2nd District Levy Court candidates talk about the issues

DOVER — Voters in Kent County’s 2nd District will head to the polls on March 21 for a special election to select a new commissioner to represent them on the county’s Levy Court.

In January, Republican Jim Hosfelt and Democrat Andrea Kreiner announced their candidacies for the seat vacated by Bradley Eaby, a Democrat. Mr. Eaby’s resignation left the Levy Court with a majority 4-2 Democratic margin.

Both Mr. Hosfelt and Ms. Kreiner were invited to an upcoming Candidates Night on March 16 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Palmer Room of the Modern Maturity Center in Dover. The event will be hosted by the League of Women Voters of Kent County. Candidates for Dover City Council have also been invited.

Jim Hosfelt

Mr. Hosfelt’s background includes service in the U.S. Air Force as a security policeman between 1980 and 1987. He also served with the Air Force Reserve prior to being hired by the City of Dover in 1988 as a police officer. He was promoted to chief of police in 2010. He retired in 2014 after 26 years of service.

He is a graduate of Delaware Technical Community College and the FBI National Academy. He is currently Dover city councilman.

Andrea Kreiner

Ms. Kreiner has owned and operated a sustainability consulting firm since 2005. Prior to that, she was former Gov. Ruth Ann Minner’s policy advisor on agriculture, energy, environment and transportation.

Ms. Kreiner also spent 10 years managing the business and community services office at DNREC.

She earned an undergraduate degree in applied economics and business management and a graduate degree in resource economics. She’s also a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) accredited professional.

Responding to a question and answer survey, both candidates weighed in on their fitness for the court seat and their district’s priorities.

Q: Why are you running for this office?

Ms. Kreiner: “As a mother and a small business owner, I have watched with concern as more and more of our young adults have moved away to find jobs and build their families. Losing this segment of our population not only drains the community of a vital force, but also depletes our workforce and our potential tax base. When asked about why they are moving, they say they are unable to find quality jobs that use their skills. This is a major issue I would tackle as a Levy Court Commissioner.

“I have spent my career trying to make a difference. I spent the first half of my career in government, first working at The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and then as Gov. Minner’s Policy Advisor on land use, environment, energy, agriculture and transportation. For the past 12 years I have built my consulting business around my belief, as an economist, that environmental and economic sustainability are intertwined; that it both makes sense and saves cents to take actions that reduce our environmental footprints.

“When the Levy Court seat became vacant, I realized that my experience working on land use, agriculture, energy and environmental issues as well as my work with businesses on operational efficiency would serve well on Levy Court. I also realized that the relationships I have built with people at all levels of government as well as industry and agriculture would be beneficial in serving my constituents on the Levy Court.”

Mr. Hosfelt: “It’s about service, service to our community. This is what I know — it is what I like to do and this is how I was raised. It started with the U.S. Air Force, continued with the Dover Police Department and continues with my service on City Council. This is what our family knows best. My wife is a school teacher, our daughter is a nurse and our son serves our country with the U.S. Air Force. I see this as a great opportunity to continue serving, just to a larger constituent base.”

Q: In your campaign thus far, what seems to be the most pressing concerns to the constituents of the 2nd District?

Ms. Kreiner: “As I talk to people around the District, the two issues that came up the most were jobs and opportunities for our young adults and the impact on county residents, particularly senior citizens, of the state’s proposal to shift costs to the county.

“People are concerned about the loss of our young people. They see their children and grandchildren, and themselves, needing to leave Dover and Kent County in order to get good paying jobs on which they can raise their families. There is a great concern over the need to create jobs and opportunities that will enable young adults to build their lives here, near their extended families.

“People are also concerned about the impact on them from the state’s proposal to reduce the county’s share of the realty transfer tax and to shift all the paramedic costs to the county. I strongly oppose this proposal. Our citizens, and particularly our senior citizens, many of whom are living on tight fixed incomes, would be especially hurt by the state’s addressing its budget problem by moving its costs to the county. That is not solving the problem, only shifting the burden. Kent County has been a responsible budget manager, so we need to work with the State to make sure that Kent County residents are not unduly burdened by the state’s budget deficit.”

