Rehoboth voter guide: Candidates answer questions

Mayor Cooper faces challenge from newcomer McGlone; city to elect two commissioners

By Ryan Mavity | Aug 10, 2011
(Photo by: Ron MacArthur) The heart of Rehoboth is at the intersection of Rehoboth Avenue and the Boardwalk.

Rehoboth Beach — And down the stretch they come!

With less than a week to go before the Saturday, Aug. 13 municipal election, Rehoboth Beach residents must soon choose between two candidates for mayor – incumbent Sam Cooper and Tom McGlone – and three commissioner candidates vying for two seats, incumbent Lorraine Zellers and challengers Rick Kirchhoff and Mark Hunker.

The candidates took some time off the campaign trail to answer five questions. Their answers follow, limited to about 100 words and edited for clarity, with the mayoral candidates listed first, followed by the commissioner candidates.

1. Please tell us about yourself, including age, educational background and work experience as it relates to the position you seek.

Cooper: “I am 59 years old and a life-long resident of the city of Rehoboth Beach. The home my wife and I live in was built by my grandfather in 1918. We manage a number of rental cottages near our home that have been owned by my family for more than 60 years. I am also part-owner of the Beach View Motel on Wilmington Avenue. I am a product of the local public schools, having graduated from Cape Henlopen High School in 1970 and having received an Associates Degree in applied science, with a specialty in civil engineering, from Del Tech.”

McGlone: “I am 48 years old and live full-time in Rehoboth Beach. I have worked as a financial advisor for the past 16 years. Prior to owning my company, I was a corporate treasurer for a company whose sales were approximately $500 million. I have strong financial skills, which include payroll, accounts payable and receivables, budgeting and long-range planning and cash management. I currently manage $110 million in client assets. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in finance from Drexel University and received my Master of Business Administration from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. My background includes contract negotiations and managing and leading people and projects.”

Zellers: “I’m 63 years old, was born and raised in Baltimore and have been married to Tom for 42 years. We have one son, a beautiful daughter-in-law and became first-time grandparents 6 months ago. Our home is in Baltimore where our families still live. We purchased our home in Country Club Estates 12 years ago, spend most weekends in Rehoboth and plan to retire here. We became registered voters in 1999 and subsequently became active in the Rehoboth community.

A graduate of Villa Julie College, I have 42 years' experience in the medical field, the last 12 as research coordinator at the Curtis National Hand Center. My role has served me well, helping me learn to juggle multiple priorities, manage budgets, and do my homework. Moreover, it taught me how to work with all types of people, as I regularly collaborate with other departments with different priorities. I know how to build the teamwork to see that goals are met.”

Kirchhoff: “I have been coming to Rehoboth for more than 20 years, first as a weekender, then a second-home owner, and now I am a full-time resident and owner of the Canalside Inn. In my professional career, I was a congressional staff member for a U.S. House member for eight years, then vice president for state relations for an industry association. Most recently, I was the chief executive officer of a national nonprofit association for 16 years. I am 55 years old. I have a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration, both from the University of Kentucky.”

Hunker: “I am 46 years old and I own at 510 Lee St. in the Schoolvue neighborhood. I am University of Maryland alum with a degree in political science, and prior to that I went to Culinary School at State University of New York Cobleskill. I have spent almost 25 years working in, around and for the federal government. Currently, I am the chief operating officer of a Maryland-based information-technology consulting firm with more than 650 employees, and I am co-owner of two well-respected restaurants - Eden and JAM Bistro in downtown Rehoboth Beach. But, above all, I am a dad and partner first. I have been coming to Rehoboth for many years, and we plan on being here full-time in the near future.”

2. Do you support the efforts of the city's code enforcement or do you think the rules are being too aggressively enforced?

Cooper: “I support the hiring of the evening code-enforcement officer to bring fair and consistent enforcement of the city’s codes. An outstanding individual was hired who has conscientiously performed his duties. In the past, enforcement was inconsistent for lack of staff time. A good process has been established, and while many violations have been identified, no one, to date, has been fined. The issues being addressed are common-sense matters, such as obstructing the sidewalk, putting trash out too early, signs placed in the public right-of-way and excessive noise. Without such an effort, the commercial areas of the city promised to become chaotic.”

