When he talks about efforts and successes of the Sussex County Council, Council President Mike Vincent is careful to use the word “we,” not “I.”
As a candidate for a fourth four-year-term representing District 1, the 75-year-old Seaford resident said he “learned from Day 1 there is no ‘I.’ I’m not an ‘I’ person. I have made suggestions, some that have been done by the County Council, but I don’t care who gets the credit. I truly don’t. I strongly believe we should all try to give back something, give back to your community — and that’s what I try to do,” Vincent said.
A Republican, he is running only against challenger Hunter Hastings, a Democrat, so the two will not be on the ballot for the Sept. 15 primary, but only on the Nov. 3 general-election ballot.
District 1 covers portions of western Sussex County including the Bethel, Blades, Bridgeville, Laurel and Seaford areas. Council members are paid $30,855 annually, with a $2,750 stipend paid twice yearly. The president of the council receives $31,977 with the same stipend.
A lifetime resident of Seaford, Vincent said he went away to school, then returned to the area, married his wife, Elaine, when he was 20, and was a Little League umpire for a few years.
“I found out it’s easier to be an umpire if you’re in the stands,” he said with a laugh.
For 30 years, he sold fire apparatus.
He served in the National Guard for seven years, worked with the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club in Seaford and has been a lifetime member of the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department. He was on the Seaford City Council for three years before being elected to the County Council.
He and his wife have been married 55 years and have a daughter, Michelle Middleton, and three grandchildren.
Vincent said one of most important accomplishments of the council since he was elected was changing the commercial zoning district from being one district to five or six, “which allow different things to be done in each district.”
“One of the things this council heard over years was somebody wanted to build something commercial, for example, and they applied for what was at that time C-1 zoning. And at that time, C-1 had about — I’m just using this number as an example — 90 things you could do in it. My concern was, since you change zoning on that land, everything in that whole list can be done on it. It made sense that you have different districts that allow you to do different things. So now, B-1 allows maybe 15 things. It was streamlined.
“It was a long ordeal to streamline it. We had to break down different districts, but at the end of day it benefited everyone. We did it around my second term on the council, a least six years ago. It’s more fair to citizens who live next door or down the street,” he said.
Vincent said the most important decisions the council makes regard land use.
“When you change the zone, you know in that category what you’re going to get. A person can get a conditional use on that property that is not allowed by code right then. By conditional use, the council can put conditions on it. Sometimes they change P&Z recommendations, because when they have their public hearing, people come in and make comments or suggestions. We have to really work to be fair to everyone. Planning & Zoning does a great job, and we usually agree with them,” he said.
Vincent said he is running for a fourth term because he wants to be involved in the county’s new comprehensive plan, as well as boosting economic development — particularly on the western side of the county, where he envisions small manufacturing operations.
“Public sewer will be coming down [Route] 113 where it is septic now. When people are building, most of it is going where public sewer is. Once sewer gets there, that will allow Greenwood and Seaford to expand,” he said.
Hastings, Vincent’s opponent, said the council didn’t do enough to help when the coronavirus pandemic began, but Vincent said that while the state was helping those out of work pay their mortgages and rent, the County earmarked $250,000 to help Sussex County residents.
“You can have too many rules. We don’t have a county health department, county roads, county schools, county jails. A lot of states around us all have that. In Delaware, we are a small place, so that is all done by the State. Our big project here at the County is land use and helping with other things,” he said.
“The biggest things any government can do is making sure public safety is adequate, including the county paramedic system, and here in Sussex County, we have a world-class system that has won awards and done a great job,” he said.
Projecting, Vincent said that in 10 years tourists will still be flocking to Sussex County, so “we need to pay attention to what people want to do, and where and how they want to build.”
He is committed to preserving agriculture and said the County must “catch up on” road improvements that should have been completed years ago.
“There are a lot of narrow roads and back roads people want to build on out there. People want to come here. They want to live here. It’s a great place to live. We have a memorandum-of-understanding with DelDOT that is designed to give us a better working relationship with them,” he said.
The Delaware Department of Transportation controls roads, and county officials provide information about where development is going.
Then, it takes about six years for work to be completed because funding has to be obtained and DelDOT officials have to buy land from property owners if new roads are going to be built, or existing roads widened. That can be a two-year process, Vincent said.
He is also committed to bringing broadband to areas that can’t currently get an Internet connection.
“In Sussex County, we are very flat and there are a lot of trees. The signal won’t go through the trees. They have to send the signal over the trees,” he said.
The primary election will be on Sept. 15. The general election will be on Nov. 3.
For the county council’s District 2, candidates are Lisa Hudson Briggs of Georgetown, Robert Wilson of Georgetown and Cynthia Green of Greenwood, all Republicans. Wilson is the son of incumbent Councilman Samuel Wilson, who is retiring and not seeking re-election. District 2 encompasses northwestern and central Sussex County, including Georgetown, Greenwood, Lincoln, Milford and Millsboro.
In District 3, incumbent Irwin G. “I.G” Burton III and challenger Mark Schaeffer are running for County Council. District 3 encompasses the Broadkill Beach, Ellendale, Lewes, Lincoln, Milford, Milton, Primehook Beach and Slaughter Beach areas.
The next election in Districts 4 and 5 will be in 2022.