Fenwick Island’s new town manager is bringing with her decades of experience. Teresa “Terry” Tieman will arrive at town hall on Jan. 23, having already won multiple awards in her five-plus years as Harrington’s city manager and 23 years as a senior city administrator in Dover.
“She’s got a really good background we’re excited about,” said Fenwick Mayor Gene Langan. “She has about 28 years of municipal government experience.”
Coming from the City of Harrington, Tieman (“TEE-man”) has a master’s degree in business administration. In Harrington, she said, her biggest impact was capital improvements to infrastructure and improved billing. Tieman won the 2015 City Manager of the Year award from the Delaware League of Local Governments.
In Dover, she did billing, collections, budgeting and new-project planning. She has also worked alongside, but not necessarily above, Harrington’s police chief.
“The chief of police here and I have had a really good working relationship. We’ve been team members. We’ve worked together to get things done,” Tieman said. “And I’m looking forward to having that in Fenwick.
She had met other town staff only during her interview but said she was looking forward to working with them and then all of town council at the Jan. 27 council meeting
After considering about 30 applicants, the town council offered Tieman the position just before Christmas. Police Chief William “Bill” Boyden has served as interim town manager since July of 2016, when Merritt Burke IV left to lead the Sussex County Association of Realtors (SCAOR) staff.
“I’m really thrilled and excited and honored to be their new town manger,” Tieman said. “I’m approachable. If they have an issue — or they have a solution — I would like to hear about it,” Tieman said.
Fenwick’s population (in the hundreds) swells to the thousands in summertime.
That also makes for water-related issues, such as beach replenishment and canal maintenance, which Fenwick’s Ad-hoc Financial Committee is researching.
“That is something I’m not used to, so I’m getting my feet wet,” Tieman joked of her wintertime hiring, before the summer bustle.
At some point, all beach towns seem to hear the complaint that they’re doing crucial business during the slow winter season “when no one is there.”
“I think there are ways to reach out to people to let them know what’s being done,” she said.
Indeed, Langan announced months ago that one of the new hire’s first tasks would be a technology audit.
“You have to use technology and be smart with it. I’ve been successful doing that here and in Dover,” to improve and make services easier, Tieman said.
“After meeting with the town council, I felt like the council is a team, and they work in a cohesive effort, and they have the best intentions for the town,” Tieman said.
Otherwise, she’s not planning any major overhaul at Town Hall.
“When I came to Harrington, I observed a lot, and then made decisions,” Tieman said. “Unless there is something I would consider an emergency — and I don’t see that in Fenwick — … I can go in there and observe and make changes where the council or I see fit.”
As an administrator, Tieman said she tries to be inclusive but also to let people do their jobs.
“The staff are your work family, so you want to include them on the decisions” so people feel more invested in the outcome, she said. “I try to be collaborative, and fair and consistent. You have to always try to look to do the right thing.”
Her impression of Fenwick Island?
“It’s a close-knit community,” she said. “I think it has a great charm, in that you see a lot of cottages and that kind of thing, which — I think it’s a family-oriented community. I know my own grandchildren visit Fenwick on a regular basis. … It’s a great place to vacation, and I think it’ll be a good place to work!”
Growing up in a small Pennsylvania town, Tieman said she was charmed by the shore after moving to Delaware.
“I love Fenwick. From the time I came to Delaware, I’ve always enjoyed visiting Fenwick as a tourist. When it became available,” she said of the post, she and her husband decided the time was ripe to move full-time into their Lewes beach house.
“I love spending time with my grandchildren. They are the best,” Tieman said. “And I like to read and go to the beach.”
She also currently serves as president of the City Manager’s Association of Delaware and interim president for Women Leading Government’s Delaware chapter.