Meet the candidates for Dagsboro Town Council

Patti Adams
She’s a teacher at Frankford Elementary School, just a few miles south of town, and has been for quite a while. Adams has been teaching local kids, and now kids of local kids, for 35 years. A lifelong resident and John M. Clayton School graduate, she and her husband, Bill (also a teacher), have one daughter.

Adams listed a few of the skills she’d gathered during her years as a teacher, which she felt could help her on council.

“I don’t mind meetings,” she said. “And as teachers, we each get a budget and have to live within that, so I understand budgets.

“Being a teacher means being able to listen and share ideas,” Adams continued, suggesting she would be more responsive and open-minded than she felt some of the current council members had been.

As an example, she referenced a petition for moratorium which more than 300 residents had presented to council as the big General’s Green residential planned community (RPC) worked its way through the approval process.

“I don’t know why (council members) wouldn’t want to try some of our ideas, when the people who live in this town feel so strongly about them,” she said.

Adams recognized growth was inevitable, but voiced concerns regarding what she considered an extremely rapid escalation in new land development, and the kind of projects the town was approving.

“I don’t like anything with high density,” she said. “I don’t want to see apartments next to the old S&J drive-in.”

And at the same time, she said she felt kind of bad for the developers, who she said council had sent back to the drawing board, repeatedly.

“Instead, we should get a plan in place, as far as what we want,” Adams stated. She called council’s renewed efforts to engage the town’s Planning Commission “a step in the right direction.”

As far as bringing new amenities to Dagsboro, she said she wasn’t sure if new developments would offset necessarily increased costs for services, much less pay for anything extra.

“A lot of people think if you grow the town, you’ll grow financially, but I’ve read studies that suggest that doesn’t happen,” Adams said.

On the town’s recent issues with contamination in the central water system, she recognized there was a protocol to follow. However, she said she would have preferred to see the town err on the side of giving an early warning, rather than waiting for full confirmation while allowing people to keep drinking the water.

Wayne Baker

His family has lived in Dagsboro for six generations, Baker noted, and he’s stayed close to home himself. He graduated the local high school (John M. Clayton) and went on to work in the poultry industry.

Baker and his wife, Denise, have three children, all of whom still live in Sussex County.

In that business, Baker held a position in mid- and eventually upper-level management for many years.

He now works for Pine Ridge Barns (just north of town) as a sales manager.

“I never really wanted to be a politician,” Baker asserted, “but I’m upset with the way things are going in Dagsboro.”

He expects his familiarity with budgets, personnel supervision and team-building could be an asset on town council. He made the analogy of “running things like a business,” and suggested “uncontrolled growth, and an infrastructure that can’t support it” isn’t the way to go.

Baker said he’d prefer better communication between the town and the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), regarding just how many projects were coming down the pike.

“I think anyone who goes into business is entitled to make a profit,” Baker said. “But I also think we need to be stewards of the land. We need a plan that’s going to benefit everybody.”

Also, he said Sussex County engineering had long since advised Dagsboro and Frankford that there was only enough sewer capacity for 250 equivalent dwelling units (roughly equivalent to 250 single-family homes). But because council had already approved more than four times that number of subdivided lots already, he suggested Frankford might be left out in the cold.

Baker also said council’s calculations were based on some set inventory of developable lots, so if they approved

Regarding the recent contamination of the town’s central water system, Baker suggested council should consider asking state agencies to test more frequently, and have a plan in place to immediately turn off the water when testing revealed contamination.

S. Bradley “Brad” Connor

Connor has been mayor of Dagsboro since 1991. So, if reelected, this would be his 15th term.

Originally from Chevy Chase, Md., Connor moved to Bethany Beach as a middle-schooler. He attended Selbyville Middle School and then Indian River High, going to work for his family after graduation.

“I’ve been in the family business all my life,” Connor said. He noted sales and managerial experience at their radio stations, and the education he’d received as owner-operator at Connor’s Package Store over the past 20 years.

He and his wife, Penny, have two children.

Connor relocated from Bethany to Dagsboro in early 1990. He said he’d attended a few council meetings soon after the move, and council members had encouraged him to get involved.

He warned the incoming candidates that it would indeed be a commitment – more than just the monthly council meetings. He said he typically logs between 20 and 30 hours a week on town business.

Outside town limits, Connor serves on a Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) working group (Route 113 North/South Study) and a pair of state-level committees (planning, housing).

He was recently appointed this year’s Delaware League of Local Governments (DLLG) president, the first person from Dagsboro to be so named.

