Russell Melrath of Dagsboro on Wednesday, Sept. 1, filed to run for the District 4 seat on the Sussex County Council. The Sussex County Democratic Party chose the former State Farm executive to face incumbent George Cole, a Republican. While the deadline for individual candidates to file for election has passed, the county chairs of the respective political parties had the option of nominating a party candidate through Sept. 1.
Melrath has been active in Sussex County politics since moving to the county 10 years ago. He is a member of the Shore Democrats and the 38th District Democratic Committee.
“I am very pleased to announce Russ’s candidacy,” said Ed O’Conner, Sussex County Democratic Party chairman. “With strong candidates in Russ Melrath and Dennis Cordrey, we intend to show the Sussex County Council that they cannot simply kowtow to the big developers and leave normal people in the lurch. We intend to bring a level of balance to the County Council and like our chances with these two candidates.”
Melrath worked as an insurance agent from 1973 to 2005 in northeast Maryland and has been involved with several non-profits. He founded Cecil County Habitat for Humanity in 1996 and was on the founding board of the Northern Chesapeake Hospice in 1988. He currently lives and works near Dagsboro and is a member of the Dewey Beach Lions Club.
He said this week that he believes Sussex County Council needs to stop its lawsuit against DNREC over the state’s Pollution Control Strategy and that he opposes taxpayer money being used for the lawsuit. He also said that clean drinking water is a priority for him.
“We need to protect our drinking water and well heads supplying water to our towns and homes. We must work with DNREC and the state to insure we are not compromising our water,” he said.
Melrath added that flooding and drainage are other big issues and said he would push for a drainage code for the county.
“This past spring brought a deluge of rain that flooded our local roads and homes. We experienced weeks of standing water blocking local roads and flooding homes,” he noted.
“Sussex County does not have a drainage code. So, when new homes are being built, developers can landscape any way they choose, without concern to possible flooding of a neighbor’s property,” Malrath added. “In addition, the new home owner may find their new home flooded because of improper drainage. I will fight hard to get a drainage ordinance.”
George Cole, who has held the position of county councilman for District 4 since 1986, said that, if re-elected, he would continue the approach he has taken in the past regarding development issues and density, although development in the area has recently quieted down due the economy.
Another issue of concern for Cole is the county’s land-use plan, and he said he would like “to look at some things that sounded good but aren’t really working.”
One thing he said he would be opposed to is allowing taller buildings in Sussex County – something he said has come up before.
“The reason Sussex County is so attractive” is because it don’t have taller buildings, he said. “People come here for a reason, and we don’t have the look of a Ocean City, Md., or a Jersey Shore or Florida.”
He also said that, with the number of visitors that come to the beaches each year, “We don’t need to be trying to attract more people. We need to do a better job with the ones that do visit our area.”
Regarding the county’s lawsuit against DNREC, Cole said he shares Melrath’s position that it should be dropped, but the majority of the council does not. He explained that the position of the majority on the council is based on the question of authority.
“Who has the authority when it comes to land use – DNREC or the county?” he noted of their position, saying that the council majority’s viewpoint is that it should be determined on the local level, not by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
Regarding a drainage code, Cole acknowledged that the county does not have one, but he said those issues are handled by the State.
“I wouldn’t support another duplicate agency,” said Cole, adding that he thought the state did an “adequate job,” but sometimes the problem is funding.
“We could subsidize it a little more,” he said, comparing an option similar to what the county did with the Delaware State Police, in helping to subsidize the agency’s work without having to create a county police department. “We got a bigger bang for our buck and didn’t have to start a new agency at the county level.”
Cole also said the county is in “good shape” financially and continues to offer low taxes to both full-time residents and the second-home owners/retirees that make up the county demographics — something he is proud of as a councilman. “That’s quite an accomplishment in today’s over-regulated world we live in.”
District 4 includes Ocean View, Long Neck, Henlopen Acres, Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach. For in-depth voter district maps, visit http://elections.delaware.gov/information/districtmaps/districtmaps.shtm... online.
All county council seats have four-year terms. In District 5 this year, current Council President Vance Phillips is being challenged by Millsboro resident Cordrey, the county’s current personnel director.
Seats for Districts 1, 2 and 3 will be up for election in 2012.
The general election is set for Nov. 2. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. To be eligible to vote, voters must be United States citizens, residents of Delaware (proof required), 18 or older and mentally competent.
Polling places include the new Indian River High School, Millville Fire Hall, Lord Baltimore Elementary, Bethany Beach Fire Hall, Fenwick Island Town Hall, Keenwick Sound Club House, Roxana Fire Hall and Selbyville Fire Hall.
Other locations include the DOT Transportation Building in Georgetown, Laurel High School, Delmar High School, Delmar Fire Hall, Gumboro Fire Hall, East Millsboro Elementary, Frankford Fire Hall, Dagsboro Fire Hall, Millsboro Fire Hall, Millsboro Civic Center, Indian River Fire Hall, Long Neck Elementary School and Mid-Sussex Rescue Squad.
For more information and addresses for polling locations, visit http://electionssc.delaware.gov/forms/Polling%20Places.pdf.