Business, volunteering and firing up the Big Green Egg keep Wheatley busy

LAUREL — Question Bob Wheatley about leisure time and he responds with a chuckle, “What leisure time?”

The 61-year-old Laurel man certainly has learned how to juggle and budget time.

Owner of a consulting business and a realtor, he is involved in his church, community and civic organizations.

Born in Easton, Maryland and raised in Federalsburg, he graduated from Colonel Richardson High School. He’s a member of the Class of 1974.

“We had the music. I was a big Chicago fan; I was a trombone player,” said Mr. Wheatley. “I saw them for the first time June 2, 1972 at the Civic Center in Baltimore.”

He graduated in 1983 from Salisbury University, with honors armed with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration. Graduation culminated an approximate nine-year college plan.

Mr. Wheatley’s daughter Emily, a graduate of George Washington University, is an attorney. She is currently working as a clerk for Superior Court Judge Richard Stokes.

His wife, Beckett, is the Chief Operating Officer for CHEER, Inc. She has three children: Josh Dill, an HVAC technician; Annamarie Perry, a registered nurse; and Carter Harman, a culinary student at Delaware Technical Community College.

“And we are learning a lot from him. We both love to cook, Beckett and I,” said Mr. Wheatley.

In 2014, Mr. Wheatley tossed his hat in the political arena as a candidate for Sussex County Council. After out-polling Brad Connor in the Democratic primary, he lost to Republican Rob Arlett in the November 2014 election for the 5th District seat.

Mr. Wheatley is the Governor’s appointed public member to the Delaware Association of Professional Engineers.

“I am not a professional engineer,” he says. “I am there to represent the interests of the public of Sussex county. That’s why I am there.”

He’s on the board of the Ark Education Resource Center in Laurel. It’s a private nonprofit group that tutors kids K-12.

“They are mostly high school and junior high kids,” said Mr. Wheatley. “The group was established with the mission of lowering the dropout rate and trying to keep these kids in school and doing well and helping them get on a path that can lead to some success.”

He is on the board of directors for the Bank of Delmarva. “I’m entering my 20th year,” said Mr. Wheatley. “It is a job that has changed a lot in the 20 years I’ve been there, with all of the upheaval we’ve had in financial services industry and banking. I enjoy doing that.”

There’s more.

Mr. Wheatley is active in both the Seaford and Laurel chambers of commerce.

Ditto for the Laurel and Seaford Lions Clubs. “I manage the Eye Glass Assistance Program for the Seaford Lions Club,” he said.

Bob Wheatley

And there’s economic development. He’s a member of the Sussex Economic Development Action Committee, known as SEDAC.

“The joint committee meets once a month to discuss economic development issues which is something that I have always had a passion for since my early days at Thompson Builders, when I was in my early 20s,” said Mr. Wheatley.

He is a past president of the Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development Committee in Salisbury and belongs to the Delaware Environmental & Economic Development Committee, a statewide Wilmington-based group.”

And last but not least he is in his 24th year serving on the county council-appointed Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission. He was commission chairman from 2005 to 2017. He was replaced as chairman by Martin Ross last summer.

“The advantage to not being chairman is that I am able to make motions and be a bit more free in the expression of my thoughts and opinions,” said Mr. Wheatley. “It has its advantages.”

In this week’s People to Meet spotlight: Bob Wheatley.

What was it like growing up in Federalsburg?

“A great place to grow up. I had the best job in the world. I was a stock boy at Cantner’s Drugstore from the time I was 12 until I was 17. It was one of the few year-round, part-time jobs available to a high school student, a school kid. I actually started when I was 12.”

Your college days?

“College was interesting. I went to Salisbury University. It was Salisbury State college when I started. It was Salisbury University by the time I finished. I went to college part-time for nine years at night to get my degree. I went to classes from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. usually three nights a week. And I was doing that at a time when that was not popular. A lot of classes were only offered at night once a year. That’s one of the reasons it took me a long time. When I couldn’t get the classes I wanted I would still take something because I was afraid if I stopped going, I wouldn’t finish. So, I just kept it up. It takes 120 credits to graduate. I think I had like 150 or something. The college catalogue changed four times while I was in school. The last time, I was almost done, and I went in and actually had to negotiate with the dean because I said to him, ‘This is a conspiracy to keep me here forever.’ After he had a big laugh, he said ‘Well, let’s see what we can do about that.’ I was able to get out that semester. The last semester I actually went to school fulltime. I was between jobs.”

