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Rehoboth Beach

Rehoboth Beach gets rainbow crosswalks

Pride Month begins on Saturday

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(Photo courtesy of City of Rehoboth Beach's Instagram page)

The city of Rehoboth Beach has begun painting rainbow crosswalks in honor of the LGBTQ community. The crosswalks on the corners of First Street and Baltimore Avenue. and Second Street and Baltimore Avenue will have giant rainbows installed just as Pride Month kicks off. 

Images of city officials painting the crosswalk on Second Street were posted to the city of Rehoboth’s Instagram account on Wednesday and received positive comments. The post also announced next week’s plans to make a second Pride-painted sidewalk a block over on First Street after they are finished. 

The sidewalks, one of which lies on Steve Elkins Way in honor of the Rehoboth LGBTQ trailblazer, require three coats of paint to ensure the colors stay vibrant all summer.

The sidewalk appears to display the Philadelphia Pride Flag, which not only recognizes LGBTQ people but also LGBTQ people of color. The sidewalk has the six traditional Pride flag colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple) representing various elements of being a part of the LGBTQ community, and black and brown symbolize the unique struggles of people of color in the LGBTQ community.

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Rehoboth Beach

Selling Rehoboth: Lee Ann Wilkinson wins prestigious real estate award

Longtime agent on beach prices, her LGBTQ allyship, and more

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Lee Ann Wilkinson doesn’t see real estate prices coming down anytime soon at the beach. (Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

Longtime Delaware real estate leader Lee Ann Wilkinson of Berkshire Hathaway recently celebrated a major industry award after being named No. 1 in total sales volume for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Network. Wilkinson, a Blade contributor, centers much of her work in the coastal communities of Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. We caught up with her to discuss her long career in real estate, her LGBTQ allyship, and more.

Washington Blade: I learned your parents were in real estate, and you began working with them early on in your career. Did you initially intend to follow in their footsteps? 

Lee Ann Wilkinson: Not really. I majored in art. When I got out of college I couldn’t really find a job. So, my parents said, “You need to come work for us.”

Blade: I understand that as an art history major turned writer. Speaking of that: I know you have written some pieces for the Blade, about real estate trends, and the like. How do you pick your topics for these articles? 

Wilkinson:  People always want to know about real estate. Whether buying a first home, second home, a home to invest or retire in. It amazes even me how much interest there is. And it’s not just people looking to buy a $7 million home on beachfront property. It’s people looking to get something in budget for their family.

Blade: I know you have a lot of work in Rehoboth, the Delaware Valley’s historically gay beachside community. Was there ever a time you were NOT selling property to – I guess it was fair to say 40 years ago – mostly gay men? 

Wilkinson: Ha, I grew up coming down for the summer until my family moved here full-time from Norristown, outside of Philly. We had businesses and family in Rehoboth. I think Rehoboth has always been gay-friendly. We never thought about it. My grandfather had a house in Rehoboth before I was born. The gay population was always welcome.

Blade: Do you have a connection to the LGBTQ community beyond real estate? 

Wilkinson: Absolutely. One of my closest friends is a guy I went to college with at the University of Delaware, Joey. You know, Joey was maybe my first gay friend. In fact, we all went to the Easter Sunrise Service on the beach in Rehoboth. We have gay family members, so I have never thought that much about it being anything different.

Blade: I know you recently won a prestigious award with Berkshire Hathaway and were surprised to come in first place. Why?

Wilkinson: For the past 20 years or so we have been in the top 10. We started doing these national things with Berkshire Hathaway. To get in the top 10 was amazing to me especially going up against states like Florida, New Jersey, not to mention San Francisco or Bay Area agents. I just never thought we’d get to the number one spot. My only issue is — where to go now?

Blade: Where do you make your primary residence? Is that Lewes? Do you see the president on occasion? 

Wilkinson: I haven’t seen him at the beach. But he’s on the bike trail a lot. He pops up having breakfast. He goes to Mass at St. Edmond’s in Rehoboth on Saturday evening. But I’m often too busy with work on weekends to catch sight of him.

Blade: Having been in the industry 40 years, how do you find ways to get excited about your work? 

Wilkinson: I really am passionate about it. I really love a challenge. That’s part of the appeal for this job. I always like matching people with things. I really liked getting people the right bathing suits years ago. Selling, it’s just something I’m good at. I would get customers walking outta’ the store with three or four bathing suits when they only wanted one. 

Blade: Are you considering retiring in the next few years? Or will you always be associated with the industry on some level. Maybe as a mentor or silent partner? 

Wilkinson: Oh, no, I’ll always be involved. Three of my four daughters work for me. I am not retiring anytime soon. And if I did, they would be here to continue it on, and I am sure I’d weigh in.

