On Saturday, August 14, voters in Rehoboth Beach will elect two city commissioners. There are four candidates vying for the two seats: Tim Bennett, Richard Byrne, Rachel Macha, and Mary Antoinette “Toni” Sharp. ★ The Rehoboth Beach Homeowners Association and CAMP Rehoboth are sponsoring a Candidates Forum for the voters of Rehoboth Beach at 10 a.m. on Sunday, July 17, in the CAMP Rehoboth Elkins-Archibald Atrium. The forum will be broadcast live from CAMP Rehoboth’s Facebook page. ★ All four candidates responded to questions posed by CAMP Rehoboth. Their responses are unedited.
Introduce yourself to Letters readers and explain why you’re running for office.
★ Tim Bennett: I grew up in Connecticut and graduated from Marietta College in Ohio with a Public Relations/Marketing degree. I have lived on both coasts and a lot of places in the middle. I am a member of Malta Boat Club in Philadelphia. Served on the Boards of GreensGrow, my college’s alumni association, and supported or consulted for numerous non-profits. I am a partner with Tribury, a creative and media agency. I also co-host a weekly program called The Focus Group. When it started in 2008, The Focus Group was SiriusXM’s first original program dedicated to the world of business and consumer culture. Prior I enjoyed a career in corporate marketing, as the Director of Marketing and Advertising Programs at Subaru of America. Most notably, I was responsible for Subaru’s award-winning advertising effort to the LGBTQ consumer that forever changed the way corporate leaders viewed the market, and gay Americans.
Rehoboth Beach has been a welcoming destination for me since the 80s. I bought a home here four years ago and just moved here full time. Now it is my time to give back to this community that has given me so much enjoyment for so long.
★ Richard Byrne: I am running for re-election for Rehoboth Beach Commissioner because I love living in this beautiful city and I have a great desire to continue to contribute to keeping it the welcoming, clean, safe, and environmentally friendly city that has drawn me here for the past 30 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 who love Rehoboth and visit us here several times each year.
I have over 30 years of leadership experience in the Extension Service at both U of Maryland and U 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.
I was elected City Commissioner in 2018. It’s been an inspiring and challenging time, and it’s been a huge privilege to serve all of you. I’m very proud of the many initiatives I’ve been involved with. For example, I was the author of the legislation creating Steve Elkins Way (thank you Fay & Murray); I created and became Chair of the City Environment Committee; I chair the City Animal Issues Committee; I serve on the Tree & Green Infrastructure Committee; and the City Personnel Committee.
Since retirement, I have spent the past 13 years full-time in Rehoboth Beach serving on boards of directors and providing leadership with community-based groups. Until recently, I served as President of the Sussex Family YMCA Board of Governors, a member of the DE-YMCA Association Board of Directors, immediate past VP of the DE SPCA, Chair of Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf’s RD Committee, and am currently President of the Park Place Homeowners Association.
In recent years I have been the recipient of the DE Governor’s Volunteer Award for work with the SPCA, Volunteer of the Year Award from the DE 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.
★ Rachel Macha: My husband, Rich, and I have 23-year-old triplets and 21-year-old twins and 2 dogs. We have been Rehoboth property owners for the past 21 years. We have created priceless family memories, enjoyed Summer weekends and vacations in Rehoboth as well as spent off-season time attending events including SeaWitch Festival and Holiday Tree Lighting with our 5 children. Since our kids were 14 years old, they have held summer jobs in Rehoboth at Funland, Royal Treat, Jungle Jim’s, Bin 66, and Big Fish Restaurant Group.
In addition to family, I have a career in business and have always given back to my community. I started my career working for AT&T and then moved into the technology, software, and service industries. My specialty area is improving customer service and customer experience. Through the years, I have served on various school, church, company, and non-profit boards and committees.
For the past three years, I leveraged my experience serving Rehoboth on the Park, Shade and Tree Commission and Planning Commission. I am running for Commissioner because my family loves Rehoboth and I want to ensure that Rehoboth thrives in the future, that we preserve the charm of Rehoboth, have a strategy that includes a forward looking plan and budget, and improve the experience of residents, businesses and tourists. My hope is that others experience the beach, shopping, restaurants, and all the fun that Rehoboth offers for years to come.
I am confident that my 21 years as a resident with a balanced view of family fun, business career, and community experience positions me to contribute positively to Rehoboth’s future and its success.
★ Mary “Toni” Sharp: I am Mary Antoinette (“Toni”) Sharp.
I built my home on Silver Lake in 1999 and have lived here full time for a decade.
I was one of your Rehoboth Beach City Commissioners from 2013 until 2019. During my tenure, I passed budget approval for a dedicated communications professional, ensured stronger financial discipline, championed a feedback mechanism for public input, and chaired the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Trees, which created a public-private partnership to enhance our standing as a Tree City using private donations. Additionally, I led the City Commissioners to unanimous consensus on our green infrastructure agreement.
I am running for a third term because I have very strong opinions on—
• Fairness for all constituents;
• Responsibility of public service; and
• Doing the right things for the City of Rehoboth Beach.
We need to do the right things for the City, which means we need to restore and redouble our efforts to balance the needs of the triad that keeps our City great—voters, businesses and visitors. We need to listen to the public and focus on “must have” projects versus “nice to have” projects.
