Back in the running

Former mayor returns to run in South Bethany

Ted Marcucilli is a man with a management plan for South Bethany. The former town council member and mayor has thrown his hat in the ring once again for this year’s best three out of four town council election.

Originally from Westchester, N.Y., Marcucilli attended New York University (NYU), earning his mechanical engineering degree in 1954. He went to work for the Navy, as a civilian marine engineer (coincidentally, in the same outfit as the current mayor, Gary Jayne).

Marcucilli made his way through the ranks, and became one of the first civilian project managers. “Toward the end, I was running a large staff, multi-billion dollar projects,” he said. “We took these ships ‘from womb to tomb.’”

He met some pretty influential people along the way — Congressional staffers, various Secretaries of the Navy — even the famous Robert McNamara, JFK’s secretary of defense. “I have a lot of experience dealing with people on the Hill,” Marcucilli said. “I loved the challenge — it was fun,” he said. “I used to love to come to work.

According to Marcucilli, the job tested his technical skills, but more so, his managerial abilities. “There were so many organizations, so many people involved,” he said. “I mean, we’d have between 12,000 and 14,000 people working on just one ship.

He said he worked with everyone from chairmen of the board to the steelfitters — and that was probably something no other member of the current council could claim.

“The people on council — they have no experience, as far as making policy, or working in supervision and management,” Marcucilli said (noting Jayne as a possible exception).

In this latest bid for reelection, he reemphasized his desire to bring some of that experience to council’s benefit.

Marcucilli retired from Navy shipbuilding in 1980 as a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES), which he said was the highest ranking a civilian could attain. “I took all my energy and tools with me, and went to work in the private sector, doing the same things I’d done for the Navy,” he said.

For another 15 years (until 1995), Marcucilli worked in the services industry, moving through a variety of top corporate executive positions (vice-president, senior vice-president, chief operating officer).

With Resource Consultants, for instance, he helped small disadvantaged businesses (SDBs) with bidding and management techniques.

Marcucilli said he’d seen the need for improving those techniques around town, as he started spending more time in South Bethany. (He’d vacationed since the early 1970s, and built his first home there in 1980.)

“I used to go to meetings, and the way they operated — it was always this litany of the same kind of problems,” he said.

According to Marcucilli, council members were continually rehashing the same problems — setback or builders’ violations, grass-cutting, algae in the canals, something “falling through the crack.”

“Government is supposed to solve problems, not just pass another ordinance,” he said. “And as a manager, I knew how to run sophisticated projects — I understood the processes you use to deal with those kinds of problems.”

Apparently, some of the other council members felt the same frustration, and he saw an opportunity to help. Marcucilli said Council Members Bob Cestone, Lloyd Hughes (stepping down this cycle) and Richard Ronan had asked him to run.

“I said, ‘Okay, but if I’m going to do this, I’m going to need resources and policy to put this planning into practice,’” he recalled.

He joined council in 1999, then relinquished the second year of his term to assume the mayorship in 2000. However, he said he’d quickly come to realize there wasn’t much difference between a mayor and a council member.

“I wanted to aim the arrow, but they all basically did what they wanted to do,” he said.

The problem, he said, was that there were no systems in place. For instance, seasonal work — council didn’t know what skills they would need to look for when staffing a position, how long it took to perform each of the various tasks or how often they needed to be performed, Marcucilli stated.

“It got to the point that I was putting in 30 hours a week at Town Hall, trying to improve the town,” he said. “When I gave my ‘100-day’ report, what I basically said was, nobody’s doing anything.”

Marcucilli said the way council was running things was “not managing — it was managing somehow. Instead of causing actions, council was always reacting to someone else.”

And council was polarized, he said — everyone seemed too focused on forwarding their own pet projects.

According to his interpretation of the charter, the council should be like a board of directors, and the mayor should be the chief operating officer, with the town manager as an immediate subordinate to that position.

Instead, he said the others felt the town manager, and staff in general, should work for each individual council member. Marcucilli blamed that lack of clear direction for high staff turnover during his time in town government.

So, he said they’d gotten a lot of things started, and he noted his role in opening an “assertive relationship” with state agencies like the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).

They had the town canals surveyed, and initiated the dredging concept. Marcucilli pushed for an updated computer system, networked and based on relational databases, and recommended a friend who was willing to help with that.

However, these initiatives stalled because, as Marcucilli said, council continued to wander, “rudderless.” He resigned halfway through his two-year term.

He cited differences, and the unproductive relationship that had developed between himself, as mayor, the rest of council and town employees.

“Since then, I think council members have returned to the polarization I found when I first joined council,” he said. “And they not only support that polarization, but cause it in the community.

“I want to come back and try to restore some direction — the direction I thought was best for the town,” Marcucilli said. “My take is, any presence that is going to provide a different perspective is sorely needed. They’re in lockstep — they need a different view.

“I’m probably a terrible politician, but I can tell you, I’m a great manager,” Marcucilli stated. “And I know what hard work and dedication to town government is, because I’ve done it before.

“That’s needed again, and that’s my objective — to make the town better for all of its citizens,” he said.

Marcucilli said he’d fallen in love with South Bethany’s laidback culture more than 30 years ago, when he first came to visit the area.

He married Judi in 1983 — they’d first met while they were both working for the Navy, he recalled (she as a secretary in Washington, D.C.).

He’d built a place in South Bethany (ocean side) a few years earlier, and by the mid-1980s, had decided he wanted to make a permanent move.

They bought a place on the bay in 1993. The Marcucillis still own property in South Bethany, but have since built in the Ocean View area, and moved their household to that location earlier this year.