On Saturday, August 11, voters in Rehoboth Beach will go the polls to elect two City commissioners. There are three candidates vying for the two seats. They are Richard Byrne, Pat Coluzzi, and Gary Glass. All three candidates responded to questions posed by CAMP Rehoboth.
Introduce yourself to the readers of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth and explain why you are running for office.
Richard Byrne: I am running for Rehoboth Beach Commissioner because I love living in this beautiful city and I have a great desire to contribute to keeping it the welcoming, clean, safe, and friendly city that has drawn me here for the past 25 years. My wife Sherri Wright and I have owned here since 2002 and have lived here full time since 2009. Our three children and their families, including three grandsons, love Rehoboth and visit us here several times each year.
I have over 30 years of leadership experience in the Extension Service at both University of Maryland and University of Minnesota. I had state wide responsibility for administering, managing and leading county Extension programs in 4-H, Family Consumer Science, and Agriculture. These programs were collaborations of citizens, volunteers, youth, and community organizations, along with University Extension, and other county, state, and federal government agencies.
Since retirement, I have spent the past nine years full-time in Rehoboth Beach serving on boards of directors and providing leadership with community-based groups. I am currently President of the Sussex Family YMCA Board of Governors, a member of the Delaware YMCA Association Board of Directors, immediate past Vice-President of the DE SPCA, and President of the Park Place Homeowners Association.
Currently I chair the City of Rehoboth Beach Animal Issues Committee, serve on the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Trees, and Chair Representative Pete Schwartzkopf’s Representative District Committee.
In recent years I have been the recipient of the Delaware Governor’s Volunteer Award for work with the SPCA, the 2017 Volunteer of the Year Award from the Delaware Democratic Party, and the Distinguished Service Award from the National 4-H Association.
I’m running for office because I have a commitment to work collaboratively with others to preserve and maintain our unique neighborhoods and businesses; to protect our natural environment; and to promote ethical, open, fair, and transparent government.
Pat Coluzzi: I have been a full-time resident in Rehoboth Beach for the past 15 years. I am founder and manager of the Rehoboth Beach Farmers’ Market which is now in its 12th year. I was a Rehoboth Beach Planning Commissioner in 2006, a Rehoboth Beach City Commissioner from 2007-2013, and a former Main Street Board Member. As a Board Member of the Lewes Rehoboth Canal Improvement Association, I am currently pursuing funding from the State of Delaware for the construction of a dock in Grove Park. Most recently, I was appointed by Speaker of the House, Peter Schwartzkopf, as his representative on the Board of Directors of the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays.
I am running for office because I feel I can contribute to making our City better. I have a proven track record of successfully tackling a variety of issues over the years and after a five-year break, I feel that I am uniquely positioned to address some of the issues that confront our City.
• Implement creative solutions for addressing parking for all citizens. Promote a system that provides a multi-level approach.
• Create a plan that will provide an approach that will make safety paramount for pedestrians and bicyclists.
• Promote a sensible tree ordinance that preserves our canopy yet provides for the right tree in the right place.
• Provide an environment to help our businesses thrive. We want them to be successful.
• Promote a plan to beautify and enhance our public parks and common public areas.
Gary Glass: I have been coming to Rehoboth Beach for more than three decades. With my partner of 22 years, I bought a second home in the Country Club Estates neighborhood in Rehoboth. In the years since, I have been active with civic groups, including as a member of the board of the Country Club Estates Property Owners Association for more than 10 years, currently as treasurer. My partner, Brian, also is active in the city, as a longtime member of the Planning Commission.
I decided to run for Commissioner this year when I heard that Patrick Gossett and Jay Lagree might not seek re-election. Their departures will leave a huge void on the Board of Commissioners, which motivated me to get off the sidelines and throw my hat in the ring. I believe I have the experience and skills to keep the city moving on the right track. Over my 30-year career, I have worked as a cost accounting analyst, the director of finance for two non-profit associations, and in accounting, IT, and project management with a private finance company. I have a B.S. in accounting and finance from Louisiana State University.
What single issue do you feel defines the 2018 Rehoboth election, and how will you address it?
Richard Byrne: Managing and administering the balance between the various identities of our City…residential community and resort (business) community. The current Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP 2010) states, “…maintaining balance among these various identities is a continuing challenge of managing traffic, parking, oceanfront land use, municipal service, business stability, commercial and neighborhood appearance, and governance.” This continues to be a challenge and I believe is inevitable for a city whose brand is as a “beach and resort town.”