Mr. Hosfelt: “The majority of the voters are concerned with the State of Delaware’s budget deficit and what impact it will have on their county taxes. Most are frustrated that we find ourselves in this position with an estimated $350 million shortfall. Rather than the state taking responsibility for its deficit, most of us anticipate they will push some of the responsibility onto the counties. Presently, Kent County residents should be anticipating anywhere from a $2.2 million to a $3.1 million shortfall at the county level because of the position the state is in and what they may force upon us. The state is preparing to remove the 30/70 split it has with the counties to support the paramedic program and this equates to about $1.5 million. The state creates the law (T-16, Chapter 98, Paramedic Services) which includes the 30/70 split along with the mandatory requirements to be met, but yet is prepared to push their responsibility onto the county governments.

“The county’s share of the real estate transfer tax is also still in question. With the state possibly reducing the county’s share from 1.5 to 1 percent, this would create an additional cost of about $1.6 million to taxpayers living in Kent County. After speaking with various directors in county government and attending the current budget hearings, it appears to me that our tax dollars are used appropriately. The county has managed its revenues and expenses and is able to balance its budget without tax increases.

“Also, there is a concern about public safety no matter where we live in the second district. The state and the county are overrun with illegal drugs, especially heroin. As a community, we then fall victim to the other crimes such as theft, burglary and robbery committed by those addicted to drugs and willing to do whatever it takes to get them.

“And lastly, our farmers have spoken to me about the impact of regulations and fees that take a toll on our farming and poultry industries. While agriculture is one of the top industries in Kent County, many in the business find it difficult to work their way through an exhaustive permitting process. One local farm family spoke at length about the cost and difficulty in working with the state and county while trying to work their way through all of the regulations.”

Q: What important skills from your background will you bring to the Levy Court?

Ms. Kreiner: “The Levy Court is responsible for the management of the county’s government including land use, solid waste, sewer, parks and recreation, paramedics, 911 call centers and libraries.

“I am a trained economist and would bring almost 30 years of experience in business operational efficiency, land use, energy, agriculture, environment and transportation to my role on the Levy Court. I have worked with a variety of organizations to develop strategies, implement process improvements and work with stakeholders on a wide variety of issues.

“I have a long history of bringing organizations, often competing organizations, together for their mutual benefit. My current project, the 5 year-old Energy and Sustainability Leaders Roundtable, is a forum for the business and development community on benefiting from energy use reduction and sustainability practices.

“Through my work in government and my consulting business, I have developed strong relationships at all levels of government: state agencies, the General Assembly, the counties and various local governments across the state.

“I will bring these relationships and my ability of knowing how to work through the systems to bear to help the residents of the second district and the county.”

Mr. Hosfelt: “I pride myself on my work ethic, the ability to work with others and my management experience. No matter what positions I have held with the military, the Dover Police Department and now with Dover International Speedway there has been a simple philosophy when it comes to work: show up, work hard while you are there and treat others as you would like to be treated.

“I choose to treat others with respect even when we disagree and I believe this will serve me well as a Levy Court Commissioner. I understand the concept of doing more with less and did so as Chief of Police during the recent recession. In that capacity, I managed a multi-million dollar budget under constant scrutiny and reduced crime across the board throughout all areas of the city. In my current role as a city councilman, I am well versed in the complexities of a $138 million dollar municipal budget and the need to work within the confines of the budget.

“A commissioner has to be responsible to the residents they represent; they need to be available and willing to help when necessary. A commissioner also has to develop professional relationships with staff and other members of the court to help find common ground and solutions that will ultimately present themselves during the coming years. I have this experience.”

Q: What are the personal or professional accomplishments of which you are most proud?

