After vacating their seats on council last year amid strife, Pete Frederick and Vicki Carmean, the duo one town official described this week as “oil and water,” will be among the five candidates vying for four spots in Fenwick Island’s Aug. 4 elections.
The two personalities clashed on the council bench and were frequently at the center of widespread contention before deciding not to seek re-election in 2006. Some have labeled Frederick a strident and controlling force, and said they worry that he would threaten the cohesiveness on council if elected on Aug. 4.
Frederick, who recognized that his last year as mayor was marked by personal and ideological strife, did not hesitate to criticize the current council in a Monday interview with the Coastal Point.
“There are still some things I would like to do for Fenwick, and there are some things that aren’t getting done,” Frederick said.
Current Council Member Chris Clark and Mayor Audrey Serio will attempt to keep their seats. And Todd Smallwood, who ran unsuccessfully last year, is again on the ballot. Longtime Council Members Theo Brans and Martha Keller will not be seeking re-election.
Frederick particularly criticized council for spending roughly $50,000 on a consultant to help draft the town’s first comprehensive plan, a guiding document for future land-use decisions. He denounced a recently-adopted pension plan and an ordinance introduced last Friday that would allow more outside dining in Fenwick.
His criticisms are not unique to this election cycle. In his year off of council, Frederick, a former federal official who worked in the U.S. Foreign Service, has been familiar as a council watchdog and eighth voice, debating many issues not from his former spot at the council table, but rather a seat in the audience.
Clark, who has organized the effort to draft the comprehensive plan, was not shy in his criticisms of Frederick early this week. Calling the former mayor too “hung up” on the past to worry about the future of the town, Clark said Frederick’s election would only create further dissention after a year of peace and progress that saw work begin on the comprehensive plan and the hiring of a new town manager.
“At this point, I’m really focused on the future of the town. I want what’s best for the town,” Clark said. “Even at the council meetings, he’s still focused and hung up on things from the past. I’m hoping he doesn’t make it in there.”
Serio, who has overseen this time of unusual peace on council, talked about the environment on council last year and Frederick’s impact.
“There was a lot of dissention, and it was more personal, unfortunately, sometimes,” Serio said. “People would take what (Frederick) says personally and how he says it sometimes, too. It was just continual dissention. The council has been a great group that worked together. It would be nice if we could keep that makeup,” Serio added about the current group of councilmen. “You seem to get a lot more done if everyone is at least getting along than if there is dissention.”
Carmean entered last year’s race briefly before pulling her name. It was rumored the maneuver had been designed to chase Frederick out of considering his own candidacy, but she has denied that claim. Carmean said she left instead to focus on family issues. She added that Frederick’s spot in this year’s race did not influence her decision to run. In fact, Carmean said, she was the first to file.
“I love the town and have a deep interest in its future,” Carmean said Monday. “I believe when you work with groups you come up with the best result. I don’t want to get into personalities,” she added when asked about Frederick. “I didn’t even see who else was running.”
Smallwood, the only candidate who has not served on council, said he has already heard talk about what many think will be a contentious election in the coastal town. But he said he was not in a position to talk about the former council members.
“I believe everyone in town should try and serve on the council at least once — not only to get a better understanding about what current council members have to go through, but to get a better idea about the town,” Smallwood said. “It should be very interesting.”
As for Frederick: while recognizing that the council was tainted with friction last year, he said he will, if elected, work to change the perception of himself and retain the current cohesiveness.
“I would argue that I wasn’t the one that was making it nasty, but I was part of it. So the best thing for me to do was step down. I promise to keep my sense of humor this time,” Frederick said.