Outgoing county councilman end era

County staff and local officials offered accolades and personal recollections for three outgoing Sussex County Councilmen on Tuesday, Dec. 16, as the current council met for its final session before a new council will be sworn in this January. Councilman Dale Dukes (D-1st-Laurel) is retiring after 20 years on the council. Councilmen Finley Jones (D-2nd-Greenwood) and Lynn Rogers (D-3rd-Milton) are both retiring after 12 years on the council.

Georgetown Mayor Edwin A Lambden took the opportunity to present the three outgoing councilmen with plaques noting the town’s declaration of Dec. 10 as Dale Dukes Day, Finley B. Jones Day and Lynn Rogers Day in Georgetown. He praised the councilmen’s actions that he said have resulted in the county’s low property taxes, plenty of jobs and low unemployment.

Deptuy County Administrator Hal Godwin also offered praise on Tuesday. “I want to thank you for your assistance and guidance,” he said. “I wish you the best in your retirement. And I don’t expect to see any of you in a rocking chair anywhere.”

County Solicitor David Griffin also offered a special tribute to the departing council members, saying, “I’m not sure the public really realizes how much time you’ve put into this, the endless numbers of hours you spend…” He presented them with a framed list of the accomplishment of their era on the council that will hang at the county administrative building.

Dukes offered his own thanks to County Administrator David Baker and to Griffin, as well as other county staff. Noting that the council had officially opened a new paramedic unit that very morning, Dukes said he couldn’t help to recall when they had opened the county’s first paramedic unit back near the beginning of his first term. “The paramedic vehicle wouldn’t start,” he said. “We had to push it out.”

“It’s been a great 20 years,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of accomplishments and a lot of hard work. I’m going to miss it, but it’s time to let other people have some fun.”

“We’ve been a team together,” he noted of the council’s work with county employees.

Rogers differed with Dukes on one point in his leave-taking. “It’s been a great 12 years,” he said. I wouldn’t say it’s been fun – but you don’t live in my district,” he added with a laugh. “In my time on the council, I’ve learned how to listen. My constituency has been great. In my district, they do voice their opinions. It’s been like family,” he added, thanking his fellow council members.

“If you look at the last dozen years, compared to the 30 years prior, we’ve had a lot on our plate,” he emphasized. “It’s been really rewarding in terms of everything we’ve gotten done,” he said, adding a final thank-you for his wife.

Jones noted that his own wife currently resides in Canada, where he has been hauling a massive sheaf of county paperwork every time he has visited since she moved there.

“It will be nice when I go see her after Christmas that I won’t have to carry all that with me,” he said, taking the time to thank both his constituency and county staff. “We are a machine and we are a business … and we do a good job,” he said.

“Twelve years ago,” he noted to laughter, “none of us had gray hair. It’s a great job. I love it and I love all of you.”

Despite longstanding conflict between himself and the departing council members, Councilman George Cole (R-5th-Bethany Beach) too had praise for their work over the years. “Dale told me I had to have a thick skin and good sense of humor. And now Dale is going to have to find someone else to kick around. I’m the only guy he couldn’t fire,” he added, suggesting, “I think I’ll see a lot of them walking the boardwalk early in the morning. I’ll miss ’em all. It has been fun.”

“It has been, George, for both of us,” replied Dukes.

Councilman Vance Phillips (R-4th-Laurel) offered deference to his departing peers, with whom he has most often found agreement.

“Even though we’re all supposed to be on par, I don’t see myself at the same level as you guys,” he said. “But you’ve always had my utmost respect. I know I haven’t shown it all the time … but the maturity and the grace that you’ve handled yourself with over the years is something that I aspire to. I’m going to miss you. You’ve had a profound effect on me.

“The people around you mold your personality,” Phillips suggested. “The thought of only having him [Cole] to mold me is kind of scary,” he added with a laugh.

“Some things are impossible, folks,” put in Cole.

“You’ve had a tremendous impact on my life, and I appreciate it,” Phillips concluded.

Dukes offered some perspective on the inner workings of the council. “We might come in here and disagree and argue our point. But when we walk out this door, it’s over with. We’re still friends,” he said. “If you have five people who have the same opinion, you don’t need but one person here. I’m going to miss these two also.”

It’s possible the outgoing councilmen might even miss the man they called “the thorn in our side.” Frequent council critic Dan Kramer was presented with a special gift of his own from the council on Tuesday.

“Is there a bomb in it?” he queried Dukes warily as he opened the package – a turkey.

“We’ve been called turkeys many times by Mr. Kramer,” Dukes noted.

The new county council members will have their swearing in prior to the council’s next meeting, on Jan. 6, at 9 a.m. County offices will be closed Dec. 25-26 and on Jan. 1.

County continues contract with DSP, honors employee of year

Also on Dec. 16, the council handed over its payment for additional state police service for the first quarter of 2009, as representatives of the Delaware State Police appeared to recognize the ongoing provision of 40 additional troopers above the state’s base allotment for the county. That costs the county $1.9 million per year. The arrangement has been in place for 14 years now.

Maj. R.L. Hughes appeared on behalf of DSP Col. Thomas McLeish on Tuesday, offering his particular thanks as a Sussex County native, former captain of Troop 5 in the county and a one-time county honoree for his perfect attendance at county council meetings.

“This is something that many governments should envy,” he said, “county, state and fed government working together.”

“Thank you for your support,” he added. “We will continue to do our jobs and hope you will continue this relationship.

Dukes noted that he has been a long-time opponent of creating a county police force because of the costs when the county could continue to contract with the state police.

The council on Dec. 16 also honored Engineering Department Office Manager Jean Ellen Dickerson, who was declared the Sussex County Employee of the Year at the Mildred King award luncheon last week. She started with the department in 1980 as a clerk-typist and is currently the department’s single point of contact for advertising. She was nominated for the honor by fellow employees.