Where We Live

Slow and Traditional Wins a Wave of Converts

By Ann Cameron Siegal
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, May 21, 2005

When Paul and Ila Myers were looking for a place to retire, they didn't plan to look at Georgetown, Del.

The couple, residents of New Carrollton for 28 years, vacationed on the Delaware coast often and knew they wanted to live in Sussex County. They spent months house hunting in 1999, but avoided Georgetown because of its visually jumbled commercial gateway and pockets of blight.

However, after completing a visitor survey on one trip to Delaware, they received a call from a Georgetown real estate agent, just as Ila Myers had found an Internet ad for a house in the town.

Now Paul Myers, after a 33-year NASA career, has retirement on hold and is beginning his second term on Georgetown's town council.

The people of the little town (population 5,000) made the difference. "They know a stranger when they see one, but it doesn't take them long to adopt you," he said.

In 2004, Myers was appointed to fill a council vacancy. When the filing deadline rolled around this year, there were no opponents, so the election was canceled. Myers is still in office without ever having mounted a campaign.

The town has adopted other Washington area transplants, including John Christensen, who was in the first graduating class of Centreville High in 1991, and Jean-Eric Lemieux, former owner of a restaurant in Friendship Heights.

Christensen, now a corrections officer at the nearby Sussex County prison, praises the neighbors along his quiet street of 1960s bungalows. "If you're trimming trees or bushes, folks just come over to help. They never complain," he said.

Lemieux, now the general manager of Jimmy's Fly-In Grille at the Sussex County airport, where patrons have a view of small planes just feet from the windows, said: "Georgetown reminds me of the friendly rural atmosphere of my childhood."

To many travelers, Georgetown is not much more than a courthouse traffic circle two hours from the Beltway that slows down the trek to Rehoboth Beach. But beyond the circle is a still somewhat-small town that is sprucing up and spreading out.

Real estate agent Becky Davis grew up in Reston, but found her way to Georgetown six years ago, several years after her brother moved there. "It's very calm and slow here," she said. "Even with the growth, the people stay the same."

Parents, grandparents and even folks without children come out in droves for Little League games. A few small, independently owned shops still thrive, and several historical associations find there's plenty of history to share.

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