Cole to run for reelection to county council

District 4 Sussex County Councilman George Cole will run again in November’s election.

“I intend to run for county council. There were a lot of people thinking I wasn’t going to run,” he noted. “I made a decision to file in the near future.”

Cole, who was originally elected to the seat in 1986, and has served for 28 consecutive years.

“I like the job. I’ve done it for quite a while, and I enjoy the position,” he said. “I think I’ve been very effective.”

Cole said that there are still a few issues the county is dealing with that have made him want to continue to serve on the council.

“I feel there are some issues now that my being there is important. There are still outstanding issues that we need to address.”

If elected, Cole said he hopes to work on revising the County’s campground ordinance.

“The industry has changed, and our ordinances are probably 40 years old, and we need to address those,” he said.

He added that the County has been dealing with general infrastructure issues related to density, which he also hopes to address.

“Recently, the wetlands were a big topic with the State,” said Cole, noting that a committee was set up to brainstorm suggestions. “Part of the recommendation was to provide incentives to encourage people to protect their wetlands.

“One of the solutions I heard was to give bonus densities to developers so they’ll protect their wetlands. I don’t think giving density bonuses is the answer to preserving wetlands — especially when, in many parts of the county, we’re almost maxed-out with what infrastructure we have here... We have pockets of problems.”

Cole said he has discussed the idea of a carrying-capacity study with his fellow council members and hopes to bring it for a vote soon.

“I’m going to propose, in the very near future — and I’ve been talking to council people one-on-one, trying to get the support — to get a carrying-capacity study,” he explained. “We would have to hire some consultants, identify certain areas of this county that are under intense pressure from population with the year-round residents, second-home owners and the tourists. I would like to work on that.”

The study, said Cole, would not be used to create specific ordinances or regulations, but rather as an additional tool to allow the council to be better informed when making decisions.

“It takes a while to get things done in government, and county council is no different. Sometimes it takes a while to convince other council people that there is a problem and then move it forward to a study.

“The study wouldn’t have any regulations attached to it,” he noted. “Many times, some of the council — and I agree with them — think that additional regulations have a negative impact on the county. We don’t want to do anything that would have additional regulations or ordinances. It would give us a good tool to be able to make decisions better.”

Cole said he’s pleased with what he’s been able to accomplish while serving on the council, including this week’s unanimous vote regarding height limitations for buildings within county jurisdiction.

“We were allowing 60-foot buildings, and nobody was aware of it. We got an ordinance introduced, Planning & Zoning approved it with a 3-2 margin, but then county council voted yesterday to approve it 4-0, with one absent,” he said. “We unanimously supported to go to the 42 feet, which is traditionally what everyone thought it was. Now we have it clearly worded.”

Cole said he enjoys serving Sussex County and the open communication between all elected officials.

“In Delaware, we’re unique, because we’re so small. Everybody kind of knows everybody on a first-name basis. The ease of talking to other levels of your government is much easier in a state like Delaware,” he said.

“It’s easy for us to get things done, to take issues and move them up for state government. Anyone of us can call our federal representatives and get a phone call back. I dare say, if you’re in a state like North Carolina, that has 100 counties, you don’t have that kind of contact and personal relationships with elected officials.”

Cole’s father, Charlie, was elected to the council in 1974, when the Sussex County Council was first established, and served on it for three terms. His mother, Kitty, was appointed to the position in 1985, after her husband’s passing.

“She finished out his term. In the meantime, I thought, ‘I bet my father would really like to see one of his sons get involved, because he really liked local politics,” said Cole, noting that his father has served on the State Board of Elections and Rehoboth Town Council. “He was always active and enjoyed county council. So I decided to run, and won in 1986 and have been there ever since.”

He added that he grew up living in Seaford and summering in Rehoboth Beach.

“I’ve had exposure all across the county. My parents were both from Georgetown. It’s difficult for me to go to any part of the county and not know people,” he said. “Those are the things that I think really help when it comes to land use. These are not Republican/Democrat issues. That kind of familiarity with the eastern and western part of the county has been very helpful in coming to the conclusions in regard to land use.

“I don’t think I have an agenda,” he emphasized. “I have a vision. I think the rural areas should remain rural, and I think the coastal areas should stick to a low profile, so we don’t end up looking like Ocean City [Md.] or New Jersey.”

A graduate of the University of Delaware, Cole and his wife, Jerri, live near Ocean View and are the parents of six children.

Cole said he believes he is currently the longest-serving Republican elected official in the state of Delaware.

“It’s been enjoyable,” he said. “The county council is a nice fit.”

Cole will be running against William Carroll in the Republican primary on Sept. 9. Democrat Shirley Price has also filed to run for the District 4 seat.

District 4 covers the areas around the Inland Bays, including communities in and near Bethany Beach, Dewey Beach, Long Neck, Henlopen Acres, Millville, Oak Orchard, Ocean View and Rehoboth Beach.

Although he hadn’t yet officially filed as of mid-week, Cole said he will do so by the July 8 deadline, with plans to kick off his campaign after Labor Day.

“My hopes are to come back and address some of these other issues that are facing the county,” he said.