Patrick Gossett Bill Sargent Toni Sharp
A Conversation with the 2012 Candidates
On Saturday, August 11, voters in Rehoboth Beach will go to the polls to elect two of the three candidates running for the Rehoboth Beach Board of Commissioners. All three candidates—incumbents Patrick Gossett and Bill Sargent, along with challenger Toni Sharp—responded to a series of questions from CAMP Rehoboth. Their responses follow.
Introduce yourself to the readers of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth and explain why you are running for office.
Patrick Gossett: I’ve visited Rehoboth since my childhood. In 1996, my husband and I purchased our home here, where we now spend a majority of our time.
Why do I want to continue as Commissioner? Our city needs leaders who combine vision with citizen input and produce results. I’ve served the City since 1998, as a Planning Commissioner and City Commissioner. I’m proud of my 14 years of contributions, including two comprehensive development plans, the ordinance to save our trees, and the codes to enhance our neighborhoods and prevent overbuilding.
Rehoboth has seen positive press coverage in mainstream and LGBT media. This has brought us more visitors and residents, and I want to be sure we continue to live up to our well-deserved reputation. We welcome growth, but need to manage it before it manages us.
Bill Sargent: My wife and I bought our house in 1985 and became full time residents in 1990—we came for the summer and stayed. Our children were all Rehoboth Beach lifeguards then. Now they have their own families, and we are blessed with eight grandchildren.
I graduated from Yale University in 1961, attended graduate school in Public Administration at Syracuse University, and worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense during the 1960s. I then moved to the private sector and enjoyed increasing responsibility in financial management with several major corporations before forming my own business in 1980. My company provided software used for managing income, expense, and risk for hundreds of financial institutions. My career was devoted to financial management and gave me knowledge and skills that have been very useful for me as a Commissioner. I am now retired, and spend a lot of time as a Commissioner and a photographer.
As a member of the Board of Adjustment for ten years, I was deeply involved in balancing what is fair and right for individual owners versus what is fair and right for the community. I am finishing my first three year term as a Commissioner.
In most respects our city is in wonderful shape. Our beaches, our trees, our lakes, our vibrant downtown and our lovely streets and houses contribute to a city that is charming and people oriented. Visitors come from near and far to enjoy our wonderful city. Few of us want dramatic change, and most of us want to make sure that whatever change occurs is in harmony with our community.
But we face challenges. We must dispose of our wastewater, protect our beaches and lakes, and meet the infrastructure needs of our community. Many communities with similar challenges suffer from excessive debt, which we must avoid. We can meet our challenges, but we must approach them cautiously, take the time to understand the issues and our options, and make well reasoned decisions. I will do all I can to make sure that Rehoboth stays strong financially and is not a burden for our taxpayers.
I have enjoyed being a commissioner and working with my fellow commissioners and look forward to serving for three more years.
Toni Sharp: I am originally from Dallas, Texas. As a full-time resident homeowner in Rehoboth Beach and a year-round visitor since 1996, I am running for City Commissioner to give the voters of Rehoboth Beach a choice. This is a stark choice between an approach which values planning ahead of time rather than reacting to issues as they present themselves.
There are several things I want you to know about me as you make your choice.
• I will help Rehoboth Beach move from “Good to Better”!
• I will focus on the implementation of the goals set forth in the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) many of which have been either dismissed or ignored.
• I will apply my private sector skills of managing budgets ranging from $14ML to $36ML and I will champion the creation of a long term financial plan with critical milestones and deliverables.
• I will bring a fresh perspective balancing an appreciation for Rehoboth Beach as we know it today with the Rehoboth of tomorrow.
• I will communicate with the residents, business owners and visitors on an ongoing basis.
• I will do the work of a City Commissioner with the sense of urgency and accountability that you deserve.
As a qualified professional with decades of experience as a health insurance executive in Washington, DC, serving federal employees, I come prepared with well-honed strategic planning and budget skills, coupled with a forward-looking rather than reactive approach. That means anticipating challenges, offering firm solutions and implementing tangible results. As a recent retiree, I can also afford to devote the time that is needed to solve some of Rehoboth’s most important issues.
