Well, it’s time to put another year in the proverbial rearview and set our sights ahead to the wonders that await us in 2015.
But before we move forward, let’s take a moment to look back on 2014, shed a few tears and share a few smiles. It was a busy year, as you will see, and one that saw us lose some cherished faces. But it was also a year that saw our local economy rebound a bit, and some new faces climb into public office with fresh ideas and enthusiasm. Let’s recap:
• January always starts with a splash or two around here, and that was again the case this year as revelers in Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island dove into the ocean to celebrate the new calendar. The Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) began work on an ambitious project along Route 26, Fenwick began looking for bids for a proposed shuttle service and Walter Curran threw his hat into the ring to become the new mayor of Ocean View. We also saw the principal and assistant principal at Lord Baltimore Elementary School get put on administrative leave before being reassigned, and kayaks vandalized at James Farm. I attacked my resolutions with true zeal and enthusiasm — until about Jan. 3.
• February saw the Coastal Point celebrate 10 years in business, but that was tempered a little around our offices with the final regular column by Marie Cook, who decided to take a rest from her “Marie’s Kitchen” work for a bit to work on other projects. Shirley Price announced her intentions to run for Sussex County Council, the owners of Cottage Café began talking with their neighbors about a new project they’d be working on and a homeowner in Ocean View generously donated her property to the Ocean View Historical Association. Curran indeed became the mayor of Ocean View, but then-Bethany Beach Mayor Tony McClenny resigned his post to receive medical treatment. I thought I saw the groundhog behind my house looking for his shadow, but then I realized it was a nutria and learned that they are disgusting. Gross, gross creatures.
• March brings St. Patrick’s Day, which brings me smiles and then hangovers, but it also brought a late snow storm to the area. Snow throughout the winter caused the Indian River School District to announce it would keep students in schools 30 minutes later each day to make up for lost time, and there was fear that work on the Streetscape project in Bethany Beach would extend past Memorial Day. In a classic example of a community rallying around a cause, the Clayton Theater went digital, following an amazing round of fundraising from all corners of our little slice of paradise. Brad Connor and Bob Wheatley, two well-known names in the local political scene, each announced they would be running for Sussex County Council seats. I bought new running shoes. They are still in the box.
• April showers bring May flowers, but last April brought us more news in what was shaping up to be the most interesting local election season in some time. Embattled Sussex County Councilman Vance Phillips announced that he would not be giving up his seat without a fight. Bethany Beach businesses made their opinions known about the Streetscape project extending into the busy season, and after a few comments lobbed back and forth, Town officials and business leaders seemed to work together well to get through a challenging spot. DNREC held a public informational meeting to discuss the Assawoman Canal Trail, and former Ocean View Mayor Gordon Wood discussed his six years in office with us, pointing out how the animosity that was ripping apart the town had subsided greatly. I watched my fantasy baseball team get off to a slow start, but just knew it would get hot any time.
• May is the month when our community annually comes to life, and our other longtime Sussex County Councilman George Cole announced he would indeed be running to retain his seat, to the surprise of many (including me). Also in the political world, Rich Collins announced he would run again for the 41st District representative seat, following a close loss last time around, and Doug Hudson and Scott Collins were reelected to the school board. The Bethany Arms was razed to make room for Bethany Beach Ocean Suites, and the Center for the Inland Bays held its 10th native plant sale. Police responded to a suspected murder-suicide of a couple near Selbyville, which shocked many to the core. My fantasy team was still pacing itself — intent on picking the right time to get it together.
• June brings families to the beach, and also news that Ron Gray would run again for his seat as representative of the 38th District (Gray would run unopposed for his seat — allowing him to focus on his duties and us to catch a breather on at least one important race this year). The Eric Bodenweiser trial began, filled our heads with images we’d probably not want to have, and eventually ended in a mistrial due to a hung jury, and Frankford residents and officials got into a verbal tussle over the Town’s proposed pension plans and a charter amendment on citizens’ privilege. I decided that my fantasy baseball team was not off to a slow start. It was clinically dead.
