council will next meet on Tuesday, Jan. 2, at 10 a.m.