Potential candidates for seats on the Bethany Beach Town Council have less than a week to make up their minds about whether they’re going to make a run for a council seat this year, with a deadline to file their Application for Candidacy at town hall set on Tuesday, July 24, at 4 p.m.
Three seats are up for election this year: those currently held by Mayor Carol Olmstead, Council Member Wayne Fuller and Council Member Lew Killmer, who narrowly returned to the council just last year as a council-selected replacement for former Mayor Jack Walsh.
Walsh resigned his seat a year early, in the wake of an election and council reorganizational upheaval that saw two incumbents — Killmer and Harold Steele — lose out to candidates seeking change in town government (Steve Wode and Tracy Mulligan) and the final make-up of the council casting a majority vote in favor of Olmstead as the new mayor.
The new council, minus Walsh, then opted to fill his seat with the next highest vote-getter in the election, which brought an ousted Killmer right back onto the council and left two-term council member Steele narrowly losing his seat by the one-vote margin Killmer held over him at the polls, 402 to 401.
Further back in the group of candidates in 2006 was Joseph Healy, who had previously offered himself as a potential council-appointed replacement for a May 2005 vacancy that was eventually filled by Jerry Dorfman.
Healy had touted his candidacy as a step forward for the town’s non-resident citizens, who make up a majority of the town’s property owners. But he was lacking in the final vote count, with a field-lagging 311 votes. Healy said after the results were in last year that he’d enjoyed the experience of running and planned on being more involved in town government in the future.
Now semi-retired as a certified public accountant, Healy has spent most of the last year serving on the town’s Budget and Finance Committee and overseeing renovations to his Bethany Beach home, with plans to move to the town full-time in the future.
And it was Healy who was the first to file his candidate’s application this summer, and the only one to have filed by Wednesday this week as the Coastal Point went to press. None of the incumbents had filed for re-election as of mid-week, nor was there any word from other past candidates as to their intentions.
Eight candidates filed for the four seats that were up for votes in 2006, reflecting an atmosphere of discontent among some of the town’s citizenry that particularly focused on the council’s passage earlier that year of residential architectural ordinance that permitted increased roof peak height in exchange for a higher roof pitch.
While the ordinance did not allow for an increase in the wall-top height on the uppermost floors of such dwellings, the change was regarded as a move toward taller homes by many of its opponents. There was a successful call for a referendum to repeal the new ordinance, which fueled activism during election season against the council that had put it in place.
Killmer, who had been heavily involved in the drafting of the ordinance, and Steele, who had criticized the information being provided in the referendum push, finished fifth and sixth, respectively, with Wode and Mulligan taking their seats on the council by virtue of second- and third-place finishes in the voting.
The re-formed council voted to repeal the ordinance shortly after last September’s election, with the stated hopes from Olmstead that it could be brought back if a better way of drafting it or at least explaining it to the citizenry could be found. However, the issue has not formally been raised again since.
The direction taken on that issue, as well as the rest of the town’s governmental decisions in the near future, could rest on the field of candidates who file for election prior to this Wednesday’s 4 p.m. deadline.