FENWICK ISLAND – Two new members were appointed to the Fenwick Island Town Council last week.
Last Friday, residents Richard Benn and Bill Rymer were sworn in as the newest members of the Fenwick Island Town Council. The two councilmen were appointed by the town council last week to fill two vacancies that resulted from the resignations of Councilmen Bernie Merritt and Gardner Bunting.
“We have confidence that Richard and Bill will take their responsibilities to the town very seriously and will do their best to serve the community,” said Mayor Vicki Carmean.
On Aug. 20, both Merritt and Bunting submitted their letters of resignation following an organizational meeting in which election winners Natalie Magdeburger, Janice Bortner, Jacque Napolitano and Paul Breger were sworn in as the newest members of the town council. In separate statements, the incumbents said they were stepping down over differences in vision and misleading information.
“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,” Merritt said in August. “I only wish continued success for the Town of Fenwick Island.”
To that end, Carmean – the only remaining incumbent – announced plans to accept letters of interest from community members interested in serving the remainder of the two-year terms.
“We have two vacancies for two council members whose terms have not expired, and the charter tells us we can appoint someone to fill those vacancies,” she said in August. “So I am offering until Sept. 15 for letters of interest to come to me.”
In last Friday’s council meeting, Carmean said she had received letters of interest from five people willing to serve.
“All five people are wonderful individuals with many talents,” she said. “In the September 15 executive meeting, the current five members of council reviewed the qualifications of those five. It was not an easy decision for the council members to make, but we finally decided on Richard Benn and Bill Rymer because they have been involved in town activities in recent years.”
With no discussion, a motion to appoint Benn and Rymer passed unanimously last week. Following a swearing in ceremony, Rymer was appointed to replace Breger as the town’s new treasurer.
Rymer, a retired chief financial officer and former certified public accountant, became a full-time resident last year, though his family has owned property in Fenwick Island since 1980. In addition to holding several leadership positions at his church, Rymer has participated in town meetings and is involved with the Fenwick Island Society of Homeowners (FISH).
Rymer said this week his foray into town politics began earlier this year, when his concerns regarding commercial development motivated him to support the campaigns of the four newly elected councilmembers. He said he is eager to serve the town in his role as a new councilmember.
“It is important to have a good balance between a thriving commercial district and the residential community,” he said. “I also wanted to see greater community involvement in committees and the removal of the previous restrictions on public participation during town council meetings (both of which are being realized). I am honored to have been selected to serve the Fenwick community and look forward to helping the Town Council to the best of my ability.”
Benn did not return interview requests this week, but Carmean noted she first became acquainted with Benn in 2015, when his sister, Julie Lee, was elected to the Fenwick Island Town Council.
In recent years, he has served the town as a member of its budget committee, as well as an active observer and commentator of town affairs.
“He is very astute when it comes to understanding contracts, commercial activities and investment trends,” Carmean said this week. “Of course, during COVID it was difficult for anyone to participate in committee meetings, but Richard remained in touch especially regarding economic decisions, the proposed commercial building changes, and Charter & Ordinance activities.”
The council last week also announced new committee assignments and the selection of a new town attorney.
“As you know, our former town solicitor resigned in August and we are happy at this time to introduce Mr. Luke Mette from the firm Armstrong Teasdale,” Carmean said. “Council feels very confident that Mr. Mette’s firm will do a good job representing the town by putting our ordinances and our people first.”
She added that council members Bortner, Magdeburger and Breger were also leading a search for Fenwick Island’s new town manager. Former Town Manager Terry Tieman submitted her resignation in August, following the town election.
“At this time, there is nothing to report except a steady stream of applicants,” Carmean said.
Resident Bill Weistling, one of the four incumbents to lose their seats in this year’s election, asked if members of the public would join the search committee.
“In years past, when the town council hired town managers, there was always a search committee composed of the entire town council, but also members of the public,” he said. “Are you planning on having members of the public be part of your search?”
Magdeburger said it was something to consider.
“Right now, we’re taking in applications. We’re also in communication with somebody who’s sort of a consultant that can come in and give us a better idea of what we need and how it’s going to be done,” she replied. “But I think that’s a great idea, and maybe we’ll consider bringing in the public when we get to the final stages, when we’re making decisions.”
Weistling said he thought the council could benefit from the public’s input.
“Obviously, there are six new council members who have never served on the council before,” he said. “It’s an important task to hire a town manager, so I think you should get some independent members of the public to help participate in that search.”