County appoints new commissioner

Sussex County Council reported a father’s retirement, then nominated and appointed his son to the County Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission at the Jan. 18 county council meeting.
Commissioner W. Layton Johnson cut short his term, citing personal and family health issues, according to County Administrator Bob Stickels.

Johnson, 79, said he was still recovering from a cataract operation and couldn’t see out of one eye.

He has served on the county P&Z since 1999, and said he planned to make Jan. 20 his last meeting.

A lifelong resident of Georgetown, Johnson served under Gen. George S. Patton in World War II. He said he planned to travel overseas a few months from now to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Czechoslovakia.

Upon his return to the U.S., he served in the National Guard (with P&Z Chairman Jack Allen). He served as Inspector General at Fort Bragg, N.C., and then in Delaware. “I carried ‘hip pocket orders’ for 10 years,” Johnson said.

He also served as mayor of Georgetown, from 1966 to 1988.

Johnson said he’d greatly enjoyed working with the P&Z and the people of Sussex County. He said the decision to retire had been one of the most difficult he’d had to make.

County Administrator Bob Stickels noted Johnson’s recommendation for a replacement — Michael Johnson (his son).

Stickels detailed Johnson the younger’s resume – a graduate of Sussex Central High School, he earned his bachelors at the University of Delaware and then a master’s degree at Central Michigan University (Business Management).

He specializes in insurance and securities, and currently works with the Peninsula Financial Group, Peninsula Health Alliance and Johnson Insurance & Financial Services.

Johnson is also involved in a number of community organizations.

County council unanimously approved his nomination and then appointment.

In other business, local arts and athletics got a boost as council donated $500 to the Southern Delaware School of the Arts (SDSA), for a trip to Trinidad.

As Stickels noted, SDSA doesn’t have a band booster program, and the request had come directly from the school.

Council Member George Cole noted SDSA as a magnet school, but council members from northern and western Sussex declined to contribute. Cole and Council Member Vance Phillips split the donation from their budgets.

Phillips and Cole also contributed to the Indian River Baseball Boosters, $150 apiece, and joined Council President Finley Jones in donating $100 apiece to the Sussex Central Baseball Boosters.

Phillips also gave $500 to the Women’s Club of the Keenwicks, for a projector.

Council approved Jody Sweetman’s application for conditional use (an upholstery shop on Daisey Road, west of Bayard), and okayed the purchase of roughly 20 acres of land next to the Sussex County Airport, for $403,000.