Millville candidates get their say at public forum

Three candidates have offered their services to fill a one-year vacancy on the Millville Town Council.

Before extending an invitation to any of them, the council hosted a Feb. 23 public forum, to learn more about those candidates — Tony Gough, Linda Kent and Steven Small.

The council will choose a replacement at a future meeting. The candidate selected will complete a term ending in March of 2017.

“It’s always a pleasure to work with good people who really want to do the right thing for the town and be public servants,” said Seth Thompson, town solicitor and forum moderator.

Tony Gough has lived in Millville for three years, and locally for about 28 years. He retired from IBM, worked for Apple and spent years as an independent consultant.

On the Frederick County Board of Education, he helped oversee a budget of more than $1 million. He noted that Millville and surrounding areas are facing a lot of growth, which will require major changes on the county’s part, too. He wants Millville to plan for the future with its neighbors.

Linda Kent is the widow of the late Harry Kent, whose death created the council vacancy. A resident of the town for four and a half years, she was previously a physical education and athletic coordinator in charge of 12 budgets, plus fields and employees. She’s also served as chairperson of the Millville Volunteer Group and market manager of the Millville Farmers’ Market.

“I’d like to see the growth continue, but, where possible, to limit it, so we do have open space for the townspeople,” Kent said.

Steven Small spent his life in governance and legislation, from student council in kindergarten to lobbying for trade companies as an adult. He’s campaigned for both parties, and also served on a senior management team for a $2 billion company.

• Asked about ideas for the town charter, Small proposed no changes. But he suggested the Town (already skilled in tracking strategic expansion) start at the other end by asking, “What is the farthest in any direction the town could go?” and “Is it reasonable to pursue?”

Gough said he is familiar with the town charter but that he ultimately wants more coordination between Sussex County and the Town regarding planning and green space.

Kent said she’s read the charter “through three times. I’d like to see the people that own property here have a vote, whether they live here full-time or part-time.” She agreed that Millville must work with developers to enhance growth but provide community parkland and green space.

• Candidates were asked their top three concerns for Millville.

Kent responded with the incoming Delaware State Police annex; improving Route 26 zoning ordinances to guide future business growth; and improving streetscape, park areas and future open space in the community.

Small listed implementation of the park and administrative buildings; a full-scale ordinance review; and a mystery issue, or whatever unexpected issue arises next year.

Gough said monitoring Planning & Zoning to “ensure development and growth is done in a planned manner”; expanding park resources; and adding green space to each development built in town.

• How do candidates conceive relationship between council and town administration? How would they deal with conflict between the two?

Gough said there should be no conflict between the council and administration. They should have a friendly relationship and openly discuss ideas. The worst idea is to join council with any other agenda, Gough said.

Kent said she’s only missed about four council meetings in four-plus years. She’s never heard of conflict between the two parties, and she’d expect that partnership to continue for the betterment of the community.

Small said the administrators are “indispensable as implementers because they’re fulltime,” and the council would be foolish to ignore their advice. But legislative decisions come down to individual council members, who must weigh the advice and opinion of all parties.

• How would candidates handle a proposed housing development that met all requirements, but which citizens opposed?

Kent said she would base her decision on guidance from laws and legal counsel, deciding if the development would be a benefit or detriment toward town as a whole.

Small said he would listen to the residents, then weigh the advice of legal counsel and other council members, perhaps finding a way to ameliorate the opposition. “You have to choose your battles,” but must be prepared to make hard decisions, he said.

Gough said he would meet with the unhappy residents and consider if there’s a legal basis to slow the development, at least until the council could make the best decision possible.

• Do the candidates have an overall philosophy of local government? Should a candidate’s vision mirror previous councilmembers?

Generally, all agreed that politics don’t weigh as heavily at such a local government level. But coordination is key for best serving the town. They shared experiences in keeping confidentiality and avoiding conflicts of interest — especially important, as all have worked in leadership positions.

They also responded to a hypothetical situation in which constituents complain about speeding vehicles. (Tell the police, who enforce speeding, said Gough. Also tell the town manager, Kent added. Also ask if the police find a pattern of speeding, Small added.)

The town council’s next regular meeting was rescheduled for Wednesday, March 9, at 7 p.m.