Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission Chairman Bob Wheatley publically announced his candidacy for Sussex County Council last weekend.
“It’s a beautiful day on Delmarva,” he said. “It’s so heartening to see so many family and friends.”
Wheatley has been a resident of Sussex County since relocating with his family from Maryland at the age of 21. A former honors student at Salisbury University, he purchased the Whayland Co., a commercial contracting firm, in 1993 and moved the company to Southern Delaware in 2000. He described himself as a fiscal conservative, as well as a successful businessman and commercial Realtor.
During his public announcement, Wheatley said that, in 1995, County Councilman Dale Dukes had called him and asked him to serve on the Planning & Zoning Commission.
“I spent the next 10 years sitting next to Chairman Jack Allen,” he said. “Let me assure you — that was indeed an education. When Chairman Allen passed away, my fellow commissioners paid me the high compliment of electing me to succeed my mentor as chairman. Life is good in Sussex County.”
With those 18 years under his belt as a commissioner and nine as commission chairman, Wheatley said it is time to make a change.
“Now it’s time for me to put those years of business experience, those years of community service and the knowledge of the workings of county government to work for the people of Sussex County — to give something back to the folks who have treated me and my family so well for the last 34 years,” he said. “With that in mind, I proudly announce my candidacy for Sussex County Council District 5.”
Wheatley said he can help the county when it comes to jobs and economic development, as he is a business owner himself.
“As a small-businessman, I know what it’s like to develop a payroll and to try to make a quarter do the work of a $10 bill. I have been involved in economic development and job creation efforts across Delmarva my entire career, and one thing I’ve learned is that governments don’t create private-sector jobs. Governments create conditions that encourage businesses to create jobs.
“Currently, the Sussex County Economic Development office is understaffed. Let’s take this opportunity and rethink the way we approach economic development, to find ways of leveraging our resources by making economic development a community activity.”
He added that, with his experience in Planning & Zoning, he is already familiar with land-use issues facing the county.
“I know the issues, I know the process, and I know how to get things done,” he said. “The job of changing and improving the ordinance, however, belongs to the County Council. We are under constant pressure from state and federal agencies to address a host of concerns that will require changes and additions to the ordinance. This will impact the way development occurs in Sussex County.”
Wheatley said that, when it comes to county citizens being aware of land-use issues, it’s a mixture of those who are and those who aren’t. He added that, if elected, he’d like to help keep his constituents better informed.
“I think there are many that are, and I’m sure there are many that are not because they’re not directly affected. We’re most sensitive to the things that are happening next-door or down the street. Across the county, maybe not so much. That’s one of the things I would like to do. Is be able to take that message to everyone in a way that is easy to understand and non-threatening, and say, ‘We all need to be involved in this process, and everyone’s needs need to be represented.’ That’s my mission.”
At the announcement, Wheatley was joined by his wife, Julie, and brothers Dick and Bill.
“I am so proud of him. I think he can make a difference and make a difference in land use,” said Julie Wheatley. “I think this is an excellent thing for him and for Sussex.”
She added that, in the short time since her husband announced his candidacy, people have been speaking out in support.
“You see the support a lot quicker. People are liking and commenting, and you’re getting immediate feedback. We’ve gotten an incredible amount of support from quite a diverse group of people, too.”
“I’m looking forward to a vigorous campaign. I’m looking forward to a real grassroots, door-to-door effort to get to know all the folks of the 5th District and be able to tell my story,” Wheatley noted.
Wheatley added that he is excited to potentially represent the diverse group of citizens who make up District 5.
“It starts all the way out west at the Maryland line and goes east all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. That is a diverse blend of citizens with a diverse set of interests. It’s going to require real leadership to be able to build a consensus, balance those interests and develop solutions that protect the rights and improve the quality of life for all folks in the 5thDistrict. I believe I can provide that leadership.
“From our new friends enjoying beach life in Fenwick and South Bethany, all the way to fifth-generation farm families tilling God’s green earth west of Delmar, and everywhere in between, it would be my honor and privilege to serve you as your District 5 Sussex County Councilman.”