During my time in Rehoboth, I’ve seen and heard from a lot of people, and few have exactly the same perspective or interests—not all voters want the same things, not all businesses what the same things, and certainly visitors come here for different things. Trying to find a balance that works for most will always be a challenge, but I believe we have a responsibility to seek common ground for the good of all in the City where we can.
I ask for your vote on August 14!
What single issue do you feel defines the 2021 Rehoboth election, and how will you address it?
★ Tim Bennett: Managing growth is the biggest issue facing Rehoboth. I am an advocate for smart growth that allows the tree canopy to flourish, encourages the neighborhoods to remain distinctive, and welcomes a diverse commercial district. I am new, but not uninformed. New thinking would be a positive for city government. Change is inevitable. Plan carefully.
★ Richard Byrne: Managing and administering the balance between the various identities of our City…residential community and resort (business) community. The current 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 full-time retirement home here to be a part of both of these vital communities. My approach is to give constant attention to achieving a balance that is 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.
★ Rachel Macha: Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP): Within the next year, our updated CDP will set forth our strategic vision for Rehoboth Beach. It is our guide to navigate our way to a sound future. The CDP addresses key strategic objectives including infrastructure, arts and culture, strategic projects, and safety. As a member of the Planning Commission, I focused intensely to carefully analyze and understand the concerns and suggestions of residents, businesses and tourists before, during and after COVID.
As a Commissioner, I am uniquely positioned to leverage the time, effort and insights I learned on the Planning Commission to help execute the CDP’s action items. I will actively work with my colleagues to ensure that Rehoboth follows through on the CDP’s recommendations, carefully plans for infrastructure upgrades and maintenance, ensure a thriving commercial district and an attractive place to work, and protect the investment in our properties.
My unique background in Customer Experience and my 21 years as a resident with a balanced view of family fun, business career, and community experience positions me to add value and contribute positively to Rehoboth’s future and success.
I would like to launch a Customer Experience Committee comprised of residents, organizations such as Camp Rehoboth and others, and our local businesses to generate and freely discuss ideas and recommendations to keep our City moving forward positively.
★ Mary “Toni” Sharp: I am not a single-issue candidate. Any issue that seemingly needs to be urgently addressed today may very well be overcome by events—just look at how our priorities changed with the pandemic.
My top issues are:
• balancing the needs of voters, businesses and visitors;
• prioritizing where the City spends money; and,
• listening to voters and the public.
As we head to the polls on August 14th, we need to remember the kind of leaders we need:
• We need leaders who will protect our natural assets—the beach, the boardwalk, the trees, and the lakes.
• We need leaders who will bring experience and knowledge to manage our tax dollars.
• We need leaders who conduct business in the open.
• We need leaders who ask our opinions, listen to us, discuss all points of view and then act in the interest of all our citizens.
My voting record from my two terms as a City Commissioner shows that I have all these qualities, that I understand the intricacies of complex issues the City must address and that I will work to find the appropriate balance between different interests and priorities.
How do you see the city interacting with CAMP Rehoboth and its members?
★ Tim Bennett: CAMP Rehoboth has been vital to making Rehoboth the city it is today. I would recommend that CAMP be included at each Commissioner’s meeting to share information, similar to how the Chamber and Main Street are presented. CAMP deserves at seat at the table.
★ Richard Byrne: Sherri and I have been proud members of CAMP for many years. We have benefitted from and have enjoyed many programs and activities sponsored by CAMP. I fervently believe in the mission of CAMP “to create a more positive environment inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities....and to promote cooperation and understanding among all people as we work to build a safer community 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 against prejudice and discrimination.
My role as Commissioner is to ensure the City does the same, that is, honor and support the CAMP Rehoboth mission statement and purpose and develop policies and practices to realize the CAMP mission for all in Rehoboth Beach. The City, like CAMP, must always be a positive advocate for fairness and equal rights for all.
★ Rachel Macha: CAMP Rehoboth serves a critical role in our City and beyond our borders. CAMP is recognized as a leader in its support of LGBTQ+ rights and provides an array of services that benefits its members and our Rehoboth Beach community as a whole.
Various support programs and events bind together our unique community and exemplifies who we are—a City with room for all. I want to encourage greater participation by the City to support their inclusiveness, awareness, and community involvement through joint efforts to bring more services and acceptance to our community. We should do more to recognize what CAMP has contributed and continues to contribute to the vitality and health of our City and surrounding areas, and enhance everyone’s understanding of the importance they hold in the future of our City and the commitment to “Equality for All.”
★ Mary “Toni” Sharp: CAMP and its members are valued citizens in our community, involved in every issue the City faces. We will continue to work together with CAMP, its members, and our many LGBTQ businesses, and visitors. Despite our welcoming spirit, a recent HRC report noted the City has some work to do to improve our ranking as an inclusive city. More communication on these issues and making it a priority can bring tangible results.
In five words or less, what is your vision for the city of Rehoboth Beach?
★ Tim Bennett: The Nation’s Summer Capital
★ Richard Byrne: Welcoming, clean, safe and eco-friendly.
★ Rachel Macha: Welcoming, thriving town, priceless memories. For more information, visit: RachelforRehoboth.com
★ Mary “Toni” Sharp: Balance. Priorities. Outreach. ▼