Fenwick Island’s town manager of four years will be leaving town hall to become CEO of the Sussex County Association of Realtors (SCAOR). Merritt Burke IV said he’s proud to have served Fenwick since March of 2012 but sad to leave a town that he likes.
The new job is similar to the old, in that Burke will serve more than 1,500 real estate professionals, oversee a small office staff, be the face of the association and make reports to the board of directors.
He will also advocate for property rights within Sussex County, coordinating special campaigns, keeping a watchful eye on legislative happenings around the state and country, and increase use of technology for communicating with members.
“To lead a progressive and expanding real estate association in one of the largest counties in the country, that’s really exciting to me. To work in the real estate field is very exciting. I’ve spent four years in land development,” he noted, even earning a real estate license at the Ocean Atlantic agency, although he never sold real estate.
“The position is also closer to home … which translates into more time for my family,” with his wife, Linda, and their four children in Milton, which he said is particularly important to him.
His last day in the office will be at the July 22 Fenwick Island Town Council meeting. After that, he’ll still be on call, as he spends his remaining two weeks of vacation time with his family.
Burke submitted his resignation on July 8, and he begins work with the SCAOR in Georgetown on Monday, Aug. 8, just after Fenwick’s 2016 town council election.
Police Chief William “Bill” Boyden will serve as interim town manager until a replacement is hired. The Town began its official search this week.
“Regarding the staff — they’re a hardworking, professional group. We’re very lean, but we accomplish a lot with the resources we’re given,” Burke said.
“I’m always most proud to be part of a team that accomplished as much as we did over four years,” Burke said. “I didn’t do anything myself. It’s really true that we all — the building official, the administrative staff, police department, public works — we accomplished everything together.”
On a personal note, he said he’s most proud of the projects that increased the quality of life in Fenwick, including the rain gardens, park expansion, informational rack cards, a new website, additional beach accessibility-enhancing Mobi-Mats, flower beds and more.
“These are all projects that make life easier for visitors and residents. I’m leaving a legacy of projects here that add value to the community, but I didn’t do these projects by myself. We did these projects as a team.”
And teamwork was the goal Burke shared with Coastal Point four years ago, when he first took the seat at the town manager’s desk.
Fenwick is still a “small coastal town with a seasonal population of 5,000 and winter population of a few hundred,” Burke said of the town, which has about 800 properties.
But he’s seen an increase in public participation, which he said is a good thing, as more people have attended meetings to share their opinions on zoning, freeboard, drainage and more.
Discussions have increased on sea-level rise, emergency management and public safety. Fenwick’s team has upgraded the Town’s facilities and added a new playground, kayak launch and ADA-compliant handicapped access points, and Town equipment. They’ve had balanced budgets and won much grant money.
“I think Fenwick will be fine. I think it’s well-positioned for the future,” Burke said.
Burke thanked the community for their support over the years and said he’s enjoyed serving them.
“I’ve enjoyed my time in Fenwick,” he said, making friends and memories in town. “I’ve enjoyed working with all the council members. I’ve enjoyed our spirited debates.”
Burke is taking over a position with the SCAOR that was vacated in January by Ruth Briggs King.
“The search committee and the board of directors conducted an extensive nationwide search before ultimately deciding on a highly qualified candidate right here in our own back yard,” stated Frank Serio, 2016 president of SCAOR.
“Merritt’s qualifications are impeccable, and we think he’s a perfect fit for our association. All of us on the board of directors are excited for him to hit the ground running and begin making a difference right away.”
In terms of his employment, Burke said it’s a coincidence that Serio is a Fenwick Island resident, and his wife, Audrey, was formerly the town’s mayor.
Burke’s long history of service includes interning for former Delaware Gov. Thomas R. Carper Jr., as well as work with the Delaware and Maryland state legislatures.
Burke earned a master’s degree in public administration at the University of Delaware and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Washington College. He’s worked in education, tourism, sales, traffic safety and real estate development. Before Fenwick, Burke was town manager for the Town of Bridgeville for a year and a half.
“I’m excited to draw on my past experiences in real estate, as well as in management and education, to really make a difference at SCAOR,” Burke stated. “I’m looking forward to this new opportunity, and I thank the board of directors for the confidence they’ve placed in me to get the job done.”
For more information, visit www.scaor.com.