The future of our town is on the line and we have critical decisions to make about the quality of town life, from economic considerations to managing growth to environmental concerns.
Your vote for me will deliver an action-oriented candidate, with the energy, enthusiasm and dedication to effectively serve Rehoboth Beach!
What do you feel are the most important issues facing Rehoboth residents in this campaign?
Patrick Gossett: We must decrease car traffic downtown and help those who do not, or choose not to, drive. Pedestrians and cyclists need to travel our streets safely. I strongly support the initial recommendations of the proposed pedestrian and bicycle plan, while recognizing that more needs to be done.
The new Parkmobile park-by-phone system, which I’m proud to have supported, is just one example of how the City has worked successfully to improve our transportation challenges. This system makes life easier by eliminating the need to carry quarters. I also worked to implement a communication plan insuring that citizens and visitors understand how to use the system.
We all need to work together to improve the health and aesthetics of our lakes. The City has had great success with the buffer around Lake Gerar, the beautiful new bridge and tot lot. But Silver Lake needs a great deal of attention to remain healthy, and it’s a more complicated challenge than Lake Gerar. This is why I wrote the resolution, passed unanimously by the Mayor and Commissioners, charging the Planning Commission to work with environmental experts, homeowners, neighbors, DNREC and Sussex County to make recommendations on protecting this valuable and unique resource.
I know that the City must communicate better with residents, businesses and visitors. The Internet, email, social media, and instant messaging have revolutionized how we communicate. But, as we have all discovered personally, it takes more time and technology to take advantage of these options. In the next budget cycle I’m proposing we hire a City Public Information Officer to work with all departments, including the police, public works, parking, building and licensing to create a “one stop shop” to give people the information they need about operations, events, and issues.
Bill Sargent: First is the disposal of our wastewater. We have done everything necessary to select our disposal method and begin final design and construction of an ocean outfall system, and we now await state approvals. We face a December, 2014, deadline to complete work, and we need to be prepared to handle possible financing and construction problems.
Secondly, much of our city enjoys dense tree canopy, but there is relatively sparse coverage in other areas. I have proposed a "Tree Initiative" that in conjunction with volunteer and state forestry programs would make hundreds of trees available at minimal cost to property owners. This is a long range goal, but is an opportunity to leave a wonderful legacy for future generations.
I think that the initial steps taken to make Rehoboth more friendly and safe for bicycles and pedestrians are valuable, and that it is worth seeing what else can be done to increase safety and to reduce our dependence on the automobile when traveling within the city.
Lastly, the time has come to begin the upgrade of our municipal complex, which is now almost 50 years old and not adequate for our police and administrative functions. I want our new facilities to be efficient, reasonably priced, and handsome architecturally.
Toni Sharp: As Mayor Cooper stated recently, Rehoboth is getting more and more of everything. Whether it be more congestion, more pedestrians, more bicycles, more noise, more crime or more anything, our direction, policies and solutions need to be thought out in advance. Critically, it is no longer enough to just react to the “more.” This is where my forward-looking approach, often lacking in city planning, is so badly needed.
Along these lines, the town needs look no further than its own Comprehensive Development Plan. Implementation of the goals of the CDP could solve a multitude of current and potential problems. Preservation of our unique character and environment are at stake. Couple this implementation and enforcement with a long-term financial plan, including critical milestones and deliverables, and the citizens of Rehoboth Beach will have a tangible road map that works!
The LGBT community is an integral part of life in Rehoboth Beach. Talk about what that means for our city.
Patrick Gossett: I’m proud to be a member of CAMP Rehoboth and the LGBT community. Visitors marvel at our healthy LGBT businesses and success of Letters, Volunteers on Vacation, CAMP’s health programs, and events like Sundance and Women’s FEST. Our Community Center is the envy of many larger LGBT communities. People come to this space for civil unions, concerts, live theater and civic meetings and always find the heart of our community.
