Flurry Of Resignations Submitted As New Fenwick Island Elected Officials Take Office

Flurry Of Resignations Submitted As New Fenwick Island Elected Officials Take Office
Pictured, from left, are Fenwick Island Council members Paul Breger, Jacque Napolitano, Janice Bortner, Vicki Carmean and Natalie Magdeburger. Photo by Bethay Hooper

FENWICK ISLAND – Four newcomers to the Fenwick Island Town Council will begin their tenure looking for candidates to fill vacant positions after it was announced that two councilmen, the town manager, the town solicitor and several committee members have submitted resignations.

In an organizational meeting last Friday, Natalie Magdeburger, Janice Bortner, Jacque Napolitano and Paul Breger were sworn in as Fenwick Island’s newest council members after a divisive election against incumbent candidates Richard Mais, Bill Weistling, Mike Houser and Gene Langan.

Before the ceremony could even start, however, it was announced that both Town Manager Terry Tieman and Town Solicitor Mary Schrider-Fox had resigned from their positions.

“A couple things I wanted to announce is Mary Schrider-Fox has resigned as town attorney,” Langan said. “Also, Terry Tieman has resigned.”

With no additional comments, Council Secretary Bernie Merritt then proceeded to swear in each of the new council members. But when the council reconvened after a brief recess, both Merritt and Councilman Gardner Bunting were noticeably absent.

“It appears I am the last person standing from the old council …,” Councilwoman Vicki Carmean said, receiving applause and cheers from those in the audience. “I received two letters of resignation, one from Gardner Bunting and one from Bernie Merritt.”

With just five members at the dais, Carmean told attendees that the new council would look to town residents for guidance.

“With your help, I think we can run this town and do a good job at it,” she said.

During the election of officers, the council named Carmean the new mayor, Napolitano the new vice mayor, Magdeburger the new secretary and Breger the new treasurer. For their part, Bortner, Napolitano and Carmean thanked community members for their support.

“I never ever in any of my wildest dreams thought I would be in this position, and it wasn’t on my list of life choices,” Carmean said, “but I am so proud to be here as part of this town. I’m human, I will make mistakes. But I will do the very best I can, and I am counting on your support.”

Magdeburger added that she was eager to work for the town and its people.

“We are not here for position, we are not here for titles,” she said. “We’re here to give back and make sure we carry the torch for Fenwick for the next generation.”

County Councilman John Rieley, District 5 representative, congratulated the town’s new council members. He said he looked forward to working with them in the future.

“I think this election reflects the fact that – not only in Fenwick, but I think in the general community – we’re really taking a moment to reevaluate,” he said. “Where are we and where are we going. I look forward to working with you on that.”

In response to the resignations of Merritt and Bunting, Carmean said the town would advertise for applicants. According to the town’s charter, the town council can fill vacancies by appointment.

“We need to find people to replace the two councilmen who resigned,” she said. “They have a year left on their term, so we are going to ask for applicants to step forward … That will be a priority for the next meeting, to get that process started.”

In separate statements issued this week, both Bunting and Merritt explained their resignations from the council.

“As a longtime resident of Fenwick Island, I have served 15 years on the council along with 17 years on various committees and enjoyed serving the town,” Bunting said. “The previous council has an amazing level of honesty and integrity and it was a pleasure working with them. The recent campaign process led to much misunderstanding and statements of misleading information to the public. For this reason, I felt it best for me to resign my term on the town council.”

Merritt added, “I loved being part of the Fenwick Town Council for the last 5 years, but after this campaign that was built on hysteria and facts that were distorted, I decided that the new Council had a vision for this town that I could not support, so therefore I decided to remove myself from the Council and all my Committee Assignments. I only wish continued success for the Town of Fenwick Island.”

During last Friday’s organizational meeting, Carmean said the town would suspend all committee activities until the council reorganized and held its first meeting, which is scheduled for Aug. 27. It should be noted that 13 veteran committee members – Sharon Ruble, Nancy Merritt, Reid Tingle, Becca McWilliams, Bill Weistling, Bernie Merritt, Mike Houser, Mark Tingle, Jacque Pfeiffer, Gardner Bunting, Mary Ellen Langan, Tracy Connell and Tim Collins – have resigned from various committees since the Aug. 7 election.

“One of the things we are going to do is take a look at the committees, we’re going to open up the committee process and take applicants …,” Carmean said. “With the support we’ve had with the election, I know we have a lot of people who are willing to step forward.”

In a resignation letter sent to the town, Collins, chair of the Fenwick Island Business Development Committee (FIBDC), said he was stepping down over differences in vision.

“When the Council appointed an ad Hoc committee for Business Development to envision the future look of Fenwick Island, I felt as a community we were moving in the right direction with the primary objective of making our Town safe and visually appealing,” he wrote. “I was encouraged. I attended most of the workshops which encompassed many hours of work by some very dedicated residents.”

He continued, “Any of the suggestions prior to being implemented would have been at the approval or disapproval of our residents. The suggestions of this committee had multiple options to update our commercial sector in the future while still keeping Fenwick the community we all love. The new council members perceived the suggestions of the ad hoc committee to be a threat to the Fenwick Island way of life. I respect the right of people to disagree but my vision as a 40-year, [year]-round resident, business owner and Chairman of FIBDC is different – so I step down from my position to allow the new council to appoint someone that better reflects their views.”

Tieman and Schrider-Fox did not return requests for comment this week.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.