Bethany voters re-elect incumbents in council election
Bethany Beach voters turned out on a sunny Saturday afternoon this week, casting their ballots in the annual town council election to the usual backdrop of the Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival. Three seats were up for election this year, held by Councilmen Joe Healy, Jerry Morris and Patrick Sheplee, with a challenge being mounted by resident Lee Bunting.
Ultimately, Bunting’s bid fell shy, with the incumbents being re-elected in modest turnout at the polls on Sept. 7.
Healy, a 12-year veteran on the council, came out on top in the voting, with 452 total votes (255 in-person votes and 197 absentee ballots), while fellow full-time resident Morris trailed close behind with 440 total votes (233 in-person and 207 absentee) and part-time resident Patrick Sheplee came in third with 393 votes (212 in-person and 181 absentee).
Bunting, in his first try for the office, trailed with 326 total votes (191 in-person and 131 absentee).
Each voter could select up to three candidates to receive their vote.
The candidates continued their campaigns until the final moments of voting, shaking hands, greeting voters and discussing the issues as constituents headed to the polling site inside town hall. As the polls approached closing time at 6 p.m., the incumbents and a small group of supporters were gathered on the side of the walkway leading to town hall, while Bunting stood with his supporters at the sidewalk, all ready to greet last-minute voters.
Among those last-minute voters was former Sussex County councilman George Cole, who lives in and owns a business in the town. Cole greeted the candidates with enthusiasm, having himself opted not to run for re-election in 2018 after 32 years on the county council.
Mayor Lew Killmer, Vice-Mayor Rosemary Hardiman, and Council Members Bruce Frye and Faith Denault all turned out for the closing of the polls, with Hardiman taking a few minutes to talk with Bunting and welcome his ongoing involvement with town government.
Only about 10 minutes passed between the official announcement that the polls were closed and when the results were tallied and posted. Supporters congratulated the winners, who posed for a thumbs-up celebration photo in front of the town hall doors where the official results were posted.
Healy this week thanked voters, including his supporters, and noted, “I also want to acknowledge the spirited effort put forth by Lee Bunting during the election process.”
Morris — who, along with Sheplee joined the council in years when there was no election — wrote after the election, “Thank you to all the other candidates who ran for election to serve on the Council. We all share a commitment to promoting the best interests of our Town and all its citizens. I welcomed the sharing of ideas and opinions on issues, with the candidates and other property owners. Those discussions will help focus attention on priorities.”
“I especially want to thank everyone who voted for me to continue in office for another two years,” Sheplee wrote. “I will do everything I can to validate your confidence in me. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to serve on the Bethany Beach Town Council. I love this town and will continue to do everything I can to keep it the family-friendly, quiet resort that we all have come to love.”
The Bethany Beach Town Council will hold its annual reorganizational meeting on Monday, Sept. 16, at 10 a.m. at town hall. The meeting includes appointment of council leadership roles, including mayor, the setting of dates and times for council meetings for the coming year, possible committee chair appointments and a possible vote on appointments to the Planning Commission.
By M. Patricia Titus
Digital Content Editor