Sussex County salutes outgoing councilmen

GEORGETOWN – With a mix of sincere sentiments and tempting teasers that serve as a prelude for a tribute/roast to come in late January, an historic era in Sussex County government ended Tuesday.

Longtime Sussex County Councilman George B. Cole of Ocean View hammered the gavel, officially ending the Dec. 11 county council meeting, his final council meeting and — come Jan. 8, 2019 — 32 years on council.

“As Bob Hope used to say, ‘Thanks for the memories.’ This is probably is the only job I ever had that I didn’t work for myself. I felt like I was part of a team. I was always so proud to hear when county did things right,” said Mr. Cole.

Both Republicans, Mr. Cole, who represented the south coastal District 4 during his tenure, and council colleague Rob Arlett, who served four years as the District 5 councilman, were recognized for their years of service with proclamations, replica gavels and nameplates.

Mr. Cole is eyeing retirement from public service. Mr. Arlett passed a council re-election run for what proved to be an unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid to unseat longtime Democrat Thomas Carper.

The proclamation read by Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson noted that Mr. Arlett, while serving “only a short period of time has nonetheless left a lasting mark in county government and people of the Sussex County the last four years for his unabashed support of businesses, and being an advocate for a clearer, litter-free landscape.”

Councilman Rob Arlett and Council President Michael Vincent.

“Truly, I want to thank many people, most importantly my Lord above and my wife. Being an elected official is just not all that easy. You have to make good quality decisions. Sometimes you think you do, and sometimes maybe you think you don’t,” said Mr. Arlett, noting that Tuesday’s council meeting was spiced by disagreement on several issues. “We had our differences as we did even today. But isn’t it great that we can respect one another? I think more bodies of government in this state and in this nation should heed what we do here in Sussex County.”

The council’s proclamation for Mr. Cole in part read that George B. Cole has “faithfully served the 4th District for the past 32 years” and he has “the distinction of being third member of the Cole family to serve on the Sussex County Council since council form was established in the early 1970s …”

“George Cole has been a champion for responsible growth, protecting the environment and preserving the area’s rich quality of life, the essence of his native Sussex County for future generations to enjoy,” the proclamation read.

Mr. Cole, elected in 1986, followed family footsteps. He succeeded his mother, Kathryn “Kitty” Cole, who was appointed to council in 1985 following the passing of Mr. Cole’s father, Charlie Cole, who was elected to council in 1974.

A tribute/roast for Mr. Cole is in the works for Jan. 30, 2019.

Come January 2019, their seats will be taken by Republicans John Rieley of Millsboro and Doug Hudson of Clarksville, both winners in the November 2018 election. Republicans maintain a 5-0 rule on county council.

Contacted by Robin Griffith, clerk of the council, several weeks ago to speak at Tuesday’s meeting, Dale Dukes, part of the Democratic majority during Mr. Cole’s tenure until the 2008 election, stepped to the podium offering humorous and serious comments.

“When Robin called a couple weeks ago … she said try to say good things about him. Well, it’s been two weeks and I can’t think of anything good to say,” chuckled Mr. Dukes. “I did not come here to congratulate you, George, just to make sure to make sure you were leaving!”

Mr. Dukes then recalled the fierce battles in council chambers and then having lunch with Mr. Cole that same afternoon. “We had our differences of opinion, but we respected each other,” he said.

State Rep. Tim Dukes shared some recollections.

“Councilman Cole, long before I met you, I knew you. I thought your first name was ‘stinkin’ Cole, not George Cole. At the dinner table, often I would hear my father say, ‘You won’t believe what that stinkin’ Cole said today.’ I began to know that this actually was a very endearing term. You have extended my father’s life by agitating him at times. I wanted to come today just to thank you as a citizen within this county, for your leadership over the many years here,” said Rep. Dukes. “Councilman Arlett, it has been a really fast four years. I appreciate your friendship maybe even more than you know.”

“I’m glad to work with George,” said county councilman Samuel Wilson Jr. “When we leave here, our differences are forgotten. I always appreciated George for that. It has been pleasure working with you.”

County council president Michael Vincent acknowledged both councilmen for their service.

“I believe this in my heart, George cares about this county and the people of the county. And everything he has done he tried do what in his mind was the right thing to do. I consider George a friend. That’s a valuable thing to have,” said Mr. Vincent, noting Mr. Arlett was there “for a shorter period of time. At end of day we walk out here, and we’re not mad at each other.”

Speakers included three prior county administrators – Dave Baker, Bob Stickels and Joseph Conaway.

Mr. Conaway was administrator when Mr. Cole’s father and mother were on council.

“I had the pleasure serving with George’s mom and dad,” said Mr. Conaway. “I had the pleasure of serving 12 years with the Coles. We look at your career George, and I will tell you the Cole family is to be commended. I don’t know if we’ll ever see anybody in a family, that will serve 44 years. We’re going to miss you. You were consistent, not always right, but consistent.”

Mr. Stickels said he plans to save his juicy stories for the George Cole tribute/roast.

‘I’m not going to tell everything I know. You should buy tickets if you want to know …,” said Mr. Stickels. “January 30, I am telling it all.”

County Attorney J. Everett Moore worked with Mr. Cole for several decades, as well as on his successful election campaign in 1986.

“It has been great working with you. You have stayed firm in your beliefs,” said Mr. Moore. “The great thing that a lot of people don’t know about you is you will fight tooth and nail in here for views and what you want, but once you walk out of the room, you’re still friends with everyone. You understand the difference between friendship and personal issues.”

Mr. Moore thanked Mr. Arlett for his service. “I like your conservative views,” Mr. Moore said.

Former county councilman Lynn Rogers, who was part of the Democrats’ most recent majority, kiddingly said was his time on council “was best 12 years” of Mr. Cole’s life.

“We went through good times, bad times and fun times,” said Mr. Rogers. “I will save my other comments for the 30th.”

 

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