On Saturday August 8, voters in Rehoboth Beach will go the polls to elect two City Commissioners. Incumbents Patrick Gossett and Bill Sargent, as well as challengers Paul Kuhns and Richard Perry are seeking to fill the two positions. All four candidates responded to our questions.
Introduce yourself to the readers of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth and explain why you are running for office.
Gossett: I was born and raised in Washington DC, and have visited Rehoboth Beach since my childhood. In 1996, my husband, a former Board member of CAMP Rehoboth, and I purchased our home here. I graduated from Florida International University’s School of Hospitality Management, which was followed by a 15-year career in the hotel and hospitality business. I then worked 12 years for the American Association of Museums, as the senior staff liaison to the Board of Directors and Assistant Director of Institutional Advancement.
Our city needs leaders who combine vision with citizen input and produce results. My record over the years illustrates that I am one of those leaders.
I served three terms as a Planning Commissioner and I am now serving my second term as a City Commissioner. I am proud of my accomplishments, including:
- enacting the ordinance to save our trees, championing the codes to maintain and enhance the character of our neighborhoods and prevent overbuilding,
- significant contributions to two comprehensive development plans, and
- spearheading the work to bring the very successful pay-by-phone Parkmobile system to Rehoboth Beach
In my current term on the Commission:
- as Chairman of the Personnel Committee, I headed the process of hiring Sharon Lynn, our outstanding City Manager, and
- I led and managed the process of equitably reassessing all real property in the city for the first time since 1968, resulting in the modernization and digitization of property tax records.
Rehoboth frequently receives positive press coverage in the national media. We are often listed as one of America’s “10 Best” places to live, retire, and visit, with one of the Nation’s best beaches and boardwalks. This has brought us more visitors and residents, and I want to be sure we continue to live up to our well-deserved reputation.
Kuhns: I am a full-time resident of Rehoboth Beach since 2005 and I have owned my home since 1987. I have a B.S. in Accounting from Georgetown University and an M.B.A. in Finance from Columbia University. I lived for 25 years in New York City working for Merrill Lynch in Municipal Finance. I was elected as a Rehoboth Beach Commissioner in 2006 for a three-year term. I am presently the President of the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society, the President of the Rehoboth-Dewey Chamber of Commerce and a board member on the Governor’s Tourism Advisory Board. I am an owner in two businesses in downtown Rehoboth.
I am running for the office of Commissioner again to renew the service that I provided in my last term. I believe my financial background in Municipal Finance can help the city as it moves into its large proposed projects. I believe I can bring a fresh positive vision to the issues where there is a need for reasonable analysis and dialog to achieve resolutions. I also feel my 10 years of experience living within our community will enable me to work with all stakeholders to resolve differences.
Perry: My name is Richard Perry. I am currently Of Counsel with Stuart Moore Law, a boutique banking law firm in San Luis Obispo, CA. Until mid-2013, I was Chief Operating Officer, Managing Member and General Counsel of Hovde Capital Advisors LLC, an SEC-registered investment advisor, several bank holding companies, and, until 2010, a nationwide investment banking firm specializing in bank mergers and acquisitions. Previously, I served as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation, and later was a partner in several national law firms before founding a small boutique law firm. I specialize in banking, corporate and securities law. I graduated from American International College, Springfield, MA, and received my juris doctor degree from Suffolk Law School, Boston, MA. I am active in numerous charitable activities, including serving on boards of the Washington Animal Rescue League and the Metropolitan Washington DC Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Sargent: My wife and I bought our house in 1985 and became full time residents in 1990—we came for the summer and stayed. At that time our children were all Rehoboth Beach lifeguards. Now they have their own families, and we are blessed with eight grandchildren. The great tragedy of my life is that my wife has Alzheimer’s and can no longer live at home.
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 which gave me knowledge and skills that have been very valuable for me as a Commissioner.
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.
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.
As I run for my third term as a commissioner I know we face challenges. We need to protect our neighborhoods from inappropriate commercial development that might forever change their character. We must dispose of our wastewater, protect our beaches and lakes, and meet the infrastructure needs of our community. 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 protect the character of Rehoboth and to make sure that it 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.
The recently proposed Pool and Noise Ordinance stirred up a lot of controversy in our community. How has that controversy shaped your campaign?
Gossett: We all love Rehoboth Beach, and no one wants to lose its charm. Pools and noise are symptoms of a larger issue. The demolition of older homes and building of new ones out of scale with the City’s character, and operating as commercial businesses in our residential neighborhoods has an impact on our quality of life.
I have consistently worked to maintain our special “sense of place” and will continue to work for this vision for the future. We must be sure our visitors are made aware of our “Good Neighbor Policies” so that they are a courteous part of our community. I am working on guidelines to establish expectations and responsibilities for both the renter and the landlord so that all can enjoy their time spent vacationing in Rehoboth Beach.
Kuhns: The recently proposed Pool and Noise ordinances have stirred the pot that motivated my candidacy. The city, its staff and outside consultants spent over eight months on these two subjects. To their credit, the city developed a comprehensive noise ordinance, although somewhat subjective. Our community needs to give it a chance to work, see how the summer goes and then analyze the data. The city has also developed a pool ordinance that again needs to be given a chance, although it does have a couple of flaws. First, it gives the City Manager the ability to suspend a rental unit’s license with one noise complaint from the pool and second, it does not have specific quiet hours included. I do not believe the problem is pools and large houses. The overarching problem is occupancy, which complicates the issues of pools and large houses. Therefore, I propose a re-evaluation of the noise and pool ordinances at the end of the summer to assess their effectiveness, and determine ways to improve the ordinance, including occupancy, based upon collected data.