Sherri and I intentionally invested in our retirement home here to be a part of both of these vital communities. Most people here made a similar decision. My approach is to give constant attention to achieving a balance that is a win-win for all. Public officials have a serious responsibility to work in an intentional, collaborative, problem solving mode on behalf of all to achieve agreement on a unified set of goals for the future. This includes involving the broad community in developing a long-range, forward-looking plan with specific goals, strategies, and timelines.
Pat Coluzzi: I see the increased traffic coming into town as one of the biggest issues for residents and visitors. We need a multi-faceted approach to solve this problem. First, I favor an approach that promotes other modes of transportation. A bicycle/pedestrian bridge across route 1 would be a safer answer than the current red-light crossings. A bike share station at the Park and Ride would give visitors another option for coming into town. I also believe that we need to come up with a new approach to parking permits. Additionally, we should investigate a public/private partnership for a parking garage outside of town with free transportation into town. Good relationships with state, county, and local officials will be key to the implementation of a successful plan and over the years I have developed those relationships.
Gary Glass: The defining issue this year in Rehoboth is the commercialization of our residential neighborhoods by investors, generally through LLCs, which are turning homes into short-term rental businesses that are not consistent with the residential zoning. Past attempts to mitigate the impacts, such as noise and trash, have not been adequate. If elected, I will work on measures to stop and reverse the trend and protect our neighborhoods. Tourist destinations across the country are adopting stronger protections, including clarifying the permitted uses in residential homes, defining a minimum duration for short-term rentals, and specifying a season for short-term rentals.
What message do you have for the LGBTQ community in Rehoboth Beach?
Richard Byrne: Sherri and I have been proud members of CAMP Rehoboth for many years. We have benefited from and have enjoyed many programs and activities sponsored by CAMP Rehoboth. I fervently believe in the mission of CAMP Rehoboth, “To create a more positive environment in Rehoboth Beach…..and to promote cooperation and understanding among all people, as we work to build safe, inclusive communities with room for all.”
I have worked diligently for years with a variety of organizations and in several communities to support human and civil rights and guard against prejudice and discrimination.
Whether elected or not, I will always be an active supporter and practitioner of the mission of CAMP Rehoboth. I consider CAMP Rehoboth not only an incredibly positive advocate for fairness and equal rights but also an enormous asset to all aspects of our community.
Pat Coluzzi: My message to the LGBT community is to stay vigilant. The national conversation threatens the lives of all LGBT persons. We are lucky that CAMP Rehoboth exists and continues to contribute to making sure that the Rehoboth Beach community remains safe and positive.
Gary Glass: For Rehoboth, LGBT people are absolutely crucial to the city’s charm and success as a resort destination and a special place to live. For the LGBT community across the Mid-Atlantic region, if not the entire country, Rehoboth is a unique haven and proof positive that, when LGBT people are embraced as full and equal members of our families and communities, we are strong and better as a result. The progress that has been made by CAMP Rehoboth and the interdependence of Rehoboth with the LGBT community must be nurtured and never taken for granted.
What makes your vision for Rehoboth Beach unique?
Richard Byrne: My experience in working for 30 years at the executive-administrative level in two major University systems with state-wide responsibility to create, resource, implement, and evaluate community-based programs on a broad scale makes me a unique candidate. I have many years of successful experiences partnering and collaborating with community volunteer groups, governmental agencies at all levels, corporate, and non-profits entities to develop and deliver programs that meet the needs of citizens. I will be able to leverage my professional and community board of director experiences to work with diverse groups and disparate opinions, search out opportunities, grasp challenges, and take action on behalf of the residents and business community of Rehoboth Beach.
Pat Coluzzi: I consider myself uniquely to be the “Community Candidate.” My focus has always been to create an environment that would bring the community together. The Rehoboth Beach Farmers’ Market is one example of creating a positive environment for our community. I consider myself to be a good listener and a good mediator. So, let’s work together and not against each other. I believe all our residents care deeply about our City and we must provide the environment that allows everyone to participate.
Gary Glass: I am the only candidate who is talking about the importance of protecting our neighborhoods from the threat of commercialization by investors, which is going to drastically change the character of our community if we do not take stronger action. We have a tradition in Rehoboth of summertime rentals, where the homeowner uses the home for most of the year. part-time residents who rent their homes in the summer, or for part of the summer. But rentals in these investment properties are offered by-the-night all year round, like a hotel business, and the properties are never used as a residence. I want Rehoboth to continue to be a place where neighbors can get to know each other and share their lives.
What is your long term vision for the city, in five words or less?
Richard Byrne: Welcoming, clean, safe, and friendly.
Pat Coluzzi: Be Proactive Not Reactive.
Gary Glass: Charming, diverse, forested seaside village.▼