Candidates for mayor and commissioner are preparing for an Aug. 12 municipal election in Rehoboth Beach.
In the mayoral race, current Commissioner Paul Kuhns is challenging incumbent Mayor Sam Cooper. Two commissioners’ seats are also up for grabs. Incumbent Kathy McGuinness will be joined in the race by newcomers Susan Gay and Lisa Schlosser. Commissioner Lorraine Zellers opted not to run again.
The Rehoboth Beach municipal government consists of seven commissioners, one of whom is mayor. The mayor and three commissioners must be residents of Rehoboth Beach for at least a year, while the other three can be nonresidents that own property. Mayor Sam Cooper and Commissioners Stan Mills, Toni Sharp and Paul Kuhns are all residents of Rehoboth, so nonresidents qualify to run for either seat in this election.
Susan Gay splits her time between Philadelphia and Rehoboth. She has a master’s degree in education and has been publishing medical books and electronic content for 30 years.
Gay made her first visit to Rehoboth Beach in 2001 and felt a special connection to the town. She’s been active at commission meetings and was recently appointed as co-chair of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Trees.
“The loss of our tree canopy is a real concern for property value, aesthetics and stormwater management,” she said.
Gay hopes to prioritize stormwater management, which has taken a back seat to wastewater management and the planned ocean outfall.
“Wastewater is heavily treated, stormwater is not. It goes directly to the ocean,” she said. “The outfall project required a stormwater study that contained recommendations, number one of which was public education and outreach. We have to teach people and tell them what not to do. I’m a big believer in public education, so that’s one of the key things I hope to accomplish.”
As for the outfall, her goal would be to make sure it’s monitored well and that its costs are managed. Gay would also like to address parking and quality of life in Rehoboth.
“We didn’t address parking a couple years ago when we looked at zoning and the size of houses and all that. It was on the table but it was not addressed, and I think it needs to be,” she said. “I think there have to be limits to parking in residential areas and a way to get people into town without their cars. The number one thing that brought me here was walkability, and the small town charm.”
Lisa Schlosser splits her time between Washington, D.C. and Rehoboth Beach. An army veteran, she recently retired from her position as deputy chief information officer at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, where she oversaw information technology and cybersecurity programs.
“I’m running because I love our beautiful beach town, and I want our community to continue to thrive and grow, in a balanced way,” she said. “I think we’re at a crossroads where we want to retain our small town charm, but we also want to continue to foster opportunities for unique local businesses and property owners. We can’t just stay stagnant in today’s world; we have to grow in a balanced way. “
Schlosser is supporting Paul Kuhns for mayor and said her goals are aligned with his.
“I support a couple of things Commissioner Kuhns laid out as part of his platform, like looking at long term planning and really looking at our budget going forward and how we’re going to continue to collect and increase revenue, but not at the expense of businesses and residents,” she said.
The new town hall being built in Rehoboth is $2 million over budget, and Schlosser hopes to put in place strong budget controls for big projects and to maintain transparency as those projects are executed.
Delaware House Bill 130, which would impose a tax on short-term rentals, is also a major concern for her.
"The Rehoboth BeachCommissionn should monitor this bill closely to understand the impacts to our businesses and property owners, and should engage with the state legislators to ensure any enacted legislation does not negatively impact our city,” she said. “At this point, I think we need to push back a little.”
Incumbent Kathy McGuinness ran in a crowded race for lieutenant governor last year and has been spending increasing time in the public eye. She was a vocal supporter of Dogfish Head’s brewpub expansion when the business first applied in 2015, while Cooper and other commissioners initially ignited controversy by refusing the request.
“I’m running again because I love my hometown and believe we must bring fiscal responsibility and open government back to the city,” McGuinness said. “I want to work with other commissioners, residents and business owners to help bring us into the future with responsible decision-making and forward thinking strategy. I want to be part of the team working to keep Rehoboth thriving and fiscally sound.”
Two choices for mayor
Sam Cooper has been running Rehoboth Beach from his mayoral seat since 1990 and is confident he has more to offer the town. His reign is being challenged by fellow commissioner Paul Kuhns.
Kuhns grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and began living in Rehoboth Beach part-time in 1987. He moved in full time in 2005. He co-owns several restaurants and has been a commissioner between 2006 and 2009, and again since 2015.
“I ran for mayor in 2008 and lost. At that time I was fairly new to the community,” he said. “Since then I’ve been very much involved in the community and made a lot of friends, and a number of them have asked me to run for mayor. I gave it a lot of thought and decided it would be a good thing to do.”
Kuhns said he wants the Rehoboth government to focus on being more proactive, as opposed to reactive. He cited the pool noise issue Rehoboth dealt with a few years ago and said the complaints had been coming in for years but were unaddressed.
“Had the city been more proactive with citizens and communicated with them, it would have been taken care of years before and a nonissue,” Kuhns said. “I believe we as a government need to be much more open to public discussion.”
As for the new city hall, Kuhns is in agreement with his fellow commissioners that it was needed, but thinks the process was rushed and now lacks proper budget controls.
“We approved an $18 million project, and all of a sudden it’s $20 to $21 million, and there hasn’t really been any community oversight, if you will. A lot of things have been happening behind closed doors,” he said. “Just recently the commissioners have become involved in the process of these cost overruns.”
Cooper did not return requests for comment.
A resident, freeholder or leaseholder in Rehoboth Beach is eligible to vote in the municipal election this year. Registration ends July 13. More information is available at cityofrehoboth.com.