• July brings fireworks, and the fireworks were really picking up on the political scene, as Rob Arlett announced his intentions to run for Sussex County Council, and John Atkins officially laid claim to his seat in the 41st Representative District. David Small became the new secretary of DNREC, students in the Indian River School District surpassed state averages in DCAS testing and the Clayton Theater received a state historical marker. State officials announced that they would indeed retry Bodenweiser, so that did not hang out there very long. Royal Farms opened in Ocean View, bringing us an enormous inflateable chicken to enjoy, and making my attempts to add weight that much easier.
• August brought us the Senior League and Big League Softball World Series this year, as well as my birthday (I’m still waiting on cards from many of you. Yeah, you). But it was also a month of great loss. McClenny passed away from his illness, leaving a big hole in Bethany Beach, and taking away a person I enjoyed talking with very much. The entire community mourned the loss of restaurateur, philanthropist and all-around good guy, Matt Haley, who succumbed to injuries from a motorcycle accident while trying to help people in India. A Millsboro cab driver was also found murdered in his cab under strange circumstances. On the personal side, I got to enjoy a candidates night in Bethany Beach for their coming council election, but the entire month seemed a little empty after the losses of McClenny and Haley.
• September brings Labor Day, which means the end of the season to many, but was a month of re-birth in many ways here this year. The Blue Water Grill reopened in Millsboro following a fire, and Operation SEAs the Day took the stage, as many of our bravest and brightest graced us with their presence for a few days. The primaries took the spotlight for a while, and Wheatley and Arlett moved on to face each other for a seat on county council, while Sheriff Jeff Christopher lost his primary to Robert T. Lee. Christopher later announced he would be launching a write-in campaign for November’s general election. I changed my fantasy sports attention to football and rediscovered my love for the couch and all things fried.
• October is the month for ghouls and goblins, but it also brought us news of something even more frightening this year. A Selbyville woman was arrested after her daughter reportedly brought heroin to her daycare center and began passing it around to other children, believing it was candy that she had found in her backpack. Also, a student at Selbyville Middle School was suspected of swallowing heroin at a school dance. This heroin nonsense is ridiculous, people. The Antares rocket also exploded at liftoff at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, residents voiced extreme displeasure with aquaculture plans involving shellfish and Frankford officials sliced citizens’ privilege in half at their town council meetings. Ocean View Town Council made a move to try to help some businesses in town by extending alcohol service hours and Troy Crowson was named new chief of the South Bethany Police Department. I went to a Halloween party dressed hilariously as... I wasn’t invited to any Halloween parties. I just wanted to sound cool.
• November is about being thankful, and we were grateful that the elections were finally upon us. Arlett topped Wheatley, Cole beat Price and Collins avenged his loss to Atkins last go-around with a win this time. Dagsboro opened its new remarkable fire hall, PRMC opened its new health pavillion in Millsboro and Bethany Beach officials briefly discussed the merits of taking the concession business away from the Steen family before stepping back and letting business go as usual. Frankford deferred on its pension vote, South Bethany discussed mandatory freeboard regulations before taking that off the table (for now) and the community rallied for a neighbor in need once again, this time for a family who was displaced by a fire. On the personal side, I became a first-time father to a beautiful daughter at the age of 45 and realized that “life experience” doesn’t come in as handy as one might imagine when standing face-to-face with a dirty diaper. I also learned that I know nothing, and that as busy as I thought I might have been before... yeah. I’ve now learned what “busy” means.
• December means Christmas to this guy, and this year obviously meant more to me than any other with the new addition to our dysfunctional little family. A judge ruled that the Bodenweiser trial would be moved to Kent County because of media attention here, and the construction on Route 26 is about to cause some major changes to the way we travel. Pamela Webb was named the new principal at Lord Baltimore Elementary School, and Chief William Dudley announced his retirment from the Frankford Police Department, leaving a void that will be tough to fill, but earning a well-deserved rest for himself in the process. I had a few opportunities to look back at the year over the holiday and realized just how good I have it. Beautiful family, fun job, great co-workers and a fool-proof plan to win my fantasy baseball league this year. Well, let’s just stick with the beautiful family, fun job and great co-workers.