For perhaps the first time, Debbie Botchie was speechless at a Millville Town Council meeting. But she had just been named Delaware’s Town Manager of the Year for 2016.
That’s a high honor among the 57 municipalities and three counties included in Delaware League of Local Governments.
“It is a great honor to be the best of the best for 2016,” said Mayor and nominator Robert “Bob” Gordon.
Botchie was simply stunned at the Sept. 13 announcement.
“Oh, thank you all so much. I’m speechless,” Botchie said.
“I love my job,” she said the next morning. “I love this challenge. … I always said when I started working here, ‘Just look at everything as baby steps.’”
Botchie famously said that she wouldn’t take the job unless she could work closely with the town solicitor and planner on every issue. It’s pricier for an attorney to read every document and attend every meeting, but she’d rather be safe than sorry.
Over the years, she’s helped start the town’s farmers’ market, holiday market, the Great Pumpkin Festival, new municipal/police partnership building, town park, fire company grant money and more.
“The Town of Millville’s slogan is ‘A beautiful way of life.’ … This slogan is continuously proven valid, largely due to Ms. Botchie’s tireless dedication and contributions to the town, as well as the community in which she was born and raised,” Gordon wrote in his nomination. “Her skills proved to be exactly what the Town of Millville needs and continues to need.”
So, after all these years, what’s her proudest moment?
“Everything we’ve done and accomplished sticks out to me. It’s not one thing at all,” she said. “In my opinion, it all goes into one pot for the betterment of the community and property owners.”
With an open-door policy, “I’ve found that if you just sit and talk with people that have issues, and listen to them and try to find an answer or an avenue that they can go, it all works out in the end. It really does,” Botchie said. “We don’t have all the answers, but we try to find them.”
“Ms. Botchie strides every day to make the Town of Millville a better place for the residents and business owners,” Gordon wrote.
Botchie said she’s in good company, learning from other town managers across the state who face challenges of their own.
After 22 years of banking experience and seven years as a paralegal, Botchie was subcontracting for software in Millville Town Hall when she was offered the town manager job. She was already in the office more than other part-time staff, so she was had become familiar with Town operations.
She educated herself about municipal law and dove in.
That was 10 years ago in April.
Known for her blunt but joking manner, Botchie thanked God for her individuality and her parents for instilling a work ethic and desire to do a job well.
“The staff here have the same work ethic as myself, and that’s why it works,” she said. “None of the staff lives in Millville, but they work for the betterment of Millville, because they would want their community to be the same way.”
She also thanked the supportive town council. They may agree to disagree, but they’re all working for the citizens, she said.
“For as long as the Town of Millville has Debbie Botchie as its town manager, I unequivocally know the Town will be the best of hands,” Gordon concluded.
“Right now, I think we’re going to be in good shape,” said Botchie, changing the subject to playground equipment for the new town park.
Her award was announced on the same night of Millville’s 2016-fiscal-year audit report, putting another successful year for Millville in black and white. The TGM Group gave the Town an “unmodified opinion,” the highest level a local government can receive.
Herb Geary of TGM called Millville “fiscally sound, a well-run organization.”
He complimented Botchie, Financial Administrator Lisa Wynn and the town council.
“It’s fun to do an audit when you have cooperation form the staff,” and that attitude starts at the top, Geary said.