Winner in Bethany
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Former Bethany Beach Mayor J. Robert Parsons was the top vote-getter in the town's annual election on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2002. Meanwhile, two incumbents were defeated by newcomers to the council.
Parsons led easily with 736 votes. Also elected were Joseph McHugh, 614 votes; Robert Degen, 576; and Harold Steele, 572. Incumbents Lois Lipsett and William White lost their bids for re-election, with 508 votes and 495 votes, respectively.
In a reorganization meeting following the election, McHugh was elected Mayor again by his fellow council members and Parsons will be Vice Mayor. John "Jack" Walsh was elected secretary/treasurer.
McHugh said turnout for the election was very high, adding that he believed Parsons' total was the highest ever for a town council candidate.
Parsons said he believed that voters saw him as a "moderate" candidate in the midst of a hotly contested race. "There seemed to be some contention between some factions of the town and some folks who were on the previous council," he said.
He also said he believed residents recognized his previous accomplishments as mayor from 1984-91. "We did a lot of good things for the town," he said.
Lipsett said she was disappointed with the results, but hasn't lost her desire to serve the town. "I'll try again next year," she said.
All the candidates appeared at a pre-election forum sponsored by the Bethany Beach Landowners Association on Friday, Sept. 13. Beach preservation and dealing with increasing summer crowds were two of the main topics of discussion.
Degen, the only non-resident now on the council, owns a home on Wiegand Lane and was actively involved in a successful effort last year to prevent the town from opening Central Boulevard to Second Street.
He said at the candidates' forum that he had visited every street in town "at least twice" in an effort to talk to residents throughout the summer. Overcrowding, Degen said, seemed to be foremost on the minds of most people he spoke with. "The growth in this part of Sussex County is a fact and we cannot turn back the clock," he said.
Degen said he would like to see some changes in traffic patterns in the town to make it safer for pedestrians and motorists alike. "You can't legislate common sense, you can't legislate common courtesy, but you can legislate changes in traffic patterns," including making all intersections with Atlantic Avenue four-way stops.
Parsons has also said he favors adding sidewalks on Pennsylvania Avenue south of Garfield Parkway and improving lighting there.
Steele and Parsons both said drainage in the town should be a top priority. Steele has worked on the problem of frequent flooding for four years, researching solutions including the "duck-bill" valves now installed on drainage pipes throughout the town and the proposed inflatable rubber dam to help prevent flooding from the Loop Canal.
Parsons said the town will benefit from the a state project which will result in topographical maps of the area. He said the new data will help the town discover if the Route 26 improvements completed last year have had any effect on drainage on the west sie of town.
"We know, at least anecdotally, of some changes," he said. "But we would be foolish to apply patchwork solutions to a problem for which global data will be available."
Steele, however, said he hoped solutions would be reached quickly. "I'm tired of the frustration of working on these projects and not getting them done," he said.
Other topics addressed by the candidates included the town's beautification project, its shuttle bus experiment this past summer, the need to push the state for more public beaches to the north and south of town, and whether to put some issues, particularly large expenditures, to the residents by referendum.
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