Joan Deaver: The Coastal Sussex Interview

by Dave on July 4, 2009

As first seen in Coastal Sussex Weekly, June 18, 2009:

CSW: How has your first six months been? What has your experience been like?

JD: It’s not what I expected. And I have to tell you something funny. People like (County Council watchdog) Dan Kramer are good for the government. I found that out sitting up there. Some people think he’s a pain in the neck, but him being there, the League of Women Voters being there, it makes a tremendous difference. Those watchdogs are very important. Not everybody has time. The folks who do have time do a lot of good. I ask more of them to come. And Dan Kramer has taught me things. I’m new and I have a lot to learn. It is fun. The experience for me personally, I feel younger than I did before. When you have to learn new things and you have to be there and know what you’re talking about, it’s invigorating. I love it.

CSW: A lot of people run and get in and get lost and don’t have fun.

JD: I go right to the sources and ask questions. I’m new. I’m the first person ever elected to that council who wasn’t born and raised here. So I’m at a disadvantage, but I’m also at an advantage because I have the point of view of a lot of people who are coming in here. I think that that they may numerically outweigh the people who are born and raised here  in my district. So I do bring a new perspective.

I believe I’ve been treated very well and with great deference and respect for the most part in public. Not always in private, and that’s the truth. I’m the only Democrat, and I’m grateful, because had I not been elected it would have been a 100% Republican council. That’s not always in the best interest of the people. I believe in partisanship and bipartisanship. We can work together.

The people who helped me get elected knew that I would have one vote only and that it would be very difficult at the start.

CSW: You have a natural ally in George Cole, who also represents a coastal region, and was often at odds with the rest of the council in years past.

JD: He should have had an ally all along. We always had a representative from the 3rd district. We just didn’t have a coastal representative for whatever reason. So George should not have been alone before. I’m not always thrilled with all of George’s votes. He’s let us down a couple of times. But George has been on there the longest, and he’s the most friendly to me, and in fact I feel sometimes like the little sister tagging behind and learning. He doesn’t miss a thing. Twenty-two years he’s been there, so he’s definitely the teacher. And I am the student, but I don’t always agree with George’s votes.

CSW: What has your interaction been like with your constituents?

JD: They expect me to rally the troops and get behind their point of view, and I can’t do it. I have to be fair to the person applying for a rezoning or a conditional use. I have to be fair to both sides. I can inform people what their options are but I can not advocate for any position up to the hearing, and it’s better not to talk about where I am on a vote until the vote. Even afterwards, because there
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could be a lawsuit. So it’s better to keep my mouth shut.

CSW: Is that hard for you? You’re by nature a passionate advocate.

JD: No, it hasn’t been. I’ve had developers come to me and explain to me what they’re doing. I think they all should come to a councilperson and explain why it’s a good project, because right now I don’t hear from a lot of them.

CSW: So that’s been helpful for you, helping you understand projects?

JD: Yes. Absolutely. You can tell from talking to a person whether it’s going to be a good project for the people or not. And I am not against development. I invite developers to approach me, to talk to me, to show me their plans.

I certainly have plenty of input from the people. I have a web site which advises them of what’s pending. I am gathering email addresses and dividing them by neighborhood. If I see something coming up in your neighborhood, you’re going to hear about it from me. You’re not going to get an opinion, but you’re going to get the facts. You’re going to know when the hearings are and what they’re for. In my opinion, the county hasn’t done a good job on notifying people. I’ve heard from too many people who don’t know what’s happening. That should never be the case. People should know. So I’m doing it myself. People have a right to know.

CSW: Let’s go up to 10,000 feet and look at what’s going on with the county. What’s going on right now?

JD:  Sussex County is a pie ready to slice up. The money that’s going to come into Sussex County from development, from retirees when the baby boomers retire, the amount of income that can be realized from developing this county is just amazing. As long as we realize what we have in hand, what our possibilities are, if we handle that carefully, I think we’ll have a beautiful place. It’s very desirable. The weather, every year I’ve been here, has gotten more beautiful. I don’t think people have to go to Florida! I think a lot of them are going to come here. We don’t want to ruin it and we have a lot of planning to do.

CSW: How can people contact you?

JD: My website is and people can go to the county’s web page and get the official contact information and email.

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