Dover mayor happy to supervise business growth

Robin Christiansen

Robin Christiansen

DOVER — Travelers riding along U.S. 13 may have seen a number of new businesses either open or currently being built.

The city seems to be thriving off of the recent economic developments with the addition of Jersey Mike’s Sub, Panda Express and the construction of Outback Steakhouse, Ross, Petco, Five Below, Ulta Beauty and a Shoe Carnival, where the Wal-Mart off U.S. 13 used to be.

The city manager, the staff at the Dover’s economic development office and the mayor have all helped play a part in bringing new businesses to the city.

Last Monday city council voted unanimously to return Dover’s economic development office to the mayor’s oversight.

The vote reversed council’s Aug. 10 decision on the of deputy city solicitor’s recommendation.

Mayor Robin Christiansen, who said he always has been a part of the process, is appreciative of council for reversing its decision.

“I think that was in the best interest of our citizens,” he said.

“I think we will continue to do so moving forward. I look forward to continue to work with the city manager and the economic development director to help bring more businesses to the city.”

At the earlier meeting, council had accepted Deputy City Solicitor William Pepper’s recommendation to override Mayor Christiansen’s veto of a 5-3 council vote from March 23.

That vote made the mayor’s office a full-time position with all departments, except for the city clerk’s office and the finance department, reporting to the city manager.

Mr. Pepper said the mayor’s veto of that change had to take place within seven days of council’s March 23 vote to be valid.

However, during last Monday’s meeting Mr. Pepper provided a revised legal opinion. He stated that because city council adopted fiscal year’s 2016 annual operating budget that included the mayor’s 2016 organizational chart — which had the police department and economic development department office under the mayor — the March 23 motion to move the department to the city manager’s oversight was reversed.

During the meeting, Councilman Timothy Slavin said the effect of the July 27 meeting to affirm council’s meeting on March 23 to move the economic development office under the city manager was to revise the city manager’s organizational chart in the fiscal 2016 budget.

The mayor vetoed that motion within the time required by the charter, and the economic development office will remain under the mayor unless council overrides the veto, said Mr. Slavin.

Council could have overridden the veto with a two-thirds majority vote, but chose not to.

The police department and economic development office will now report to the mayor.

The city manager, controller, city planner, city assessor and the city clerk will report to council and all other city departments will report to the city manager.

William Neaton, the city’s economic development director, said the decision didn’t impact him at all, but believes the office should be the mayor’s responsibility.

“I work closely with the city manager every day,” Mr. Neaton said. “It doesn’t impact me at all. I’ve actually worked for the mayor for several years, too. It doesn’t make a difference.

“But I think I should work for the mayor,” he said. “The mayor represents the economic development for the city. I just think it makes sense.”

Mayor Christiansen said since the inception of the full-time mayor’s office in 1997, in addition to being the public’s full-time advocate at city hall, economic development was one of the other responsibilities for the mayor. He said the mayor needed to be involved daily in the marketing of the city.

Even when council decided to remove the economic development office as his responsibility, he said he still worked closely with city manager Scott Koenig and the staff at the economic office.

“I was still with them to help bring new projects to the city,” Mayor Christiansen said.

“I was just doing what I felt like I was supposed to do. I was doing everything that was asked of me.”

Changes

On U.S. 13, the former Tiger Mart Building near Delaware State University is now home to a Produce Junction Store.

The Dover store will be the family-owned company’s first foray into Delaware; the firm, which specializes in fresh fruits, vegetables and cut flowers, already has several locations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Mr. Neaton said it should be opening in the last week of September.

He also said the Delaware Department of Transportation has been discussing entrance and exit plans for the now empty Kmart on U.S. 13 in Dover, which closed its doors last July.

“It’s only going to get better,” Mr. Neaton said. “We have a lot of great opportunities.

“We have a lot of unique properties, as it’s really starting to boom.”

Mayor Christiansen shared that sentiment.

“New businesses are coming in,” he said. “That will provide new jobs for people in the city.

“The best days are ahead of us.”

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