RG# 7055


Dewey Beach
RG 9015-028-000: Aerial View of Dewey Beach, not dated

A community called Rehoboth City was shown on an 1868 map at the location where The Town of Dewey Beach now sits. It was plotted as a Town in the early twentieth century, but because it was difficult to reach, extensive development did not take place until after World War II when a new road was built to provide better access to the Town. It is rumored that the Town’s name, Dewey, was in honor of Admiral George Dewey, a national hero after the Spanish-American War, but this is widely disputed.


1950 – 1999

The Town was incorporated in 1981 as “The Commissioners of Dewey Beach.” The corporate limits of the Town are stated in the Charter. The Charter is governed by five elected Commissioners who serve two-year terms. From among their members, the Commissioners choose a President who also serves as Mayor of Dewey Beach. The President of the Commissioners or a majority of its members are able to call a meeting of the Commissioners. Except for the power to issue bonds, the Town is deemed to have all powers requisite to or appropriate for its governance, its peace and order; its sanitation; its beauty; the health, safety, convenience, comfort and well-being of its population; and the protection and preservation of property, public and private. Town officials include a Town Clerk, whose appointment is optional, and a Treasurer, a required position as well as three Auditors. The Commissioners may also select a Town Solicitor. In addition, both a Police Force and a Beach Patrol are able to be established. The Commissioners may appoint an Alderman or the Mayor may assume the associated duties related to keeping the peace. The Commissioners are to establish a budget based on meeting the debts of the town for a fiscal year matching the calendar year. Although the Charter indicates that the Town Clerk may collect taxes based on an assessment of real estate, and the rate may not change without a referendum, no rate or maximum amount of taxes to be levied is indicated in the Charter. The Commissioners are authorized to borrow money, issuing bonds to secure repayment with a maximum debt limit of $35,000. They may contract for work up to $2,000.1

The Town has been incorporated only once, but its Charter has been amended a number of times in the past 37 years. Two years after the Town was incorporated, the Charter was amended to change the date on which the audit report was due.2 In 1986, when there was a desire to increase the size of the Town, the Charter had to be revised to allow annexations; the Town’s proposed new boundary was included in the Charter amendment.3 An amendment in 1992 allowed the Town’s indebtedness to increase from $35,000 to $1.5 million.4 However, a citation in this law was incorrect and this was fixed a year later.5 In 1995, the section of the Charter that related to the duties of the Town Clerk was eliminated. Instead, the Commissioners were allowed to appoint a Town Manager to be the Chief Administrative Officer of Dewey Beach. His responsibilities were outlined in detail.6


2000 – Current

In an amendment to the Charter in the year 2000, the Mayor of Dewy Beach was allowed to solemnize marriages.7 In 2004, voting rights in Town elections were extended to both settlers/creators and to the trustees of valid trusts. A second law made additional procedural changes were made to the voting procedures.8 A number of amendments were made to the Charter in 2008 including changing the residency requirements for Commissioners; revising the town’s fiscal year to begin in April; adding the power to conduct referendums through special elections and prohibiting gambling except for state lotteries and charitable gaming.9 In 2009, the Town’s Charter was amended to collect a fee on short-term rentals. That same year, the Charter was revised to be consistent with state law in reference to state elections procedures.10 In 2010, the date of the Town’s elections was allowed to be changed if it conflicted with the Jewish holidays.11 The following year, the Town was empowered to issue bonds for $927,675 to be used for improving storm drainage and stormwater management on Bayard Avenue.12 A year later, the section of the Charter which related to the Alderman’s Court was expanded. Also in 2012 a number of additional Charter amendments were approved among which were changes to the procedures for annexing additional territory; changes related to the qualifications to hold the offices of Mayor and commissioners; changes to the term for the position of Town Manager; major changes to the section which discusses the Auditors; and several others.13

For the fully amended text of the current Charter, see http://www.Charters.delaware.gov/deweybeach.shtml

CITATIONS in Del. Laws

1 63 Del. Laws, c. 59 (1981) [pp. 75-85]

2 64 Del. Laws, c. 29 (1983) [p.71]

3 65 Del. Laws, c. 255 (1986) [pp. 493-95]

4 68 Del. Laws, c. 354 (1992) [p. 1192]

5 69 Del. Laws, c. 45 (1993) [p. 42]

6 70 Del. Laws, c. 191 (1995) [p. 494-96]

7 72 Del. Laws, c. 425 (2000) [p. 950]

8 74 Del. Laws, c. 369 and c. 370 (2004) [p. 888]

9 76 Del. Laws, c. 273 (2008) [pp. 122-24]

10 77 Del. Laws, c. 29 and c. 42 (2009) [vol. I, pp. 36-7 and pp. 45-6]

11 77 Del. Laws, c. 354 (2010) [vol. II, p. 331]

12 78 Del. Laws, c. 46 (2011) [http://delcode.delaware.gov/sessionlaws/ga146/chp046.shtml]

13 78 Del. Laws, c. 232 and c. 346 (2012)



Delaware Laws from 1935 to present can be found online at http://delcode.delaware.gov/sessionlaws/


Town of Dewey Beach records at the Delaware Public Archives:

  • Minutes of the Commissioners/Town Council (1981-1990): 7055-000-001


jnl/ May 22, 2018 | April 22, 2019