Gene Thornton took a minute from her busy schedule, packed with fundraisers for a local Vietnam veterans’ memorial and educational programs that she attends with her dog Brandy, to explain her vote on some recent projects and tell us more about her background.
At the small house in a wooded area of Frederica, the arrival of a new person is marked by the scurrying of dogs’ paws and the voice of their owner Gene Thornton telling them to not to jump on the visitor’s dark pants.
Thornton took a minute from her busy schedule, packed with fundraisers for a local Vietnam veterans’ memorial and educational programs that she attends with her dog Brandy, to explain her vote on some recent projects and tell us more about her background.
The Regional Planning Commission has made some tough decisions on recent projects that were opposed by the public in Leipsic and Farmington. What were some of the factors that influenced your decisions?
In Leipsic, the Supreme Court of Delaware said we couldn’t deny the project and had to use ordinances that were in place when the project was first proposed. When you do that, there’s no way to stop that. To the credit of the developer, they agreed to do many things they didn’t have to do.
In Farmington, there were people who didn’t want to live near the asphalt plant, just as there were people that lived near the Wal-Mart that we allowed. These people didn’t want it next to their homes, and I can’t say that I blame them.
When people call me, it’s not enough to say I don’t want it in my backyard. We can’t use it to make our decision. I would like to see the public rise up and get involved with changing ordinances. They should be the ones saying we need larger streets and to preserve wetlands.
I heard you are a retired U.S. Army colonel. Can you tell me about your experiences?
I served in the Army from 1973 to 2000, and I was commissioned in Middletown. I was in the beginning, when women were just getting assimilated in the Army. Only a dozen or so women were colonels or general officers at that time.
I had a very rewarding career. There was never a line in the ladies’ room, and I never had to worry about what to wear to work. One of the things that I did was increase the participation in the Army 10 Miler from 7,000 to 14,000 people. At that time, things were changing, and programs needed to be able to fund themselves, and the Army 10 Miler had never made money before.
I was also a public affairs officer for the Pentagon during the plane crash that led to the Iran-Contra Scandal and during the Marine sex scandal in Russia. When I got out of the Army, I did some administrative work for local people and did some substituting teaching. I’ve been in combat, but I found substitute teaching to be much more difficult than that.
How did you get involved with teaching dog obedience classes, and what motivates you to keep participating in this activity?
I taught classes for my kennel club, but I had to drive all the way to Georgetown to do that. I put in a resume in the county, and they hired me.
I’ve always had dogs. Brandy, who is 10 years old, has been recognized nationally in agility and obedience. At one time, she was in the top 10 for all dogs in the nation. I guess it just happened because I was used to training and working toward a goal, and suddenly, I was in a place where I didn’t know anyone except my mother. I guess I just focused that energy on my dog.
I like the fact that dog training is a science, not an art, and all one has to do is apply certain psychological principles and reward certain behaviors, and the dog will perform. It does take time and discipline, and not all people or all dogs can do it. But for a lot of people, it does pay off.