Blade: So, this is very much a family legacy?

Wilkinson: Yeah. My parents are 87 and 91 now. Some 20 years ago mom predicted we’d see an increase in prices, people moving here, etc. I don’t know how she predicted it but mom is right.

Blade: Any current trends you’re noticing? 

Wilkinson: This cycle of people moving here, and prices increasing, and all the building happening. People think the prices are going to come down, but I don’t see that happening.

Blade: Tell me about that. Are the new building ventures changing the faces of Rehoboth and Lewes? After not visiting the Jersey Shore for over a decade I’ve been going the past few summers to my cousin’s place in Cape May. It’s a trailer on a nicely maintained campground and it’s what she can afford. And, there’s so much building happening there.

Wilkinson: Right? It’s about finding a second home you can afford. And, in terms of building projects, the good thing about Rehoboth and Lewes is they are strict on what you can and can’t build downtown. They aren’t going to tear down homes to build multi-family condos, not yet anyway. In Spring Lake, you are seeing townhomes. So, building is happening and we have some condos, but it’s great to not see “overbuilding” happening in these historically smaller cities.

To learn more about Ms. Wilkinson, or property in Sussex County, DE be sure to look for articles she publishes in the Blade and visit the Lee Ann Wilkinson Group website.

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Rehoboth Beach

New Rehoboth city manager called strong LGBTQ ally

Taylour Tedder backed first-ever Pride proclamation in conservative Nevada city

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Taylour Tedder (Photo courtesy City of Rehoboth Beach)

Taylour Tedder, whose appointment as the new Rehoboth Beach, Del. city manager has come under fire over his salary and benefits package, is described as a strong and committed LGBTQ community ally by the leader of an LGBTQ rights organization in Boulder City, Nev., where Tedder served as city manager for three years before being hired for that same position in Rehoboth.

He is scheduled to begin his new job in Rehoboth on May 15.

Brynn DeLorimier, president of Dam Pride, the LGBTQ organization of Boulder City, told the Washington Blade Tedder played a lead role in helping the group successfully lobby the mayor and City Council in what she calls a conservative, Republican-dominated city to approve earlier this year a first-ever proclamation naming June 2024 as Pride Month in Boulder City.

“I feel he’s very supportive,” DeLorimier said. “We’re really, really sad to see him go. I have a feeling we won’t find a city manager as progressive and diplomatic as he is,” she said. “So, Rehoboth Beach is really lucky to have him.”

Since it voted unanimously on April 8 to hire Tedder as city manager, the seven-member Rehoboth City Commission, which acts as a city council, has come under criticism from some Rehoboth residents for providing Tedder with a contract that includes an annual salary of $250,000, coverage of $50,000 for his moving expenses, and a $750,000 house loan that will be forgiven in full if he remains in his job for seven years.

Rehoboth’s two gay commissioners, Patrick Gossett, and Edward Chrzanowski, are among the commissioners who have been criticized for voting to hire Tedder on grounds, among other things, that his salary and benefits package are out of line with that given to Rehoboth’s previous city managers,

Rehoboth Mayor Stan Mills, who also serves on the commission, called Tedder “fiscally savvy, experienced in the day-day-day operations of a destination community, enthusiastic and energetic, and a fantastic communicator,” according to the Cape Gazette newspaper. Mills and others supportive of Tedder’s hiring have noted that in recent years city manager positions have become highly competitive among cities large and small across the country.

They point out that Rehoboth’s previous city manager, Laurence Christian, resigned and left the city in November of last year after serving only about 10 months. A salary and benefits package like what Tedder has received is needed to find and retain a talented and qualified city manager, his supporters have said.

Nearly all the public discussion about Tedder has centered on his salary and benefits as well as claims by some critics that he may not have certain job requirements specified in the Rehoboth City Charter. The Washington Blade could not find reports of any public discussion on whether the Rehoboth City Commission, including the two gay Commission members, sought to find out Tedder’s record and position on LGBTQ issues in a beach city with a large number of LGBTQ residents and visitors.

Kim Leisey, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth, the LGBTQ community Center, said she too had not heard of any discussion on Tedder’s record or positions on LGBTQ issues.

The Blade couldn’t immediately reach Tedder for comment. DeLorimier of Dam Pride, which she said is named for the Hoover Dam located in Boulder City that makes the city a national tourist destination, said Tedder told her his contract with Rehoboth prevents him from speaking with the press until he begins his new job on May 15.

Mills, the Rehoboth mayor, in response to a request for comment by the Blade, said he and the other commissioners could not publicly disclose the questions asked and responses they received, including any related to LGBTQ issues, in their interviews with candidates applying for the Rehoboth City Manager position under a confidentiality policy, according to Lynne Cohen, the Rehoboth City communications director.

