Bethany looks to organize

Before holding its regularly scheduled monthly meeting, the Bethany Beach Town Council will gather at 7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 19, to name a mayor, vice mayor and secretary-treasurer.

The appointed officers, nominated and ratified by the council, will occupy their positions for at least one year, barring resignations. The titleholders heading into the organizational meeting are: Mayor John Walsh, Vice Mayor Carol Olmstead, the first woman in that role, and Secretary-Treasurer Tony McClenny. The nominees must come from the current council, which comprises Walsh, Olmstead, McClenny, Jerry Dorfman, Wayne Fuller, Lew Killmer and Harold Steele.

Walsh said Monday he would seek to extend his stint in the executive seat. Walsh assumed mayoral responsibilities — and the customary top hat — in January, after former-mayor Joseph McHugh retired. Walsh has occupied every rung on the town’s legislative ladder — council member, secretary-treasurer and vice mayor — in his four years as an elected official in Bethany Beach.

“I came up through the ranks,” he said. “I’ve had the exposure at all levels of the council and have a good familiarity with the entire structure.”

Walsh said his experience — and sensitivity to the citizenry’s concerns — qualifies him to steer the town council through a thick agenda in the coming year.

“This is an excellent council. I think together we can continue to be very productive as a governmental organization,” he said. “There are just so many issues that we are concerned about.”

Beach nourishment constitutes the foremost — and likely the first — issue to be addressed. Bethany Beach has drawn sketches for a redesigned beach — featuring a 300-foot-wide sand blanket and a boardwalk-high dune.

The town awaits word from Washington, D.C. on whether the federal government will fund beach reconstruction in Bethany and South Bethany. A $4-million package, approved by the U.S. Senate, has been sent to the U.S. House of Representatives. A final decision should come in September, according to Walsh.

“Four million (dollars) would be a real good start. The core, with that, could really get going,” Walsh said. “They could finish up with the planning and set the stage for the following fiscal year, which would be the construction phase. That’s a definite major milestone.”

“To try and add more teeth to getting the legislators in agreement with our needs,” Walsh said, the town renewed the contract of its lobbyist, Howard Marlowe of Marlowe & Co., in January. The mayor praised Marlowe for securing $250,000 to plan the project, and for setting up a Web site ( to help citizens contact their legislators. Judgments on Marlowe’s overall success before September, however, would be mere speculation, Walsh said.

“Lobbying is an art, not a science. You have to know the whole process of government,” Walsh said. “The proof in the pudding will be coming very shortly. We’ll know just how effective they are.”

Aside from beach nourishment, the council’s itinerary will include drafting a charter amendment to determine how the town will develop recently acquired properties, across the Garfield Parkway from Town Hall, according to the mayor.

Bethany Beach will also watch construction of a new bandstand begin in September. Walsh said he expects the work to give the boardwalk “the feel of a town center.” And the council will continue to oversee ongoing drainage and landscaping efforts.

Lastly, Walsh said, Bethany Beach and its mayor — no matter who emerges from Friday night’s meeting with that title — must keep its ears tuned to the townspeople.

“You have got to be a good listener. You have to listen to the people,” he said. “And you definitely have to do the homework on the issues, so you can come to some good decisions based on factual information.”