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Delaware library forced to take down Pride flag

Decision disappoints some in Milton

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(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A Delaware library was forced to take down its Pride flag last Friday, causing outrage from some.

“I was super proud of my library (where I work) for putting a pride flag outside this month,” Milton, Del., library employee Jillian Brenneman wrote in a now-deleted post on Facebook. She did not respond to a Facebook message asking for comment. “That is until Sussex County Government decided they needed to be homophobic and force us to take it down.”

Reached by phone Monday, Sussex County Department of Libraries Director Rachel Lynch said the flag’s removal was a county decision. The county only allows American flags, Delaware flags, and Sussex County flags to be flown outside of the building. A Sussex County spokesperson confirmed that in a short interview and said that flying the three flags is not a written policy. Rather, Chip Guy said, it is a custom.

The decision to take down the Pride flag left Fred Munzert, who runs the Milton Theatre, disappointed.

“I know our staff was really excited to see the library put the Pride flag up. It made them feel comfortable,” he said in an interview. “It made them feel good about the town that they lived in and worked in.”

Munzert has led a campaign to “paint the town rainbow” since 2019, where the theater gives out Pride flags to people and businesses. He’s seen more and more Pride flags around town since his campaign.

The display, though, doesn’t come without its opponents in the town of about 3,500 residents. He said Milton Theatre staff have received plenty of emails and phone calls about the flags – one told him that he must display the American flag alongside it and even gave him an American flag to hang up.

“I’m just always surprised, like, just do your thing. I’ll do my thing,” he said. “Nobody’s bothering anybody.”

Hanging the flag was Milton Public Library Director Jill DiPaolo’s idea, Munzert said. Before the county removed the flag, he said DiPaolo emailed him to apologize and said it was a decision from higher up. DiPaolo was unavailable to comment and did not immediately return a voicemail.

Since the flag’s removal, some staff members haven’t felt accepted by the county anymore, Munzert said. Guy, the Sussex County communications director, said the county was just enforcing county norms.

“The county is not sending a message or a symbol,” he emphasized.

The whole situation should’ve been avoided in the first place, Munzert said.

“I wish it would have never been hung, then it just would have been what it was,” he said.

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Delaware

Delmarva Pride to feature drag, dancing, and more this weekend

Easton and Cambridge to host events

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A scene from Delmarva Pride. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Delmarva Peninsula will hold its annual Pride celebration this weekend, including drag shows, a festival, and much more. 

The Delmarva Pride Center will put on the annual Pride celebration starting on Friday, June 14, and it will go until Sunday to celebrate queer love and acceptance in Delmarva.  

The weekend kicks off on Friday with a free legal clinic in partnership with FreeState Justice at the Academy Art Museum, 106 South St., Easton, Md. Free legal services including name and gender marker changes, criminal record expungements, and peace and protection orders are just some of the services being offered. For more information visit freestate-justice.org.

Then on Friday night, the third annual Pride Drag Show will be at the Avalon Theatre, 40 E Dover St., in Easton. Bring your cash as four drag queens and host Miranda Bryant put on the fundraising show, where 100% of ticket sales go to the Delmarva Pride Center. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and performance begins at 7 p.m. For tickets visit avalonfoundation.org.

On Saturday there will be the Pride festival from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at  S. Harrison and E. Dover Street, in Easton. This free community festival will include vendors, live performances, and more. 

Saturday night the party gets going as Delmarva Pride will host its 2024 Pride Dance. There will be a DJ and drinks available for purchase. This event is for 18 and up and will include a cash bar for anyone 21 and up. No tickets are required. 

To round out your Pride weekend, on Sunday the Delmarva Pride Brunch will be held at ArtBar 2.0, 420b Race St. in Cambridge, Md. Tickets include food, access to the mimosa bar, and a drag performance. Tickets are available here

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Delaware

Delaware’s Sussex Pride launches free statewide HIV, STI testing

Special program honors National HIV Testing Day on June 27

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Each year on June 27, people across the United States are encouraged to get tested for HIV. This year for Delawareans, it’s easier than ever.

Sussex Pride has partnered with STDCheck to offer free HIV and syphilis testing everywhere in Delaware. There are more than 20 locations across the state, making it simple to find a testing center.  

David Mariner, executive director of Sussex Pride, told the Blade, “We are thrilled with this new partnership with STDcheck. The ultimate goal is to empower individuals with knowledge about their HIV status, provide necessary support, and facilitate early intervention to improve health outcomes in our state.”

Finding a testing center, getting tested, and getting results is simple. Start by finding a lab near you using this link (https://www.stdcheck.com/std-test-center.php). Then call STDcheck at 800-456-2323 and request a free Sussex Pride HIV and/or syphilis test. Make sure to mention Sussex Pride in the call to get the test for free. Then schedule a time and get tested. 

“If you are HIV positive, the sooner you know, the better,” Mariner added. “Early and sustained treatment can help you live a long and healthy life. It can also help protect others.”

This special program is in honor of National HIV Testing Day, created in 1995 to highlight the lifesaving impact of HIV testing. HIV has historically had a disproportionate effect on the LGBTQ community. According to the CDC, 70% of all new cases of HIV in 2021 were among gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men.

The CDC’s theme for this year’s HIV testing day is “Level up your self-love: check your status.” The theme emphasizes, “valuing yourself, showing yourself compassion and respect, and honoring your health needs with self-love,” and the best way to do that is to test.