McGlone: “I support the efforts of the city to enforce its codes. It is extremely important that laws and ordinances that exist be enforced. City government should never put itself in a position of enforcing one law and not another. Additionally the city should apply code enforcement fairly. These codes should be enforced not only for businesses in the city but also for residents. Each year and at points through the year, the city should communicate its findings, evaluate successes and failures related to its code and ask for input from its citizens and businesses. These results may be used to improve the city’s ordinances.”

Zellers: “I support the city’s efforts to enforce its codes. These were put into place to set standards for our community, both residential and commercial, for the height of our buildings, the size and development of our lots, for sidewalks and for how businesses operate. All were instituted as the result of what our citizens told us they wanted, sometimes to protect public health and safety and sometimes to put everyone on a level playing field. I believe our ordinances set the tone and help protect the city's character.

“I do not feel our enforcement has been overly aggressive, especially when no citations have been issued. I believe enforcement has been consistent and fair across the board. Both residents and businesses asked that a code enforcement officer be hired, and most people are pleased with how our officer has operated. Enforcing the codes is about being fair and balancing the needs of residents and businesses. It’s about public safety and ensuring unobstructed, walkable routes for all citizens. The codes being enforced – noise, flags, signs, sandwich boards – are about being a ‘good neighbor.’”

Kirchhoff: “I am very concerned about the deteriorating relations between the city and our restaurateurs and merchants. The noise-enforcement actions of last summer and the recent crackdown by the code-enforcement officer have exposed a nerve, which threatens to undermine the civility of our town. We have a lot of work to do to restore good will. A lot of this animosity could be avoided with better communication by the city. I would like to see the city manager and department heads have periodic forums with the merchants and with the community to share information and to hear peoples’ concerns.”

Hunker: “I support code enforcement on many levels, but I also believe the city has the responsibility to enforce the code evenly and to reach out to the business and residential communities to inform them about changes and the recent emphasis on enforcement of codes not strictly enforced in the past. This is where the city got in trouble with its citizens. There was no outreach to those affected and, to date, no real attempt to include this community in fixing the problem or to rebuild the trust that was broken. I would immediately set up a committee made up of residents, businesses and city officials to discuss options, work together and make recommendations to the commission.”

3. What ways do you suggest to make the city more bike and pedestrian friendly? What specific ideas would you support?

Cooper: “First, I believe that the city is bike and pedestrian friendly. There are many streets in the city that do not have sidewalks, and I do not see this changing in the foreseeable future. What I am in favor of is a determined effort by the city to see that all existing sidewalks that are cracked and uneven be repaired. Also, that trees, shrubs and other obstructions be cut back or removed at intersections for visibility and along sidewalks to make the entire sidewalk passable. Very important to me is developing a strategy to reduce speeding on city streets and rigorous enforcement of the DUI laws.”

McGlone: “The city needs to become more bike and pedestrian friendly. This has been laid out as an item in the comprehensive development plan and has been emphasized to me repeatedly as I have knocked on my neighbors' doors. My specific idea regarding cycling would be a bicycle concession set up within the city that provides bicycles at multiple stations around town. Like other cities, these bicycle pods could be solar powered and owned and operated by local bike-shop owners in the city. These concessionaires could pay the city a concession based on sales. Accessibility of bicycles would lessen traffic on our streets.”

Zellers: “With respect to pedestrians we can certainly remove obstructions, raise flags, repair sidewalks and trim trees and bushes that overhang or obstruct sidewalks. These are fairly straightforward and would go a long way towards more pedestrian-friendly streets. Also we should take steps to remind drivers that pedestrians have the right of way.

With respect to bicycles, I look forward to the results of a Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan sponsored by the streets and transportation committee on which I serve. The city has received a substantial grant to fund this study, and it may provide suggestions the city could take as it implements infrastructure upgrades in the future.”

Kirchhoff: “Improving the walkability and bikabilty in town is one of my main priorities. Slowing down the overall pace of vehicle traffic throughout town is an important first step. Likewise, heavily traveled sidewalks should be repaired or constructed where missing. Major pedestrian crosswalks to and from the beach need to be more visible. I also would like to see freestanding “yield to pedestrians” signs placed in major crosswalks without traffic signals in the commercial area during the summer season. They would serve both to mark crosswalks and slow traffic down. Dedicated bike lanes should be created.”

Hunker: “I support an immediate review, by experts in the field of small-city planning, of current traffic patterns, parking (current set-up and future needs) and growth patterns. This will allow us to get the big or real picture of our community. We are all fond of saying that Rehoboth Beach is 'one square mile,’ and it is this perfect size that makes us ripe to encouraging walking and biking in our downtown space and surrounding neighborhoods. Many cities, large and small, have done this with great success and have increased safety and reduced traffic and have found grants and state monies to help bring these efforts forward.”