Experience in the work world?

“It was working for my dad in the laundry/dry cleaning business. It was called Sunshine Laundry/Dry Cleaners in Federalsburg. That was 1974-78. Then from 1978-83 I worked for a company called Thompson Builders, which was a commercial construction company also in Federalsburg. Then Thompson, basically went out of business, so I took that opportunity. I saw a window where I could my finish my degree if I went full-time for one semester. That’s what I did. I had another job lined up with Carl J. Williams & Sons, a well-known commercial general contractor in Delmar, Md. I stayed there from 1983-92. I worked very briefly for a year for a commercial developer in Rehoboth Beach.”

“Then in March 1993 I purchased the Whayland Company, a small commercial contractor in Salisbury. We moved to Delmar, Delaware around 2000. In 2009 we moved to office to Laurel. Then in 2013 I sold company … and went into commercial real estate and consulting. I am a realtor with Keller Williams in Lewes.

Your consulting firm?

“It’s the Whayland Group LLC. That is what I do now. My consulting work is kind of a narrow niche. I do capital reserve studies for condominium associations, homeowners associations, commercial buildings.  A capital reserve study is an analysis of all the long-term, major repair and replacements that a property will experience over a 30-year period; HVAC, streets, clubhouse, roofing. What this study does is it analyses all of those items and assigns a replacement cost to them and a useful life to them. You load all info into a math model and it comes out and an amount of money each year that you should be saving in order to pay for those things in the future.”

More on the Ark Education Resource Center?

“It’s one of the best kept secrets. We just did get awarded a Longwood Foundation grant which will really help us serve more students. We match up tutors with students. It’s regardless of ability to pay. If somebody can’t pay it’s no problem. But obviously we can’t operate without funds. Of course, the grant will help us do that.”

“It has really been interesting to me, some of the insights to what the obstacles are to success for these kids. One of the big things is the availability of internet service. A lot of the homework now is online. A lot of these kids don’t have internet service at home. So, they have to go to the library or come to the Ark or whatever. It’s a challenge. You don’t think about that.”

Bob Wheatley holds up some of the gifts on the Operation Christmas CHEER assembly line.

And church?

“We attend church at Centenary United Methodist Church. I play the trombone in the brass ensemble.”

Reflections on 24 years with P&Z?

“I think what we are beginning to see now is new folks are moving here in increasing numbers and their impact is beginning to be felt. I think what you’re seeing is more of that. For years our position at planning and zoning and the county’s position was we don’t do the roads. The roads are the state’s issue; we have an ordinance and as long as your application conforms to the ordinance and appears to be for the good of the community then … DelDOT has got to work the road situation out.”

“I think the public is increasingly demanding that the county give consideration to traffic and traffic issues. I think county council is beginning to hear that.”

“The commission serves the pleasure of the council. We are all appointed to three-year terms. The commission does not create the ordinances, the county council does. Our job is mostly administrative. We apply the ordinance that has been given to us to the application and we make a recommendation to county council; and the county council has the final say. They can say, ‘Well, we don’t think you got it right.’ I will tell you that they do that at significant peril though. In the instances where they have done that and have been sued … one of the more recent cases the judge explicitly said ‘your expert body has rendered an opinion. If you are going to change that, you had better have good reason.’”

“The commission, when we see that happen, obviously it’s nice to be confirmed, but at the same time you really don’t want to see those kinds of situations evolve because to some extent the council does have a little different set of things to consider. I mean they are the ones that have to stand for re-election, not us. It’s a hard job.”

Do you follow sports?

“I am not an avid fan. I am a casual sports fan. As a kid I loved the Baltimore Orioles. I still love the Orioles I just don’t follow them much anymore.”

Leisure time?

“I love to cook in general but specifically what is called Kamado-style, which is the Big Green Egg.  It’s a very slow-smoking process. It’s done in a ceramic cooker and the most well-known brand is the Big Green Egg. There are many pretenders, but the Big Green Egg is the original deal. It looks a giant Fabergé egg.  I do mostly large cuts of meat. That’s the problem; you end up making so much food you end up giving it away. So, we have a lot of dinner guests.”

“And reading. I really like to read. And I like to walk.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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