Taking a walk back through all of 2019

A wise man, while reflecting on the happenings in our community over the course of 2019, might stroke his chin, stare off into seemingly another dimension and pontificate over how life’s ups and downs contribute to the entirety of the collective experience of humanity and...

Yeah, I’m not a wise man. I just kind of take a look back at the year we are just now wrapping up, and share a mental stroll down memory lane with the rest of you. The year definitely brought us some positives, but there were some heartbreaks along the way. Without further ado, let’s revisit 2019 one more time before we turn the page into a new year, and decade.

January is historically one of the slower months of the year for our community, as the snow birds storm the shores of Florida and the days are pretty short, but that doesn’t mean we just “roll up the sidewalks” and hibernate. Well, not anymore. Anyway, January 2019 saw Carol Houck get hired on as the new town manager for Ocean View, the popular Fire & Ice festival by the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce landed on the Bethany Beach boardwalk, the Millville Volunteer Fire Company hosted its first-ever Outdoorsman Marketplace and the Indian River School District (IRSD) held informational meetings in advance of a February referendum. On the personal side, I wept openly as my Baltimore Ravens got bounced from the NFL playoffs and discovered that a New Year’s resolution to grow hair does not actually, you know, work.

February is the shortest month of the year, but we saw plenty go down in 2019. The IRSD’s referendum failed by 10 percentage points, Ocean View Church of Christ hosted the remarkable Night to Shine event and the Selbyville Public Library was the beneficiary of a Mardi Gras fundraiser event. The Clayton Theatre in Dagsboro celebrated 70 years of sharing movie magic and the Joshua M. Freeman Valor Awards shined its own light on the heroic men and women of our community who serve as first-responders. Personally, I enjoyed Valentine’s Day with my wife and daughter, and snuck an extra box of chocolates for myself. Love thy self, right?

March is a time of re-birth, as the cold nights of winter begin to make way for the warming days of spring. Many in South Bethany were simmering over staffing issues with the Town’s police department, Selbyville voters decided to stay the course by re-electing G. Frank Smith and Bud Tingle to Council and the Freeman Stage hosted its much-anticipated “reveal” of the 2019 entertainment schedule. The IRSD also announced it would try another referendum in May. On a personal note, I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a few friends, and reminded myself once again why I have drastically cut down on my drinking. It didn’t stop me from doing it again, but it was a nice reminder.

April showers bring May flowers, and the South Bethany Police Department situation went into full “re-start” mode after the retirement of chief Troy Crowson. The Town began its restructuring by bringing in retired police chief Michael Carroll to aid in rebuilding the department — this turned out to be a smart move, as the SBPD was methodically brought back to full strength. Ocean View entered a memorandum of understanding with South Bethany to aid in coverage while the department was being re-staffed, and Millsboro Middle School’s Arhtur Henry was recognized as the Indian River School District teacher of the year. On the personal side, I taught my daughter to make flatulence sounds with her armpit. You ask how I remembered that happened in April? How would I not? I also remember that her first succesful attempt took place at 7:14 p.m. Ah, memories.

May saw the Indian River High School boys volleyball team win the state championship over Salesianum, and South Bethany named Jason Lovins, from the Dewey Beach Police Department, to become the town’s new police chief. Fenwick Island jumped on board with South Bethany to also help with coverage. The IRSD referendum — stop us if you’ve heard this before — was defeated again, and Dagsboro Police Chief Floyd Toomey announced he would be stepping away from his position to work with the school district. Memorial Day came and brought with it a new slate of summer visitors, and, personally, I tried on my new bathing suit in front of a mirror and came to the conclusion that this would be a summer of wearing clothes that... well, wearing clothes is a good start. I don’t wish to imflict any irreperable harm upon my community’s eyes.

June saw the very-impressive Indian River High School Class of 2019 graduate into a whole new world of student loans, full-time work or other joys of adulthood, and the 62nd edition of Old Timer’s Day in Selbyville. Frankford officials began talking about getting out of the water business and entering a deal with Artesian, and South Bethany celebrated 50 years of being incorporated. The entire community was on edge as Linda Lee Bravo was reported missing, and search parties formed to help local police track her down. It ended up with a horribly sad conclusion when Bravo and her vehicle were discovered in a South Bethany canal. Personally, I got nothing for June. The Bravo situation was just too sad.

