Banta retains Levy Court presidency; special election date set to fill vacancy

P. Brooks Banta

DOVER — In the first Kent County Levy Court meeting of 2017, 1st District Commissioner P. Brooks Banta was re-elected court president by unanimous decision.

At-Large Commissioner Terry Pepper was elected to serve as  vice-president.

“I want to thank all the other commissioners for their vote of confidence,” Mr. Banta said Tuesday. “I have full confidence that I won’t let you down.”

Mr. Banta accepted the nomination with appreciation, but little fanfare — owing probably to the fact that he has settled back into his seat on the court for what will be his sixth consecutive 4-year term.

Republican Charlotte Middleton, who was Mr. Banta’s opponent in the November general election, had hinged her campaign on the promise to bring an outsider’s fresh perspective and vision to the court. She was beaten handily, with Mr. Banta securing nearly 60 percent of the vote.

A photographer captures (from bottom left to right) Levy Court Commissioners Terry Pepper, P. Brooks Banta, Allan Angel, (from top left to right) Glen Howell, George “Jody” Sweeney and Eric Buckson. The first Levy Court meeting of the year after an election cycle is always picture day. Since all incumbent commissioners retained their seats, the picture probably looks much the same as the last — with the absence of Second District Commissioner Bradley Eaby who resigned in late December. At the meeting on Tuesday, the former commissioner’s extra responsibilities were divvied up and the special election to replace him on March 21 was applied for with the Department of Elections.
(Delaware State News/Ian Gronau)

Another first meeting of the year formality of the evening was individual commissioner, row office and group photos.

“We do a new set of photos after each election cycle,” said Kia Evans, Levy Court spokeswoman.

Noticeably absent from the commissioner group photo though was Bradley Eaby, the former second district commissioner who announced his resignation on Dec. 20.

He vacated his seat on the court to pursue a new job as a Department of Justice deputy attorney general in the Civil Division representing the Delaware Department of Transportation, he said at the time.

Mr. Eaby also held two appointments as a commissioner that were divvied up on Tuesday. He was the chairman of the finance committee, which Mr. Banta decided to take on himself until a full compliment of commissioners sits on the court.

The other responsibility was a seat on the Metropolitan Planning Organization Council (MPO). Mr. Banta asked County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange to handle this position.

“By the MPO’s bylaws, it must contain certain positioned people, and one of those is the president of the Levy Court or a designee,” said Mr. Petit de Mange. “Previously, Mr. Eaby was serving in Mr. Banta’s stead, but I’ve been ask to do it now. I don’t know for how long it will be, could be indefinitely.”

The MPO is a federally required planning organization that helps prioritize highway projects in central Delaware, he said.

Just before the meeting on Tuesday Mr. Banta carried out the first step toward filling Mr. Eaby’s vacant court seat by signing a Writ of Election. The document officially notifies the Department of Elections of Mr. Eaby’s vacancy and requests a special election.

“We’ve asked for the election to be held on March 21,” said Mr. Petit de Mange. “Now the Department of Elections with proceed with their end of the process and notify the parties who will have an opportunity to put forth a candidate.”

There are no primaries during a special election of this nature, so the interested parties will likely select a candidate internally and announce a campaign.

“I conferred with the Department of Elections in advance and they basically said that any day beyond 60 days from now would be fair game,” said Mr. Petit de Mange. “But they did say they preferred Tuesdays because that’s the day elections are traditionally held.”

Until then the Levy Court will proceed short one member.

“Momentarily, we’ll operate just fine with six commissioners,” said Mr. Banta

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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