Election will affect coastal Delaware, even if resident can’t vote
For residents of coastal Delaware, the year’s most important election may well be one in which they can’t even vote.
That would be the race for Sussex County Council District 2, pitting challenger Democrat Gary Wolfe of Greenwood against Republican incumbent Sam Wilson of Milford.
District 2 stretches from Georgetown to Greenwood and up to Milford, leaving coastal voters with no say in the contest. But they do have an interest.
Why? Speaking at a recent neighborhood meet and greet in Lewes, District 3 Councilwoman Joan Deaver said, “I hope that I get re-elected and in the second district I hope we get Gary Wolfe elected … It would change the whole county.”
“He understands all the issues,” Deaver said, “and he has bright new ideas.”
She said Wolfe shares her views on issues such as planning and working with constituents. The former county planner left shortly after the Republicans took control in 2008; since then the position has been vacant.
Deaver believes we need a planner to help the county prepare for growth. Wofle agrees.
“The thing about growth is you have to have the right kind of growth,” Wolfe said. “You can’t just grow for the sake of growing.” He’s concerned about maintaining open space and the coastal environment.
“We don’t want to destroy the beauty that is Sussex County,” he said.
Currently, Republicans hold a 4-1 advantage on county council, with Deaver the lone Democrat. Deaver represents the north coastal region, including Lewes and Milton and extending up past Slaughter Beach.
The south coastal region is represented by Republican George Cole of District 4, which takes in Henlopen Acres and continues down through Rehoboth to Bethany Beach and out to Long Neck.
If Deaver and Wolfe were both to win, Republicans would still hold a 3-2 advantage, but both Democrats feel they that on some issues they would be able to reach across party lines.
“Every time Joan Deaver tries to get something done now she runs into the brick wall of trying to find out how to convince two other gentlemen, who are Republican, that she’s right,” Wolfe said.
With two Democrats on council, he said, they would need to persuade just one other council member. He’s convinced there’s at least one who would be willing to listen.
Wolfe, 49, is a production manager at Merck Animal Health, where he has worked for 25 years. He and his wife Jackie, a school nurse, live near Abbott’s Mill and have three sons in college.
He recently completed two five-year terms on the board of education in the Milford School District, where his sons attended school. When they graduated, he thought it was time to step down from the board, but he wanted to make use of what he’d learned.
“I thought about where I could go and make a difference,” he said. For him, the best answer turned out to be county council.
Among his top priorities is attracting well-paying jobs. He said we’re spending money to educate our children, who then grow up and leave the area to find work. That means we’re losing on the investment, he said.
Bringing jobs here will mean helping towns sell themselves. In reaching out to municipalities, he said, he’s found they want help dealing with regulations and providing incentives to attract businesses.
He said the county should also try to work more with the state. Too often, he said, Sussex County Council prefers to go its own way. By working with the state and with municipalities, he thinks the county could begin improving the communication and transportation infrastructure that modern industry requires.
As an example of the kind of business he would like to attract, he cited a high-tech company in Easton, Md., that makes drones for the military.
“Why can’t we have high-tech companies like that come to Georgetown?” he asked. (The Sussex County Airport in Georgetown is already home to PATS Aircraft, which outfits planes for wealthy customers.)
To get on council, of course, Wolfe would have to defeat Wilson, the incumbent. (Deaver is facing Donald Ayotte, who defeated Brent Wangen in the Republican primary.) On the county website, Wilson describes himself as “a lifelong resident of Sussex County who still lives on the farm where I was born and raised.”
Wilson wants to keep taxes low, preserve property rights, encourage business and protect the Sussex County “way of life.”
That’s a message that resonates with much of his central Sussex County base.
Wolfe’s challenge is to convince voters that some change is good, and that he and Deaver can work with at least one Republican to bring about that change.
So far, Wolfe and Wilson have faced off at one candidates’ forum. They are scheduled to meet a second time at a Meet the Candidates Night sponsored by the League of Women Voters. It will be held 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 30, at the Georgetown Public Library, 123 W. Pine St.
Candidates from county council districts 1, 2 and 3 have been invited, plus those running for clerk of the peace.