Employing the campaign slogan “Change begins with action,” 26-year-old Hunter Hastings is running for a seat on the Sussex County Council, representing District 1 and challenging incumbent Council President Michael Vincent, who is seeking a fourth term.
District 1 encompasses parts of western Sussex County including the Bethel, Blades, Bridgeville, Laurel and Seaford areas.
“I decided to run because I’m tired of how our Sussex County is being run,” said Hastings, who lives in Seaford and works as an addictions counselor for BNJ Health Services in Easton.
“My opponent has been in there 12 years and we still have a high poverty rate. We still have a drug problem with opioids and we are not utilizing the budget correctly. Looking at the budget, it’s not understandable to the common person. They say we have a surplus but it’s divided into three sections and one, Capital Expenditures, shows a $9 million deficit. There is a lot of transparency lacking. They make it unhealthy for businesses by raising fees, by having inspection fees, permits, keeping getting raised,” he said.
“It concerns me because I hear the Council saying it prides itself on not raising taxes but you don’t see them lowering them, either. It’s possible to lower taxes. It’s all about bringing businesses in and providing job opportunities,” Hastings said.
He is concerned about “overgrowth happening in Sussex.”
“It’s super congested at the beach. All the growth is pushed down there. The traffic system needs to be upgraded. The county can work with DelDOT and say, ‘Hey, we need to do something about this. If not, this is going to happen,’” said Hastings, who, with his wife, Stephanie Eutsler, has two dogs, a Quaker parrot and a rabbit.
Many public hearings heard by the County Council concern building more residential developments and rezoning agricultural land to commercial. “If we don’t continue to look ahead, and we’re staying content with everything, in 20 years what will Sussex County look like?” he asked.
Business owners could be attracted inland, including to Seaford, “but first you have to fix the water line and show there are properties that want to be sold, there are farmers wanting to sell pieces of their land. By using those types of incentives, there are tons of opportunities here in Seaford,” he said.
On his Facebook page, Hastings stated, “We The People of Sussex deserve a future that provides opportunity and growth. I look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail.”
A native of Sussex County, he said he “began listening to people in the community, seeing that their voices were not being heard, and their hardships not being acknowledged” and decided to run for office.
Formerly a Republican, Hastings is now a registered Democrat, but considers himself “centrist and not wildly progressive.”
“One-party rule is not good. I am a Democrat, but do I agree with everything the Democrats stand for? No. When I was in the Republican party I said I don’t agree with everything the Republican party stands for. It’s like a balance beam of life. If you go one way too far you’re going to fall off. So I always take a middle-of-the-road approach. I don't look for the party but for common sense,” he told Coastal Point.
He changed his party, he said, because he was disgusted with instances of racism and bigotry including a candidate, in 2018, making a racial slur against another candidate and another scoffing at someone’s sexual preference.
Hastings disapproves of the County Council’s reaction to the coronavirus crisis and said his final decision to run “was due to the lack of response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The Council did very little to respond and ease the financial impact on families and the working class. Instead, they waited for state government to provide funding and resources for the people of Sussex. The job of the Sussex County Council is to care for the well-being of its residents. They donated $250,000 to help after a month, out of their surplus stash-away budget. If you guys want to get this solved why don’t you do more? We have the incentive. I’m all about the quality of life. From a County perspective we can bring in more doctors by lowering property taxes. I would have liked them to take a more proactive approach,” he said.
Hastings will host a virtual town hall meeting at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 8. See the Facebook page Hunter Hastings for Sussex.
The County primary is on Tuesday, Sept. 15, although Hastings and Vincent will not be on that ballot, because Hastings is a Democrat and Vincent is a Republican. They will compete on the ballot for the General Election on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
This year, candidates in Districts 1, 2 and 3 of Sussex County will be elected. Because terms are staggered, Council members in Districts 4 and 5 will not be on this year’s ballot.
Other candidates for the County Council this year are Lisa Hudson Briggs of Georgetown, Robert Wilson of Georgetown and Cynthia Green of Greenwood, all Republicans, in District 2; and incumbent Irwin. G. “I.G.” Burton and Mark Schaeffer, both of Lewes and both Republicans, in District 3.
Councilman Douglas Hudson represents District 4 and Councilman John Rieley represents District 5.