Tuesday, Dec. 11, was the last day on the dais for Sussex County Councilmen George Cole and Rob Arlett.
Cole, a Sussex County native elected to the council in 1986, is its longest-serving member in the modern era. His family has a history of serving the people of Sussex County, as his father, Charlie Cole, was elected to serve on the council in 1974. His mother, Kitty, was appointed to the council in 1985, upon Charlie Cole’s passing.
While Cole said he flirted with the idea of not running for council for a few election cycles, he made the decision to end his reign and not run in the 2018 election.
“As Bob Hope used to say, ‘Thanks for the memories!’” said Cole on his final day serving on council.
Rob Arlett, who was born in Rhode Island but grew up in California, moved to Delaware in 2005. He was elected to represent District 5 in 2014. He chose to not run for re-election this year, and instead sought the office of U.S. senator. While the Republican received 37.81 percent of votes, he was beat in that race by incumbent U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat.
“Being an elected official is just not that easy,” said Arlett. “You have to make good, quality decisions, and sometimes you think you do, and sometimes maybe you think you don’t. … This council — there’s only five. There’s only five individuals that vote on the future of this county. It’s a pretty hefty responsibility.”
Arlett thanked God and his wife, and noted that holding office was not one of his life goals.
“It has truly been an honor to work with the council,” he added. “It’s great that we can all respect one another. I think more bodies of government in this state and in this nation should heed what we do here in Sussex County…
“The time is coming to an end… It’s just been an honor to serve the residents of this great county.”
Cole said that, while it may sound funny, serving on County Council was the only job he’d had where he didn’t work for himself.
“I was always so proud to hear when the County did something right,” he said.
County Attorney J. Everette Moore said that, looking around the room, he could easily say he’s worked with Cole longer than anyone else.
“I started working with him prior to him coming onto County Council… His mother, Kitty Cole, came on, and she was a joy to work with. I enjoyed very much working with her,” recalled Moore. “During his campaign, I worked with George a lot. It was a very youthful campaign. George and I are the same age, and we were very aggressive in the campaigning, and we won… I’ve enjoyed working with you and your family over the years.”
Council President Michael H. Vincent said he had offered to have Cole chair his last meeting; however, Cole chose not to, so as to be able to speak a little more freely.
“George cares about this county, the people of the county, and everything he’s done he’s tried to do, in his mind, was the right thing to do,” said Vincent. “I consider George a friend, and that’s a valuable thing to have.
“Rob has been here a shorter period of time… I’m sure we’ll see him somewhere down the road — probably at the White House or somewhere. It’s been a pleasure.”
Sussex County EMS Director Bob Stewart presented Cole with a personalized fleece and hat.
“Twenty-eight years ago this coming January, our paramedics service started right here in Georgetown,” said Stewart. “George is the last sitting councilman who was here when we opened for business.
“We opened with one unit and 10 paramedics. Our department now has grown to 115 employees… We thank you for your support.”
Former County Administrator Joe Conaway said that, while he wasn’t able to work with Arlett directly, “You sure can draw a crowd.”
“But I want to talk about 34 years at this time,” said Conaway. “I had the pleasure of serving with George’s mom and dad… I had the pleasure of serving for 12 years with the Coles. The Cole family is to be commended. I don’t know if we’ll ever see a family who will serve 44 years — that’s as long as the Cole family has been sitting at this table.”
Former administrators and council members also spoke, including Dave Baker, Bob Stickles, Dale Dukes and Lynn Rogers.
Georgetown attorney Robert Witsil wrote an ode in honor of Cole’s departure, ending the afternoon’s tribute.
For your thirty-two years following Charles and Kitty,
We can’t thank you enough in this little ditty.
So we’ve all gathered ’round to witness your plight,
Though I’m sure we’re quite blurring, what given your sight.
And forgetting for the moment your meager pension,
It really is our sincerest intention,
To wish you good times with family and friends who are true,
All of whom declare, ‘Happy Retirement’ to you.
By Maria Counts