Following a 16-year tenure, Sussex County District 5 Councilman Vance Phillips this week concluded his last council meeting.
“Today is my last day on county council after so many years,” said Phillips on Dec. 16. “During the course of this meeting, it has been a great joy to see so many faces. Everybody in this room means so much to me.”
A reception was held following the meeting, culminating Phillips’ time on council. Those in attendance included former council president Dale Dukes; state Reps. Ron Gray, Dave Wilson, Rich Collins and Tim Dukes, and former county administrators Bob Stickles, Joe Conaway and David Baker.
Phillips thanked all those in attendance for their guidance and friendship over the years.
“As I look around this room, it just fills my heart with joy to know that people like you care about me,” he said. “When I was injured and in the hospital, it was so many of you that prayed me up out of that hospital bed… Just day-by-day I felt God’s hand in it all. It was because so many people were praying for me.”
Councilman Sam Wilson — who had driven to Philadelphia and watched Phillips take his first steps following the 2011 crash that occurred while Phillips was conducting a solo flight in a glider-like aircraft — thanked Phillips for his advice and friendship.
“I’m sure going to miss him,” he said.
“Thank you for all the years you’ve served this county and served it well,” added Council President Michael Vincent.
Tim Dukes presented Phillips with a tribute from the House of Representatives, recognizing his years of service.
“I have appreciated working with you,” said Tim Dukes.
Sussex County Land Trust Board Member Dennis Forney thanked Phillips for his support in preserving areas for Sussex County’s non-voting residents, including the deer, squirrels and skunks.
“We’ve always appreciated your dedication to open spaces in Sussex County,” he said. “We preserve thousands of acres in Sussex County, and we’re not done by a long shot. We appreciate your help, Vance.”
Phillips praised non-profit groups for providing support to county residents, which he said helps keep government small.
“Government cannot be everything to everybody,” he said.
Phillips, who had hoped to stay on council, lost the Republican primary in September to Rob Arlett.
“Just for the record, I have no political ambitions. I am not interested in getting back into the fray,” he said. “I want you all to embrace Rob Arlett. He is a fine gentleman. He is the kind of person I think is going to make a tremendous county councilman if we don’t lose him to Congress or the U.S. Senate. Rob, I hope you will give us at least four years.”
It was a tough day, said Phillips, noting that he had spent the majority of his Tuesdays in council chambers over the last 16 years. However, with the showing of support at the farewell, Phillips said he wouldn’t shed any tears.
“It would be a disservice to have emotion other than joy right now,” he said.