For more information on Sussex Pride’s testing program visit sussexpride.org/posts/testing/ and for more information on HIV visit CDC.gov/hiv.

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Delaware

Meet Rehoboth Beach’s new city manager, Taylour Tedder 

Hopes to keep Clear Space in town; no plans for Poodle restrooms

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Taylour Tedder (Photo courtesy City of Rehoboth Beach)

After a six-month nationwide search, Rehoboth Beach has a new city manager who’s ready to have a “direct, positive impact on residents, businesses, and visitors in the city on a daily basis.”

Taylour Tedder, 35, started his term as Rehoboth’s City Manager on May 15 and sat down with the Washington Blade to discuss his goals in office, some concerns he has, and what he’s most excited about in Rehoboth.

“I’ve been here for a couple of weeks and they have been outstanding,” Tedder said. “I’ve met a lot of welcoming people.”

Before Tedder became the city manager in Rehoboth, he was a city manager in Boulder City, Nev. There he undertook strategic planning initiatives, enhanced community engagement, and was awarded the Triple Crown Award from the Government Finance Officers Association.

His first few days have centered around familiarizing himself with Rehoboth and figuring out what to do first. “I have spent the first couple weeks meeting with the key staff, touring the various departments and facilities,” he said. “I am looking for initial ways to improve processes and procedures to ensure that we’re serving the residents and visitors of Rehoboth Beach at the highest standard possible.”

Beyond his professional goals, Tedder, who has been married to his wife since 2017 and identifies as straight, considers himself an ally to the LGBTQ community.

“I definitely consider myself an ally. And I’m very, very happy to help in any way I can.”

One of the ways he plans to support Rehoboth’s LGBTQ community is by backing CAMP Rehoboth, whose mission is to “Create A More Positive environment that is inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities in Southern Delaware and beyond.”

“I really firmly believe that Rehoboth Beach is a very inclusive community and I’m looking forward to furthering that,” he said. “I’ve been really impressed. I didn’t know much about CAMP Rehoboth before coming here and it seems like a wonderful organization. I’m really looking forward to meeting all those folks and getting to know their priorities and vision.”

In addition to supporting the community, Tedder identified multiple areas he wants to change in the city government to make Rehoboth more efficient and citizen-serving. Among those proposed changes is implementing new technologies to make business with the city easier, diversifying revenues, finishing capital improvement projects, and his biggest focus — implementing strategic planning initiatives.

“The city does not have a specific strategic plan or mission or vision statements,” Tedder said when discussing his goals. “I would like to lead the city through a strategic planning process, and have actual, tangible deliverables that we as staff can carry out and accomplish so that we’re accomplishing the policy goals of the City Commission.”

One of the goals of the City Commission is to keep the Clear Space Theatre in Rehoboth amid ongoing speculation that it may move to neighboring Lewes.

“It’s a top priority to keep it in the city,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll be working on that in the future.”

He also touched on improving infrastructure projects in Rehoboth.

“There are a lot of improvements being done with the wastewater facility. But you know, road maintenance and equipment replacement will definitely be a top priority.”

When asked if there were plans to bring restrooms to Poodle Beach, the historically gay section of Rehoboth’s beach near the south end of the boardwalk, he said there were not. 

“I’m not aware of plans on the south end. We do have restrooms that the beach patrol facility is under complete reconstruction, Tedder said. “We do have portable restroom trailers out there but I’m not sure how close they are.”

In addition to policy goals, he also talked about his paycheck, which has drawn attention and criticism in the past few weeks.

Some residents of Rehoboth were taken aback when they found out Tedder would be paid more than the governor of Delaware. Tedder will receive a $250,000 annual salary, $50,000 for moving expenses, and a $750,000 forgivable housing loan. 

Tedder explained that his salary was determined through close evaluations of the city’s budget and his skill level. He also pointed out that there is no deficit in the city’s finances and the city is “not operating at a loss.”

“I really have been trying not to be distracted by the online public reaction, it’s been really important to focus on the job and utilize my skills and experience to effectively serve the community,” Tedder said. “It’s a high-cost area to live in and I really think I was just kind of the right person in the right place at the right time. What the Board of Commissioners was looking for really matched my experience and the city matched what my professional interests are. I am really, really excited.”

He continued, explaining that this sort of criticism can come up for any government official, but his experience in budgeting is what will prove he will “pay for himself.”

“I really like taking a look at all of the spending that we’re doing,” he said. “Sometimes there is software that you’re paying for that you don’t need. Sometimes there are ways to negotiate standardized contracts for goods and services where we can generate significant savings. I have done that in every city that I’ve worked for, and have generated hundreds of thousands of dollars and just savings on contracts.”

Tedder explained to the Blade that he got involved in city planning after graduating from college. 

 “I started as an assistant to a city manager,” he said. “I thought that I wanted to go to law school. I was talking with various people and I was told to take a look at the Master of Public Administration degree. I had never really understood anything about city management so I took a look at it, and I was, like, ‘Wow! This is something I’d be really interested in.’”

He is excited to begin working for the Rehoboth community because of his passion for city management.

“My general thought in city government is that we are here to serve everyone equally. I truly am going to serve the city fulfilling all the duties as the city manager and I’m looking forward to increasing the communication with residents and business owners and visitors.”

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