Banks brings youthful perspective to council

Kami Banks has been out of college for less than three years, but she has been spending many of her Tuesday nights during that time attending meetings of the Millville Town Council.

The 24-year-old daughter of Russell and Mackie Banks, who own Banks Wines & Spirits in Millville, she grew up in the area just outside the town but took up residence inside its limits when she moved back after getting her bachelor’s degree in business administration at Ohio State University in 2004.

By 2006, Banks was getting even more involved in Millville’s government, helping to organize last year’s centennial celebration with a parade and fair as part of the Centennial Committee.

When the opportunity to run for a council seat came up in 2007, Banks decided that would be her next step as part of her involvement with the town.

“I’ve been attending meetings for the past three years,” she said. “I thought it would be a good opportunity for myself to be involved in the community.”

Banks had been a field hockey coach at Indian River High School after returning to the area. “When I stopped doing that, I wanted to volunteer in any way I could to help the community,” she said.

Banks works full-time in her parents’ business, after having worked there previously part-time during her time off from college. And on Tuesday nights, she’s committed herself to joining four council members in helping to govern the town in which she lives and works.

“I think we’re doing a great job get our ordinances in shape, and getting ready for these developments to be annexed in and with the approval process. And I want to make sure everything runs smoothly while keeping the small-town charm,” she said.

Banks said part of her focus, in addition to those issues, is in getting the town ready to start offering services to the people of Millville, such as the water and sewer services that will soon be offered to many through Sussex County and other providers.

As for the town’s move to begin saving up for its own police department — something the town currently lacks — Banks said she thinks the idea is still down the pipeline a bit. “I’m in favor of it, but I don’t think the town is currently ready for that,” she said. “In the future, I would love Millville to have a police department. But right now, we have to work with assistance from the state police or Ocean View police.”

With a degree in business administration and a position on the council of one of the fastest-growing towns in the state, Banks could be poised to make major contributions on Millville’s thorny fiscal issues.

“That’s a big one to tackle,” she acknowledged Wednesday, saying that her educational background did offer her a little bit of an advantage on the subject. “But I like to see everything laid out, and then go back and research. I’d like to see what is the best direction for the town.”

Banks said, “There are major concerns with the budget currently,” focusing on the town’s potential reliance on the large amounts of transfer tax that are expected to come in as a result of its rapid growth.

“With the transfer tax, it might look right now like the town is wealthy, but certain things need to be done first,” she said, noting that the taxes are required to be spent primarily on infrastructure and capital expenses instead of operating costs – where Millville’s budget is perhaps growing most rapidly right now.

With such serious issues on their plate, some may question how comfortable a 24-year-old will be making decisions that affect thousands of people and vastly more in the future, while others might champion the advantage of her youth in a rapidly changing town.

“I don’t necessarily see it as an advantage,” Banks noted of her age. “I can maybe bring a different perspective.”

On the other hand, “I don’t see it as a disadvantage, except that I might have to seek further research from other people.

“I’ve been involved in the town long enough that my age isn’t really a matter,” she emphasized.

From her own perspective as a regular attendee at council meetings, Banks said she would like to make an appeal to the citizens of her town. “I would like the townspeople to voice their concerns to council members. It’s better that we’re all proactive. Don’t just come to a meeting when something’s passed you by. Be informed.”

Banks was joined at the March 13 council meeting — her first behind the council table and with the power to vote — by a solid supporting crowd of family members.

“They have been very supportive. Most of them arrived before me,” she said of that evening’s meeting. “They’re very excited for me. And I can bounce ideas off of them.”

“It’s an exciting time,” Banks enthused of beginning her tenure on the Millville Town Council. “It’s an adventure, and I hope to make good decisions in the next two years.”