Bethany Beach voters this week favored a trio of council incumbents and member of the town's Planning Commission when they went to the polls for the Bethany Beach Town Council elections on Saturday, Sept. 8.
Incumbents Rosemary Hardiman, Lew Killmer and Bruce Frye were re-elected to the council with new two-year terms, while Faith Denault will fill the seat being vacated by outgoing mayor Jack Gordon.
Voting turnout was perhaps a bit lighter than in some years, as heavy rains pummeled the area on Saturday, forcing the postponement (and eventual cancelation) of the Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival. But more than 600 voters cast a ballot in the 2018 election, whether in person or by absentee ballot.
Hardiman topped the voting, ahead of Killmer (currently vice-mayor), who was followed closely in the voting by Frye, with Denault finishing just a handful of votes behind Frye. Candidate Jim Sirkis, who had focused on improving internet access in the town as a center point of his campaign, trailed the others, obtaining about half as many votes as the winners.
The vote tallies for each of the candidates in the Sept. 8 election:
• Rosemary Hardiman — 615
• Lew Killmer — 595
• R. Bruce Frye — 593
• Faith Denault — 588
• James E. Sirkis — 290.
Sirkis is the founder and now-former owner of an IT/logistics company that provided software development and IT support to the U.S. Army. His technical expertise had been noted as a point of interest by some voters and fellow candidates, as the town's residents continue to struggle with a single high-speed internet service provider in a time when reliable high-speed access has become progressively important, both for business and for leisure.
“I definitely plan to get more involved and become more knowledgeable about the different committees and see how I can help,” Sirkis told the Coastal Point this week.
As a relative newcomer to full-time residency in Bethany Beach, Sirkis said he felt getting more involved with the town would not only allow him to contribute but become a more familiar face to other townsfolk.
“As for running again — most likely. However, I do feel that I need to put my time in and become more knowledgeable and allow the people of Bethany Beach to become familiar with me,” he said.
Denault has done just that, having volunteered with the town for more than 18 years. Along with the Planning & Zoning Commission, where she has served as a commissioner for more than a decade, Denault has also served on Bethany's Non-Residential Design Review Committee, Election Board and Seaside Craft Show Committee.
Additionally, she has served as president of the Friends of the South Coastal Library and chair of its annual Beach & Bay Cottage Tour, as well as on the Board of Advisors of the Quiet Resorts Charitable Foundation and as a volunteer for Meals on Wheels — the latter being something she and Sirkis have in common.
Now retired, Denault previously served as vice president of corporate real estate, facilities and business services for Prudential Home Mortgage and AOL.
“I'm really excited to get going and learn what I need to know to become an active contributor to our Town's challenges and issues,” Denault told the Coastal Point.
She said her top priority as she joins the council is pedestrian and cyclist safety.
“I'm going to work on gaining support to increase the number of safety programs for all residents and visitors,” she said. “Our police department does a wonderful job with their program for our foreign students. However, after a while, everyone becomes complacent, and that is why we need to raise awareness for this issue and keep it in the forefront all year long. It's going to take some time, but it is an issue we all are aware of and want to see improved.”
Returning to the council, Killmer told the Coastal Point, “I am quite satisfied and very grateful regarding the results of the Bethany Beach Town election. It was very important to have the three incumbents re-elected, and I am looking forward to working with Faith Denault, the newest member on the town council.”
Killmer said his priorities for the coming council year include ongoing safety upgrades on South Atlantic Avenue and Cedarwood Lane, and developing a similar project for S. Pennsylvania Avenue; construction of the town park; the renovations of the historic Dinker-Irvin Cottage into a town museum; and possibly holding public workshops regarding affordable high-speed internet options for the town's residents, property owners and business owners.
Hardiman, this year's top vote-getter, said she felt the election process itself will help the council going forward.
“I thought it was a worthwhile election process with plenty of sharing of ideas and opinions on issues, which helped focus attention on priorities,” she said. “No matter how it turned out, all the candidates clearly had a common commitment to solving problems and promoting the best interests of the Town and its citizens.
Hardiman said pedestrian and bicycle safety are also among her priorities for the coming council year, as the Town works to secure funding and move ahead with street improvement projects. “Evaluating the experience on South Atlantic is important to those plans,” she noted of that project.
Improving town-wide internet service, the town park, the museum and continuing to work with other coastal communities on a unified approach to permeable surfaces, as well as funding for beach and dune replenishment, are also on Hardiman's list.
“It's going to be a somewhat different Council in the near future,” she added. “We'll miss the knowledge, experience and collegiality of Jack Gordon, and wish him and Joan all the best with their well-deserved new leisure time. We'll gain the valuable addition of Faith Denault. With her Town government and community volunteer experience, it will be a seamless transition. I'm looking forward to working together.”
Bruce Frye will start his third term on the council this month, after having been elected to the council for the first time in 2014.
Prior to joining the council he had served on the Town's Charter & Ordinance Review Committee, Board of Adjustment and Fourth of July Parade Committee. He now chairs the Fourth of July Parade Committee — which took over from a volunteer group the organizing of one of the town's signature events each summer and now utilizes more than 50 volunteers, as well as Town resources. He also represents the Town in their relationship with the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association.
Frye has a Ph.D. in chemistry from MIT and worked for General Electric for 30 years, becoming general manager of more than 100 technologists. He, too, volunteers in the community, mentoring, tutoring, volunteering for Meals on Wheels, serving on the Sussex County Science Fair board, as homeowner association president and conducting chemistry lectures/labs in local schools.
The Bethany Beach Town Council will hold its annual re-organizational meeting on Monday, Sept. 17, at 10 a.m. at town hall, at which time they will select from among their number the mayor, vice-mayor and secretary/treasurer. As all of this year's council members will be residents, they are each eligible to serve in any of the council leadership roles.
At Monday's meeting, they will also set dates and times for town council meetings for the coming year; make committee chair appointments; and make appointments to the Planning Commission.
Since the council now has only a non-voting council representative to the Planning Commission — rather than a council member sitting on the commission itself — a change in the makeup of the commission can be expected, since Denault can no longer serve as a commissioner. A former commissioner himself, Killmer currently serves as the council's liaison to the Planning Commission.
By M. Patricia Titus