July brings fireworks and the start of the busiest 10 weeks this community sees each year. A fatal bicyclist accident in South Bethany reminded everyone of the horrors that seem to befall this community each summer, and Dagsboro Paint & Wallpaper suffered a terrible fire, which, by the way, it has succesfully bounced back from and re-opened its doors. Michelle Truitt was named the new mayor of Millsboro, and Steven Flood, of Seaford, was selected to be the new chief of the Dagsboro Police Department. Frankford officials began discussing the restoration of its own police department, and Dagsboro approved the plans for Royal Farms to build a new structure across the street from its current spot — you can see that work being done right now, in fact. On the personal side, I cooked a lot of meat outdoors and was reminded once again that I can not physically keep up with my daughter — on land or in water. 

August brings summer heat and lazy beach days, and it also annually brings the Senior League Softball World Series to Roxana. We also saw Jimmy Sample replace Velicia Melson on the Frankford council, and Steve Maneri become the new mayor of Millville. Three young kids (two 4-year-old twins and an 18-month-old cousin) passed in a horrible Long Neck fire. Millsboro officials were in discussions regarding the police department building and town hall switching places. Personally, I turned 50 this August, defying the odds and causing me to take stock of my life and wonder... What was I saying?

September brings Labor Day, and some semblance of normalcy for many in the community. It also brings one of the greatest events of all to this area, as we all welcome Operation SEAs the Day’s Warrior Family Beach Week. The Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek also opened to the public, and Selbyville moved their operations into a new Town Hall, at the former location of PNC Bank. Dagsboro officials were taken aback by a significant water-rate increase from Millsboro, and Frankford decided to go ahead and hire a new officer to re-start their police department. The Nanticoke Indian Tribe hosted its 42nd Annual Powwow, the IRSD hired Tammy Smith to serve as its new finance director and Ocean View voted to spend $35,000 on a traffic-safety project. Neighbors near a proposed 45-unit apartment complex on the corner of Muddy Neck and Parker House Roads raised objections to that project, and an Ocean View family searched wildly for their missing dog, Ace — and they continue to keep searching today. Personally, I sat down to watch football and have stayed in that position ever since.

October brings out the ghosts and goblins. Well, Ocean View brought out the Cops & Goblins for their annual community event, but you know what I meant. The South Bethany Police Department finished hiring their full slate of staff members, and that town, Fenwick Island and Ocean View discussed a coverage partnership between the town’s departments. The Ocean View VFW brought in “The Wall That Heals” — a replica of the famous Vietnam War Memorial. It was truly breathtaking. An open house was held at Fenwick Island Town Hall to discuss proposed improvements at Fenwick Island State Park. The improvements are tied to a wind-farm project, and that discussion has not slowed down. The IRSD announced it will hold another referendum in February. On the personal side of things, my 5-year-old daughter dressed like a homicidal clown for Halloween, and I was left wondering what happened to the princesses?

November means turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie and extra holes being drilled into our belts. Just me? Well, moving on... Frankford introduced long-time local lawman Laurence Corrigan as its new police chief, and Millsboro approved a design for its new town hall building. The Ocean View Police Department, along with the DEA and local service organizations, held a drug summit at Lord Baltimore Elementary School — trying to educate both the children and their parents on the scourge of drugs we have seen in our community. State Sen. Gerald Hocker and State Rep. Ron Gray hosted an informational meeting on the proposed wind-farm project, and County planners gave their approval for that 45-unit apartment complex outside of Ocean View. The Indian River High School field hockey team took the entire community on a ride as they advanced all the way to the state championship game, where they fell a little short to three-time state champ Delmar. They were truly an inspiring team, per our own Jason Feather.

December was... well, is, right? We’re still in December, after all. Regardless, we’ve already seen some things of note take place this month. Remember how planners gave the ok to the proposed 45-unit apartment complex? Well, Sussex County Council gave their approval in December, but only for 16 units. We’ll see how this shakes out in the future. Dagsboro incumbents won in the town council election, but there were only 45 votes cast out of roughly 700 registered voters? Does that mean there is apathy in the town, or are people just satisfied with the status quo? Ocean View police gave a Narcan training course, along with more information regarding the drug problem, and Selbyville officials are conducting an online downtown development survey, to determine what citizens of the town are most interested in seeing happen with the downtown area. Personally, I was looking forward to another amazing Christmas with my family, and started looking ahead at some resolutions for 2020. I’m guessing we’ll see those in this spot next week.

To steal from Dickens, this really has been a year of both the best of times, and the worst of times — honestly, like any other year in terms of up and downs, but unique to itself in what those ups and downs were.

Happy New Year, one and all.


By Darin J. McCann
Executive Editor