It was 1999, and Donald Minyon had only recently moved full-time to Millville when tragedy struck at the house next door. The neighbor’s home exploded in flames, threatening Minyon’s home and startling his family.
“Tim was first council person to visit me when we had a fire next door,” Minyon — now the mayor of Millville — recalled. “He was the first one I met, the first one to offer a hand to help in any way he could, back in 1999. I will always remember him for that, for helping me out.”
At the time, Tim Droney was just one of five council members who ran the small town. But his concern and effort to visit the neighbors affected by the fire were memorable.
“First and last, and everything in between, that stands out,” Minyon said. “He didn’t know me, and I had just moved in a few months before that, full-time.”
Minyon also recalled the incident in 2006, when he presented himself for service on the Millville Town Council, saying that Droney had shown himself in 1999 to be exactly the kind of councilperson Minyon would like to be.
That philosophy joined his other qualifications for the council seat, and Minyon was the candidate selected to fill outgoing Mayor Gary Willey’s seat on the council. Droney assumed the position of interim mayor on the same day, running the town for the better part of a year.
In March, Minyon was re-elected to a full term on the council and was unanimously selected as the growing municipality’s mayor. It was also at that time that Droney left the council, deciding not to seek another term and ending more than 20 years of service to the Town of Millville and its citizens.
Minyon told the Coastal Point this week, leading up to a reception honoring Droney’s two decades of service to the town — scheduled for after the Tuesday, April 10, council meeting — that Droney has truly been an example for him as he begins his own service to Millville.
As the council reviewed its finances and considered fee or tax increases, Minyon recalled, Droney had said, “We’re not here to hurt people. We’re here to help them.”
“When he makes a statement about, ‘We have to help people,’ he’s right on the money,” Minyon added.
“He’s always listened to what I had to say and treated me with respect. He listens to everybody and treats them fairly,” Minyon concluded. “I’d like to pattern myself after him.”
Willey said he’s also come to greatly respect Droney over the years they worked together in the town.
“I’ve sat next to Tim on the council for over 20 years,” Willey said this week. “And he’s always been a reliable councilman and always did everything that was asked of him.
Willey said Droney’s willingness to explain his votes on the council was remarkable. “All of his decisions he had good reasoning for,” he said. “When he made his decision, he verbally gave reason his for making that decision and they were well thought-out.”
Moreover, Willey said he knew Droney’s service to the town had been singular.
“Absolutely he was a dedicated to the Town of Millville and he spent a lot of time at the town hall. And being a local person, he knew a lot of people and he had a lot of influence. And that type of thing is going to be missed on the council,” Willey said.
Droney’s support a lingering legacy
Town Manager Linda Collins said Droney had also proven to be a tremendous help to her as she has strived to serve Millville.
“Since I was hired as part-time town manager, I have gained a tremendous amount of municipal knowledge from the present and past Town Council,” she said.
“Mr. Droney also welcomed me with open arms and supported me in my efforts to do a good job for the Town of Millville. We shared the growing pains the town has been experiencing with annexations and new subdivisions,” Collins noted.
“With these changes, Council is required to put in many more hours attending meetings. After 20 years, his retirement is well deserved,” she said. “However, I will miss his many kindnesses to me and wish him the best for the future.”
Town Clerk Debbie Botchie, the town’s first full-time employee, said Droney had been a constant supportive presence as she had gotten used to the new job.
“When I met Tim Droney in March of 2006, my fondness for him grew immediately,” Botchie said. “He mentored me on a daily basis in the office; but most importantly, he made me feel welcome. I was a ‘newbie’ in the town hall, and he would stop by mostly every day to check on the activities happening in the office and to answer all the questions that I might have had.”
Botchie said that some may have gotten a mistaken impression from the blunt-spoken Droney, but she’s come to know and understand him. “Although folks may think he has a ‘crabby’ side, they are wrong,” she said. “He is a good-hearted man that I have gained a lot of respect for. He speaks his mind, and I admire that in a person.”
Already, Botchie said, Droney’s absence has been felt at town hall.
“I truly miss his stories of days gone by, but mostly I miss his smile and his unusual chuckle,” she said. “I wish him well in his retirement from local government and hope he will continue to stop by to tell me more stories (and bring me fresh vegetables).”
An unexpected election
Droney noted himself this week that he’s actually been working with the town government for more than 20 years, having attended his first council meeting in April of 1986.
He became a town council member, and the town’s code enforcement officer and issuer of building permits — “I kept an eye on things right up until [Code Enforcement Constable] Bill Winters came, even until last September,” he said. Then he was its deputy mayor and, finally, interim mayor, after Willey moved outside town limits in 2006.
But how he came to join the council is a story in itself.
“I was elected,” he agreed. “Actually, I was down in Florida, and somebody called and told me I was elected to the town council, that it had been in the newspaper,” he recalled.
It seemed Droney had been drafted to serve the town, in absentia. “Someone had mentioned it to me, and I’d kind of agreed with it,” he allowed. “And that was it,” Droney said.
Droney has now lived in Millville for 30 years. “I was in the Coast Guard and was transferred to Ocean City, Md., and I lived in Ocean View for three of four years,” he said. When a transfer to the Indian River Coast Guard station came, Droney and wife Pat moved to Millville.
The rest is history — quick-moving history.
“A lot of things have changed in this town, and it’s progress. It’s for the better,” Droney said. “Things are moving fast now.”
While the town has been moving to annex new housing developments by the thousands of units in recent years, Droney said growth wasn’t always so fast-paced in Millville.
“I remember the first annexation that was done. It was what is called Creekside now, plus half of the Food Lion,” he said. “The biggest thing going for years was the Food Lion.
“Everybody said it would last 10 or 12 years, and it has really lasted,” he added.
With the growth have come changes in how the town council members have served Millville.
“It was a very part-time thing years ago,” Droney recalled. “Some months we didn’t even have meetings, because we didn’t have anything to discuss. We used to stop the meetings in April or May and not have them again until September.”
Also changing is the town’s financial picture, with large amounts of revenue anticipated in the coming years, along with the growing pains that the tremendous development in and around the town have created.
“The town didn’t have any money,” Droney recalled of the beginning of his time on the council, two decades ago. “We used to get paid $25 per year. There were two or three years we couldn’t get paid. There were four people on the council then, and we had just enough money to pay for the streetlights. That was all we had.”
Moving on, moving up
Droney said he feels the town is now getting big enough that it should consider creating voting districts, as neighboring Ocean View has. And he said he also favors term limits on the town’s council seats, to encourage new voices to serve as he did for 20 years.
But Droney decided that 2007 was his year to call it quits as part of Millville’s government. “I was on there for a long time, and things have changed. And it was just time to move on,” he explained this week.
Droney’s seat on the council was filled by lifelong Millville-area resident Kami Banks — her 24 years of life a stark contrast to Droney’s more than 20 years of service to the town.
Despite the change to the town and the new blood on the council, Droney’s contributions to Millville are far from distant history. The Council plans to honor him for all his work for the town after their meeting on Tuesday, serving up cake and coffee along with plenty of thanks and memories of his time with the town.
Droney’s emphasis this week, leading up to that reception in his honor, was decidedly on how much things have changed for Millville and those who lead the town. “Yes, they have (changed),” he mused.
But one thing that is not likely to be forgotten, despite all of that change, is Droney’s contribution to the town as it prepared to turn a new page and new chapter in its history.