EDITORIAL: Frank Wendell for Mayor
A CAPE CHARLES WAVE EDITORIAL
May 4, 2014
Cape Charles residents owe a metaphorical vote of thanks to every candidate running for election on Tuesday, because in most of the rest of Northampton County — Cheriton, Eastville, Nassawadox, and Belle Haven — candidates for mayor are unopposed. Only in Cape Charles and Exmore do voters have a choice.
Dora Sullivan also ran unopposed eight years ago when she was first elected mayor. So we see the contrast of this year’s political contest as a healthy sign of democracy in action. We’re also encouraged by the fact that both mayoral candidates are fine exemplars of Cape Charles – both are upstanding citizens willing to expend a great deal of time and effort in the name of public service.
We believe that either candidate for mayor would serve to the best of his ability, and would uphold the principles of honesty and fairness. That said, we cannot vote for both of them; we must make a choice. And we believe there are overwhelming reasons to vote Frank Wendell for mayor of Cape Charles.
1. Frank Wendell has a long, outstanding record of public service to this, his hometown. As a young man he served on Town Council for 12 years before “retiring” to devote more time to his business and family. Then, two years ago, outraged by the secret plans to divest the town’s school and auditorium, basketball court, and parkland, he returned to public service, winning a seat on Town Council.
2. Mr. Wendell has never shrunk from fighting the good fight. Almost 20 years ago he led the opposition to County plans to permit a maximum-security federal prison to be built nearby. Dickie Foster subsequently stated that if the prison had been constructed, he never would have built Bay Creek.
3. As a current Town Council member, Mr. Wendell was the only one to recognize the foolhardiness of encouraging commercial development on Route 13 by extending a sewer pipe from the town’s wastewater plant. Other Council members have admitted that Rayfield’s Pharmacy could go out of business if the town facilitates competition on the highway, but they want to go ahead anyway. They seem not to understand that while the town has no legal control over what happens on the highway, it has the power of the pipe.
4. Likewise, Mr. Wendell is the only Council member who understands the importance of negotiating with developers to ensure the town’s best interests. When a developer requested exemption from timely payment of utility fees and other town code requirements, only Mr. Wendell urged a quid pro quo in the form of negotiating for adequate downtown parking.
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We could go on and on: Frank Wendell opposed increasing the town budget in a year when real estate valuations fell 36 percent. (The higher budget passed.) He fought borrowing an additional $1 million last December when there were no definite plans for how the money would be spent. (Council borrowed the money, and now they are spending it, including a sudden $100,000 purchase of empty lots on Randolph Avenue, removing them from the tax rolls, which Wendell also opposed.) He continues to point out that town debt has more than tripled during Mayor Sullivan’s eight-year reign. And he will not stop asking why the town suddenly gave up its insistence that the developer of Bay Creek (now Keyser-Sinclair) share the cost of the new $19 million wastewater plant.
While we have nothing bad to say about Mr. Wendell’s opponent, George Proto, he simply lacks local experience. Mr. Proto has never served on a Board or Commission, much less Town Council. He moved here in 2011, and while his credentials are impressive, to begin his Cape Charles service by starting at the top as mayor seems almost reckless — both for himself and the town. Cape Charles politics is not a field of battle to enter lightly (as the come-here editors of the Wave have learned). And although Mr. Proto’s politics are almost unknown, we are troubled by one thing – he publicly endorsed the town’s decision to borrow yet another $1 million.
We believe the choice is clear: a proven, lifelong resident with over a decade of experience on Town Council, who promises fiscal responsibility. As president of the town’s second-largest business, Mr. Wendell understands that spending depends on income. The current regime has it the other way around: decide how much to spend, and then raise taxes to fund expenses.
This is Frank Wendell’s hour. We trust that voters will recognize that and make the right choice.