Ms. Kreiner: “My personal accomplishment of which I am most proud is my family. My husband and I have successfully blended our cultural backgrounds to raise our three adult daughters and our young son. Our daughters are each pursuing graduate degrees based in service: Arielle in the environmental field, Emily in physical therapy and Lauren in social work. Cameron is a 2nd grader in the Spanish immersion program at South Dover Elementary School and continually impresses me with his awareness and interest in societal issues (when he is not swimming at the Y, doing Tae Kwan Do, or playing soccer and basketball). He has been an inspiration and steadfast supporter of my campaign, proudly announcing that his mom would be the second woman to ever serve on Levy Court. And I am especially proud of my husband, Ali Mirzakhalili, and all the work he does to protect the quality of the air we breathe.

“The professional accomplishments I am most proud of are the ones that have had positive impacts on people’s lives and helped lead us on the path toward sustainability. Ranging from employee engagement to technical assistance, it is rewarding when I can see the actual results of the work I do. I am also very proud of the work I have done building productive working relationships, such as when I brought together a company and its neighboring community to overcome their mutual mistrust so that they could address each other’s concerns. Building on this work, I led the effort that created the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Community Involvement program.

“I am also very proud of my work bringing a focus on energy issues to state government and to move the Energy Office from the Department of Administrative Services to DNREC. The result of this move is now a Division at DNREC that works to help residents, institutions and businesses save money and improve profitability through reduced energy usage and reliance on fossil fuels.”

Mr. Hosfelt: “Personally, I am most proud of my family. Simply put, my wife Sherry is my best friend and we have been married for 34 years. We have raised two incredible children who I know will go on to do great things in life.

“Professionally, I am proud to be called a veteran most of all. I believe service to our country is one of the most honorable things a person can do.

“As a police officer, I was recognized as the NRA’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year and was able to attend and graduate from the FBI’s National Academy.

“In 2015, I ran for City Council and once elected, I was appointed Chairman of the Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee, a position I still hold today. Presently, I work for Dover International Speedway as their Director of Public Safety and Track Operations, and this year I was honored to receive NASCAR’s Security Director’s Award.”

Q: What issues facing Kent County need the attention of the Levy Court and how do you intend to deal with them?

Ms. Kreiner: “Economic development, particularly creating jobs and opportunities for our young adults is one of the biggest challenges facing the County. We need to make it possible for our young people to build good lives here after they complete high school, Del Tech or college. I want them to be able to stay and raise their families in Kent County. We need to focus on bringing in jobs ranging from IT to manufacturing, including technical manufacturing.

“In line with creating jobs is supporting our small businesses and farms. Small businesses are the main job creators, and are going to be the key to growth in the county. The success of our farms is key to our rural culture that people love so much about Kent County.

“The County is in the process of developing a new comprehensive plan. This plan will guide how the county grows and develops in the upcoming years. Having strong downtown cores is central to building vibrant communities. Building up our downtown areas is essential to making the county strong and making us attractive to new businesses and residents. As we grow, we need to fill in around our central cores so that people will have access to the services they need and desire. We can’t just build houses, we need to build communities, to have places where people can go to shop, to have parks where they can bring kids to; all of this is important. And having that mix, having the accessibility for people to get to the services they need, will improve the quality of life in Kent County.”

Mr. Hosfelt: “First, continuing to balance the county budget without impacting county taxpayers will be my priority. As a county commissioner I will make tough but decisive decisions and move forward serving the best interest of the county residents.

“Next, the aging infrastructure; Kent County has approximately 400 miles of wastewater transmission lines and 95 pump stations and some of this infrastructure is nearly 50 years old with no asset management plan in place. The Public Works Department is developing a ‘pipeline condition assessment’ program and as commissioners, we need to encourage and support initiatives like this so we can prevent major failures in the future. The recent break to a main transmission line which resulted in several hundred thousand gallons of wastewater spilling into the St. Jones River is a perfect example of the problems that can occur with aging infrastructure if not maintained properly.

“As important as the issues above, job creation is a must as Kent County continues to fall behind New Castle and Sussex in job growth. Initially, we need to retain the jobs we have, work to expand the businesses creating the jobs and develop new strategies aimed at job creation. County government has to ensure the Economic Development Office has the tools necessary to develop a proactive approach to job creation.”

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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