4. Improving Silver Lake, primarily by removing sediment, is part of the city's comprehensive development plan, but attempts to improve the lake have been slow in coming. Do you view improvement of Silver Lake as a priority, and what would you do to improve it?

Cooper: “I have been working with SOLA3 and the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to develop and implement a plan to remove the accumulated sediment in the western end of Silver Lake. Much has been accomplished,  including the testing of the sediments for toxicity. DNREC is close to finalizing a plan for the amount of sediment to be removed and the method to accomplish the removal. The all-important step of acquiring the necessary funding is the largest hurdle at this point. I do consider this a priority project and will be pursuing the required funding.”

McGlone: “I view the improvement of Silver Lake as a priority. I believe the slow effort in improving Silver Lake stems from a lack of communication regarding its current condition. Neighbors on the north side of town may not use Silver Lake to their enjoyment due to where they live. Education regarding its importance to town needs to be communicated so all residents understand its value as compared to just those folks who have backyards that sit on the lake. The annual city survey that I will implement will inquire from residents feedback on the lake project so it can be analyzed and prioritized along with other CDP related issues.”

Zellers: “I view improving Silver Lake as a high priority, not just because my house overlooks it, but because it is a great asset for the city. Unfortunately sediment has been steadily running into the lake filling in the west finger. SOLA3 (Save Our Lakes Alliance) has, and continues to provide outreach and education to the community about run-off, use of fertilizers and simple things homeowners can do; however, this is not enough. This year, the city installed two storm interceptors to filter out the sediment entering the west finger. Similar efforts should be taken for other stormwater drains that flow into the lake.

“A task force has been established to address sediment removal. I expect to ask that funding be set aside for this in next year’s budget and am hopeful DNREC will help. There are issues with jurisdiction, but this part of the lake is totally within the city’s purview, and we should begin addressing it.”

Kirchhoff: “Silver Lake is a beautiful asset to our community. I applaud Rehoboth’s recent project to install Stormcepters to trap sediment from storm water before it enters the lake. This should help considerably. SOLA3’s work to increase the community’s awareness of the lake’s condition and ways the public can help has been of significant value. It is troubling, however, that remediation efforts are complicated by the jurisdiction issues. A solution appears to be in sight, and I hope tDNREC’s task force will prove capable of marshaling the leadership and resources necessary to improve the lake’s health.”

Hunker: “I do view the improvement of Silver Lake as a priority, and sediment removal is a good first step, but I see it as another strong reason that we must be in closer contact with neighboring beach towns, Sussex County and the state. Silver Lake is the responsibility of many, not just Rehoboth Beach. We could spend our time and limited resources on lake improvement and still not have the desired outcomes if we do not coordinate with the other municipalities.”

5. What is your favorite Rehoboth restaurant?

Cooper: “The quality and variety of restaurants in Rehoboth Beach is known far and wide. My favorite depends on my mood and taste at any given time, which changes quite often.”

McGlone: “I cannot pick one Rehoboth Beach restaurant as my favorite. Instead, I will list my favorites when it comes to the things I like:

• Café Azafran – chocolate gustos dessert.

• Seafood Shack – song nights with Cathy Gorman.

• Dogfish Head – beer of course!

• Louie's Pizza – pepperoni pizza.

• Capriotti’s – cheesesteaks.

• Purple Parrot –  ½ -pound hotdog with cheese and onions.

• Kilwin’s Candy – penuche fudge with no nuts.

• Blue Moon – martinis.”

Zellers: “You’ve saved the hardest question for last – how could I choose just one?

Rehoboth is fortunate to have so many wonderful eateries that run the gamut from fine dining to quick take-out. Of course I have some favorites, but I will take the Fifth on this one.”

Kirchhoff: “Rehoboth’s reputation for top quality, creative food and restaurant atmospherics stands alongside our top beach and boardwalk rankings in making this a truly special place. We are indeed fortunate to have the number and variety of restaurants that we do. I try to patronize as many of them as I can.”

Hunker: “Now this question would seem to be an easy one for me, because my favorite restaurant, even before I owned it, was Eden. But, with the relaunch of JAM Bistro, at the old Camel’s Hump this week, I feel like an expectant parent – nervous and excited all at the same time –  just like I did when my daughter, Samantha, was born five years ago!”

The Rehoboth election will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center.