Many of us come from other cities, but it’s no accident that we feel most at home in Rehoboth Beach. When I first ran for office, I wondered if being gay would be an issue. I’m pleased to have been judged by my accomplishments, not my personal relationship. We have, as we set out to do, Created A More Positive Rehoboth.
Bill Sargent: During the twenty plus years that I have lived in Rehoboth I have been pleased to see how much the LGBT community has increasingly become part of the community at large. The city is more charming and my life is richer because of the diversity that exists in Rehoboth.
Toni Sharp: Energy, creativity, acceptance, friendliness, equality and tolerance describe the type of environment Rehoboth Beach has created in partnership with the LGBT community. We have a community with a level of civility that may be lacking elsewhere and room for everyone to just be themselves.
The CAMP Rehoboth Community Center calls us to be “the heart of the community.” Talk a little about how “heart” fits into your philosophy of leadership.
Patrick Gossett: Each of us must be the heart of the community. No city can survive, much less thrive, without the hearts of many people pulling together to make it great. Leaders must lead by example, with our hearts in our work, making this city successful.
“Heart” means caring for one another. I’m proud of the incredible record of longevity of our city employees, demonstrating that Rehoboth Beach leaders have made it a great place to live and work. It’s critical that City leaders always show that we care about residents, visitors, the business community and everyone who works so hard to keep this community safe, clean, and strong.
Bill Sargent: A political leader not only represents the wishes of the community but helps the community formulate its wishes. This requires intelligence, organization, judgment and the ability to communicate well. These are important skills of the intellect without which it is hard to lead effectively. But the best political leaders have another dimension. They ask, "Do we care about others, do we listen, do we understand, and do we compromise while remaining true to our principles?" This is leading from the heart as well as from the head.
Toni Sharp: The CAMP logo of a house with a heart in it salutes the accomplishments of the last 22 years. It gives life to our community in a vibrant and powerful way. Creating a more positive environment for everyone, gay or straight, aligns with my intention to move Rehoboth Beach from “Good to Better.” Rehoboth Beach should never be satisfied with the status quo, and I am in agreement with the language selected to represent the CAMP mission, which supports continuous improvement.
My approach will be to lead responsibly on behalf of the entire community, by listening, seeking to understand, digesting feedback and finding common ground. I will act with a common understanding and a deep concern for the preservation of individual rights, in a safe and secure environment, with an overall sense of the acceptance and diversity that makes Rehoboth Beach what it is today!
Share your vision for Rehoboth Beach and how it differs from your opponents.
Patrick Gossett: I share CAMP’s vision of Rehoboth Beach as a clean, safe, friendly, green, and diverse city—where businesses, the arts, and community all flourish and where we are all neighbors.
We’re community caretakers, building on the work of generations before us, and committed to passing this great city on to the next generation in better shape than we found it. That’s why I ask the voters to trust me with their vote on Saturday, August 11.
Bill Sargent: My goal as a Commissioner is to ensure that as Rehoboth changes it maintains its unique character and remains the charming town it is today. In ten years, the trees will be a little taller, and there will be more of them. There will be more bicycles and probably a few more people on our beach. Some businesses will change, but we will continue to have a thriving downtown. We will be proud of our City Hall, and we will still hunt for parking places downtown. The biggest change is that we will all be ten years older.
Toni Sharp: My vision for a better Rehoboth Beach includes listening more to the members of the community. There have been instances where the town seems to operate like an exclusive club. Citizens sometimes find out only at the last minute about issues that affect them directly. I will undertake the work of a City Commissioner with the sense of urgency and accountability that the community deserves—communicating with residents, business owners, and visitors on an ongoing basis to stay well-informed. I will seek out and welcome input, both positive and negative, and strive to create a community with an overall sense of acceptance and diversity.
If you share a vision that includes Toni Sharp as your City Commissioner, be sure to cast your vote for me on August 11!