Connor said he was proud of the plan council was following and stood by council’s recent project approvals.

“I think the biggest misconception that’s out there, and nobody ever talks about this, is that it will be five to 10 years before these projects are built out,” he said. On average, he expected it would take most developers a minimum two years from town approval to turn the first shovelful of dirt.

“Yes, things will change – and DelDOT and Sussex County will make improvements to keep up with those changes,” Connor said (road and sewer upgrades, respectively). “And in the meantime, these projects will be staged out.”

Dagsboro had been discovered, Connor said. If council opposed new projects inside Dagsboro, builders would simply develop all around town, in the county lands. “We’d have all the same headaches, and none of the benefits,” he said.

Connor said council members had expended much time and effort, working to tweak projects into something that would ultimately enhance the town. He expressed confidence that he would be able to look at Dagsboro five or 10 years from now and feel pride in their work.

On water, he defended the manner in which the town had proceeded.

Connor said the Office of Drinking Water (ODW) had indeed informed them there was a problem prior to the Oct. 24 council meeting, but there’d been too many unanswered questions up to that point.

Offering information before the state had confirming documents ready would have only heightened residents’ anxiety, he said. And he commended Millsboro, Dagsboro and Sussex County staff for quickly procuring water from the National Guard (by Oct. 26).

William “Bill” DeHaven

A Marylander, he moved to Dagsboro with his wife, Deborah, in 2001. Now retired, he said he’d spent his career in public utilities — for the last eight years, as a senior planner.

DeHaven said he’d managed many projects himself, and so could act as a watchdog on council. “I’m familiar with the tactics developers use to secure a project,” he said.

Of all five candidates running for office, DeHaven said he was probably the resident who would be most impacted by the developments council had approved. The largest development ever approved in Dagsboro would border his house to the west and north, and other projects would be approaching his property from the east and south.

But despite council’s approval of those subdivided lots, DeHaven said the battle wasn’t over yet.

“There are still some things an aggressive town council can do before final approval,” he said. “We can still hold the developers’ feet to the fire on certain issues, to make sure they build out according to the desires of the town.”

He listed fire protection and public safety as top priorities.

DeHaven said it would have been better to give the town’s Planning and Zoning (P&Z) commission a chance to offer recommendations, rather than confining its jurisdiction to the Comprehensive Plan. According to DeHaven, that plan is just a shell, and council needs to develop it further. “There’s no meat, as far as matching it up to specific projects,” he said.

Born and raised in a small town (Aberdeen, Md.), DeHaven said he prefers a rural environment, even if that means some dust and odor, etc. Later in life, he moved to Anne Arundel County, where he said he’d seen the negative side of what he considered uncontrolled growth.

“You have a significant number of new houses dumped on a rural area, and then the area has to play catch-up,” DeHaven said. “What happens is the property owners who were used to paying reasonably low property taxes are soon faced with considerably higher taxes.”

He suggested council was overly accommodating of developers, especially in light of petitions from town residents asking for a slow-down. “My big question is, what is the rush to push these projects through?” DeHaven asked.

On water, he said he felt council had made a good-faith effort to inform the residents.

Cathy Flowers

Originally from Lancaster, Pa., Flowers moved to Dagsboro in 1996. Flowers and her husband, Robert, have two children.

She’s a billing manager for a medical practice, and as such said she’s acquired certain skills could serve her well if elected to council. “You have to be firm but willing to listen,” Flowers said of her 9-to-5 occupation. Policies and procedures are important, but she recognized the necessity of compromise — sometimes.

She admitted she hadn’t been involved in town government for a while, but frustration with approval of one development after another brought her back to the monthly council meetings.

Flowers attended meetings as part of Dagsboro’s latest Comprehensive Plan update (workshops in 2002, certified in 2003). But she said she wasn’t satisfied with that plan, suggesting something had been lost in translation between the surveys and the finished document.

“I don’t feel the comp plan reflects what was originally stated by the residents, as far as what they wanted,” she said. “I think it was changed, tweaked a little.”

“I know change is inevitable,” she said. “I know it’s not just going to be empty land, forever. But we need to be more proactive, if we want to keep Dagsboro from turning into another Ocean View or Millville.”

She referenced traffic problems, concerns from the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Company that she felt were going unaddressed, and her perception of Dagsboro’s diminished “small-town charm.”

On water, Flowers said she was disappointed by the way things were progressing with the clean-up. She suggested the town needed to have some kind of back-up plan in place in case this ever happened again, so that residents wouldn’t have to physically haul their drinking water next time.