At first, Robert Wilson wasn’t particularly interested in running for the seat on the Sussex County Council that his father, Councilman Samuel Wilson Jr., is retiring from after three four-year terms.
“He said he was too busy trying to run the farm. We were looking for a Christian farmer. It’s important to have a farmer, because farming is the No. 1 economic driver in Sussex County. Tourism is second. We’ve got to watch the land that is left,” the senior Wilson, who is retiring, told the Coastal Point.
“Dad didn’t force me to run. I had toyed with the decision. My roots are deep in Sussex County. I can’t believe the way it’s changed in the last 10 years,” Robert Wilson said.
“It’s a life-changing decision, but I take my father’s advice. I take heed of his advice. He said to me, ‘You know you’re conservative. You’re the spitting image of me. A lot of people know that. We look alike and we have the same moral values, our thoughts, our finances. We are very similar,’” said Wilson, who had previously served two terms on the Indian River School District Board of Education.
“I’m running because I love Sussex County. I love the people. I love the gift of gab, meeting people of all walks of life. There are a few things on my mind. Development is huge and big in Lower Sussex. We have to have a happy medium between development and agriculture. Agriculture is still No. 1 in the state of Delaware. It’s the No. 1 industry. It’s hard to mix development and agriculture. It doesn’t even sound good together.”
A fourth-generation farmer, Robert Wilson and his wife live a quarter-mile from his parents, and are close to them and his two sisters and one brother. He and his father have worked closely together on the Wilson Farm, an expanse of 250 to 300 acres in Georgetown.
The 49-year-old represents Sussex County Council District 2 and is running against Lisa Hudson Briggs and Cynthia Green, all of them being Republicans. District 2 encompasses northwestern and central Sussex County, including Georgetown, Greenwood, Lincoln, Milford and Millsboro. The primary election is Sept. 15, and the General Election is Nov. 3.
Robert Wilson and his wife, Benita, have a daughter who’s a nurse and a son who works in cyber-security.
“A lot of people move here for our laidback ways of life and the pretty scenery. I think we need development, too, but can you do it right?” Wilson said.
“Land use is a big thing, and that all ties in. We want to take care of farmers. How do we mix it together? I think we need to look into that a little bit harder. Another thing is, I’m happy Sussex County taxes are staying low. My dad never voted to raise taxes the whole time he was on the Council, and I plan to follow suit for that. I’m keeping taxes low,” he said.
In conversation, the senior Wilson, now 82 and known for his conservatism, cheerfully talks about marrying his wife when he was 21, what a hard worker his son Robert is and the stroke that causes him to sometimes lose the words he’s looking for.
“My mind thinks all right, but I don’t come out with my words right,” he said in a regional twang.
“My wife and I will be married 61 years this coming Labor Day. I got married on Labor Day. You know why? So I wouldn’t have to take a day off. She knew it, too. I’ve known her 63 years. She’s lucky she got me, I told her,” he said, laughing.
From his seat in the Council chamber, his comments can raise eyebrows. In April, he questioned the logic of testing for the coronavirus among workers at poultry companies.
“I’d like to give my opinion on that. Where did the governor get the bright idea to test the poultry growers, the poultry workers? What’s happening is, by sending all these testers down, running these big numbers up, what it does, it tells the rest of them to go home. And they are going to have to close the poultry plant before long. That’s a dumb idea, in my opinion,” he said.
“Well, how many people actually die from the virus? What I think it — it’s nothing but the flu,” he said this week, insisting immune systems grow strong and fight the coronavirus if Ester C, zinc and echinacea supplements are taken every day.
“I’ve been taking zinc over 40 years, one tablet a day,” he said.
He is proud of his years on the council and accomplishments that include making recommendations about an air-conditioning system in a county building that he said saved nearly $1 million, working on a new septic system and recommending cutting back on employees who take County-owned cars home with them.
Since he took office 12 years ago, the county has grown considerably.
“At first you didn’t notice it, being out there in the boondocks. You’ve heard that word, ‘boondocks’ haven’t you? That’s an old word. But it’s grown so much you can’t hardly get around now. Somebody said we should get an economic advisor here, but what do you want an economic advisor for? That will just make it grow more. It will be like New York. If you like New York, go there,” he said.
If his son wins the election, Wilson will offer advice, he said.
“Yes, I will, but I can’t give it all to him all at one time. If he asks me a question, I’ll tell him what I think. I do know this: I’ve really enjoyed being on the council. I like dealing with people,” he said.
“I’ll miss it. Oh, sure I’ll miss it, but I’m ready to retire — 82 is time to retire, right?”