“He did mention to me that the job posting for the city manager position mentioned or includes language that the City of Rehoboth Beach has a vibrant LGBTQ+ community,” Cohen said. “And that they had asked every candidate if they had read the job posting, and they indicated they had,” Cohen told the Blade in recounting her conversation with Mills.

Rehoboth officials have said Tedder was selected after a six-month nationwide search.

Prior to his tenure as city manager of Boulder City, Tedder served for a little over five years as assistant city manager for the city of Leavenworth, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City.

DeLorimier said she initially approached Boulder City officials last year to request that a Pride proclamation be issued in time for the June 2023 Pride celebration, but the mayor, a conservative Republican, turned down the request during a meeting that Tedder attended. She said the meeting became tense, noting that the mayor’s abrupt decision to say no came after she argued that LGBTQ residents in Boulder City deserved recognition during Pride month.

“At that point Taylour Tedder spoke up,” DeLorimier recalled. “He said, well, maybe start a group and gather support from the community and come back and ask again next year.” And that is exactly what she and others did, according to DeLorimier, who told of her and her fellow LGBTQ activists’ effort to create Dam Pride.

She also pointed out that Tedder mentioned that the city’s longstanding tradition of changing the color of a string of lights hanging over the city’s main street to celebrate special occasions like Christmas and Valentine’s Day, referred to as the “Bistro Lights,” could also be adopted to reflect Pride month.

“Taylour said, by the way, we can change them to rainbow colors with the flip of a switch,” DeLorimier recalls. “He offered that up himself. So, that indicates to me he’s very supportive of the cause.”  

Added DeLorimier, “I really feel like Taylour helped us. He gave us all the help we needed. And we will be celebrating Pride month, our very first one, this June.”

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Rehoboth Beach

Former CAMP Rehoboth official sentenced to nine months in prison

Salvator Seeley pleaded guilty to felony theft charge for embezzlement

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Salvator Seeley (Photo courtesy CAMP Rehoboth)

Salvator “Sal” Seeley, who served as an official with the Rehoboth Beach, Del., CAMP Rehoboth LGBTQ community center for 20 years, was sentenced on April 5 by a Sussex County Superior Court judge to nine months in prison and to pay $176,000 in restitution to the organization.

The sentencing took place about five weeks after Seeley pleaded guilty to a charge of Theft in Excess of $50,000 for allegedly embezzling funds from CAMP Rehoboth, a spokesperson for the Delaware Department of Justice told the Washington Blade.

Seeley’s guilty plea came shortly after a grand jury, at the request of prosecutors, indicted him on the felony theft charge following an investigation that found he had embezzled at least $176,000 from the nonprofit LGBTQ organization.

“Salvatore C. Seeley, between the 27th day of February 2019 and the 7th day of September 2021, in the County of Sussex, State of Delaware, did take property belonging to CAMP Rehoboth, Inc., consisting of United States currency and other miscellaneous property valued at more than $50,000, intending to appropriate the same,” the indictment states.

“The State recommended a sentence of two years of incarceration based on the large-scale theft and the impact to the non-profit organization,” Delaware Department of Justice spokesperson Caroline Harrison told the Blade in a statement.

“The defense cited Seeley’s lack of a record and gambling addiction in arguing for a probationary sentence,” the statement says. “Seeley was sentenced in Superior Court to a nine-month prison term and to pay a total of $176,000 in restitution for the stolen funds,” Harrison says in the statement.

Neither Seeley nor his attorney could immediately be reached for comment.

At the time of Seeley’s indictment in February, CAMP Rehoboth released a statement saying it first discovered “financial irregularities” within the organization on Sept. 7, 2021, “and took immediate action and notified state authorities.” The statement says this resulted in the investigation of Seeley by the state Department of Justice as well as an internal investigation by CAMP Rehoboth to review its “financial control policies” that led to an updating of those policies.

“As we have communicated from day one, CAMP Rehoboth has fully cooperated with law enforcement,” the statement continues. “At its request, we did not speak publicly about the investigation while it was ongoing for fear it would jeopardize its integrity,” according to the statement. “This was extremely difficult given our commitment to transparency with the community about day-to-day operations during the recent leadership transition.”

The statement was referring to Kim Leisey, who began her job as CAMP Rehoboth’s new executive director in July of 2023, while the Seeley investigation had yet to be completed, following the organization’s process of searching for a new director. It says Seeley left his job as Health and Wellness Director of CAMP Rehoboth in September of 2021 after working for the organization for more than 20 years.

“Mr. Seeley’s actions are a deep betrayal to not only CAMP Rehoboth but also the entire community we serve,” the statement says.

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