Fenwick Island cancels council election, prepares for change

There will be no election in Fenwick Island this year, although there will be some changes in the council makeup. Roy Williams is set to take over the council seat held by Vicki Carmean, who will retire after 13 years on the council, effective in early August.

The town’s Board of Elections, at a special council meeting on June 18, announced the cancelation of the 2013 election, after only three incumbents and one challenger filed to run for the four council seats to be elected this year. Incumbents Eugene Langdon, Todd Smallwood and Audrey Serio will retain their seats.

Williams said there were some things he felt strongly about — for example, not wanting the building height limits raised — but, for the most part, he said, he is just gearing up to serve his town.

“I have been here full-time since 2005,” said Williams, “and I felt it was time I start to participate in town functions. I am going to spend the next month doing my homework, and when I start, hopefully, I can help the town.”

Lynn Andrews, of the Board of Elections, thanked Carmean for her years of service.

“I would like to thank everybody and, especially Vicki for her service, and I totally understand, why after 13 years, it is time to quit. But, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: it should not be a life sentence to run for council in Fenwick Island.”

Carmean, at her final council meeting on June 28, said with a chuckle, “It’s time to leave. I can’t remember how many years I’ve been up here, so it’s time to leave.”

Andrews said she is “thrilled” that Williams has stepped forward to fill in, but “somehow we have to be more encouraging for people to serve on council,” she added.

She also said, while it does not affect the town this year, that they should be concentrating on registering voters.

“We have got to get more involvement in this town,” she said.

Carmean joked that it has been a “privilege and pleasure, most of the time, to serve on the council.”

She said she “absolutely agreed” with Andrews about the need for turnover on the council and expanded community involvement.

“Most towns — not all, but most — have some sort of term limitation, and I think an arrangement needs to be looked at by the Charter and Ordinance Committee,” said Carmean,”even if we limit it to three-year terms, with a limit of six and a year in between,” she offered.

“I have done it for a dozen years or so, and I believe strongly in government and, at the same time, I feel like it is not American for someone to be there that long. It’s just the same people, and you start to lose touch with the community.”

She also said the charter calls for a “councilmanic” form of government but that, over the years, it has been more of a “mayor form of government — but the town never gets to elect the mayor. That’s just another set of checks and balances.”

Smallwood said he thinks the council has done a good job of limiting controversy, so the status quo has been acceptable for townspeople.

“I agree with you, but one thing — controversy. People who aren’t happy always spur an election,” said Smallwood. “I don’t want to toot our own horn, but I think we have done a pretty good job sitting up here. I don’t think there is a lot of public outcry right now. I hate to say it, but sometimes controversy is what spurs change.”

Andrews replied, “We all know change is coming in the flood plain and with FEMA — all that stuff is looming,” and said people need to be proactive in their approach to town politics.

“We need to fight to protect what we have here and be actively involved. It always seems like when it hits the fan, people come out of the woodwork, but it needs to be before then. We have to protect what we have.”

Fenwick will also see one more change in the coming weeks. Town Clerk Agnes DiPietrantonio will also be leaving her post, retiring after many years and many varying job duties.

“We want to thank her for all her years of service to the Town. There isn’t much she hasn’t touched in the process,” said Town Manager Merritt Burke. Police Clerk Linda Poole has stepped up to take on some of the town clerk’s tasks with DiPietrantonio’s departure, he noted.