If Phillips runs, he will need a strong kick

Vance Phillips

The onset of 2010 is sure to begin campaign chatter. Not to get lost in the sauce is the Sussex County Council election. Council President Vance Phillips, R-Laurel, and Vice President George Cole, R-Ocean View, are both up for reelection.

The pair, although they disagree on almost every issue, has the most experience on council by far. Cole has been on council since 1986 and Phillips since 1998.

The combined experience of three other council members is less than three years.

I haven’t heard either one say they won’t run again, although Phillips is always looking up the ladder for higher office. While on the outside it would appear both are a lock for another 4-year term, it may not be that simple.

There is a ground swell under way in eastern Sussex County for some major changes in the way council does business, starting with cleaning house of members who don’t buy into their platform, which includes less development.

Phillips’ district is one of the strangest in the county because it stretches from west to east, so he is elected by voters in the South Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island areas, as well as those in Dagsboro, Millsboro and Selbyville and Delmar and Laurel. Cole’s district is totally on the east side of the county around the Inland Bays, including Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Long Neck, Millsboro, Ocean View and Oak Orchard.

There is also a ground swell to get more representation on council from the east side of the county, which could include the addition of two at-large members. Legislation in that direction has never gone far in the General Assembly.

It might not be a bad idea to have council elected as at-large members. They can still represent their district, and hand out councilmanic grants, but they are then beholding to everyone in the county.

Easterners argue that the powerbase of the council is on the west side of the county with three members living west of Route 113. A vast majority of the decisions made by council involve projects and issues on the eastern side in the two districts they have no real stake in.

Of the two, Phillips will have to work the hardest to get back on council.
Phillips’ stronghold is around his home base of Laurel, Bethel and Delmar where many people with long-standing rural roots share his strong conservative values and strict adherence to property rights.

That is the not the case among many of his eastern Sussex constituents. Many are transplants who do not share Phillips’ beliefs and are critical of his record of voting for most subdivision, rezoning and conditional-use applications.

Cole, on the other hand, has a track record of questioning development in the environmentally sensitive developing district. Although he doesn’t vote against all applications, he votes against a high percentage.

George Cole

One of the hot campaign issues will be development in eastern Sussex County.

One also has to wonder how the councilmanic districts will change based on the 2010 Census. There is no doubt they will have to change with the dramatic population increase in central and eastern Sussex County. The powerbase may move east.

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3 Responses to “If Phillips runs, he will need a strong kick”

  1. joandeaver Says:

    Good article. And new district lines will be drawn by those who are on the council in 2011. If that’s the same people, those lines can be drawn to give the power to the western part of the county–again. I think they call it Gerrymandering.

  2. JLW Says:

    I think it is important for people to remember that there is more to Sussex County than Lewes and Rehoboth. I grew up in Lewes and I grasp that concept, why is it difficult for our transplants? I believe we hear the voices of the eastern residents far more than the western as it is. Far far far more. I can only imagine if council redistricts what will happen to the voice of western sussex residents.

  3. dorothy boucher Says:

    JLW, I dislike the term “transplant”. We are citizens of this county and we pay taxes and spend our money and should have the same rights as “locals” do. Everybody, trnsplants and locals alike came from somewhere, you didn’t just grow out of the dirt. And the reason you hear more from the eastern side of the county is because that is where most of the development is occurring, thanks to those who continue to approve it regardless of concerns about the effects. Frankly, if the three primarily western council members are removed, it would be a blessing to the entire county and that is in reference to Sam Wilson, Vance Phillips and Michael Vincent. They need to go.

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