Perry: The controversy over the recently proposed Pool and Noise Ordinance, which intersects with recent proposals to make drastic changes to our residential zoning ordinances, has had a profound impact on my campaign. In my view, the rationale behind these ordinances is flawed and their far-reaching consequences—intended and unintended—have not been adequately vetted. They highlight for me several things about the way our city is governed.
First, many of our elected officials are overly-reactive to a small, but vocal, minority of citizens who enjoy the luxury of time to attend commissioners’ meetings, have personal agendas rather than the best interest of the city as a whole, and are the incumbents’ core supporters. Second, our elected officials clearly did not understand the real problem that needed to be addressed, namely, noise. At the urging of their supporters, they simply transformed the real problem into something else to achieve a different goal. Third, our elected officials, unfortunately, approach resolution of issues with preconceived and predetermined outcomes at the expense of considering any alternative suggestions or opposing views. And, fourth, our elected officials rush to adopt ordinances without fully analyzing, discussing, or giving adequate consideration to the short-and long-term economic consequences affecting all of our citizens and their properties.
I believe there is a better way to manage our issues and approach issue-resolution in a more logical and common-sense way to achieve a balanced outcome for everyone.
Sargent: Preventing further commercialization of our neighborhoods is the top issue of my campaign. Today we are encountering change at an unprecedented level. We have seen the construction of commercial high occupancy houses in the midst of our residential neighborhoods.
I am deeply concerned that if we don’t take sufficient action, Rehoboth’s residential neighborhoods will be overwhelmed by inappropriate development that will forever change their character.
What message do you have for the LGBT community in Rehoboth Beach?
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.
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.
Our community has, as we set out to do, Created A More Positive Rehoboth. But even as we celebrate the progress made on the federal, state and local levels, we must always keep working to further that progress.
Kuhns: My message for the LGBT community, and especially CAMP Rehoboth, is a big thank you for providing our society and our community with a wonderful example of how to persevere and prosper under very difficult circumstances. The LGBT community has been fighting against discrimination for so long without giving up and has made so much progress. This example is a great one for the citizens and neighbors in Rehoboth Beach. We all love our community and I hope all the citizens of Rehoboth can get along through conversation and understanding.
Perry: The LGBT community has long been a pillar of Rehoboth Beach’s community. As a proud member of our gay community, I can personally attest to the many significant contributions you have made and continue to make to our city. You are vital to the civic and social fabric of our society and our city’s economic well-being. For the most part, the issues that affect every one of our citizens are issues that affect each and every LGBT community member—resident and visitor. Zoning, vacation rentals, noise and parking are not issues that are isolated to our city’s non-LGBT residents, tourists, or property owners. Your input and participation in our government is essential. You are welcome and respected in Rehoboth Beach and I invite your full participation in all aspects of our great city.
Sargent: During the nearly thirty 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.
What makes your vision for Rehoboth Beach unique?
Gossett: As a Rehoboth Commissioner who represents the entire city and as a member of the LGBT community I have a unique perspective.
In these times when our community has made such progress in gaining our equality, I have been lucky to experience first hand the Rehoboth Beach LGBT community taking our place at the table as city officials, homeowners, business owners and visitors. As a result, the city is more aware of the needs of our community.
My unique vision is this: recognizing this history, we will build on the work of generations before us. As full contributors to the fabric of our city, we will pass it on to the next generation in better shape than we found it.
I ask you to join me in this vision with your vote on Saturday, August 8.
Kuhns: I have been coming to this resort community since I was a boy of four in 1958. I worked in the community for five years in the early ‘80s. Later, I made frequent visits on weekends from New York because of my love for this community. I bought a house with the intention of retiring in my favorite place, Rehoboth. Fortunately, in 2005 my wife and I were able to achieve that goal and more. Since we have been here I have become very involved in the local community in many different ways and I am happy to say it has been a great next phase of our lives. My vision is as it has always been, Rehoboth as a great beach town that offers a lot of fun and great people from all across our society. Rehoboth has often been defined to imply ”room for all.” I truly believe that statement and feel that neighbor can work with neighbor to continue to make this town the ideal place that it is.
Perry: My vision for Rehoboth Beach is unique because I bring a businesslike and financial perspective to the table and fresh viewpoint to the Board of Commissioners. I want to preserve the character of Rehoboth Beach without sacrificing progress or infringing on property rights. I envision Rehoboth Beach as a community that will recognize the changing demographics of our families and friends and respond to their needs in housing and businesses, accordingly, rather than creating unnecessary impediments. I believe that there are ways to address problems without over-reacting and penalizing the many for the mistakes of a few. A more transparent government that encourages citizen participation and respects and considers differing points of view will result in better solutions to our problems. A public relations officer is needed to repair our reputation and ensure that Rehoboth Beach remains the destination of choice and make clear that everyone is welcome. I want to change the current course and build a city that is once again harmonious and vibrant.
Sargent: I understand that we must meet the demands of residents for larger homes with more amenities. But at the same time we must prevent the commercialization of our neighborhoods.
Moreover, we must realize the vital role that trees play in shaping our feelings for Rehoboth. We have a magnificent tree canopy in much of the city, but it is mature. We need to develop a plan to manage what exists and to extend the canopy in areas that were once wooded.
Accomplishing these objectives will require passion, leadership and patience. I have these qualities.