Former state Rep. Outten dies, unrelated to coronavirus

DOVER — Former state Rep. William “Bobby” Outten died Tuesday night. The House Republican caucus said he had been hospitalized for more than a week for an issue unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Outten, who was 71, held the 30th Representative District seat from 2004 to 2018, when he opted not to seek another term. At the time of his retirement, he was the third-longest tenured House Republican.

“It has been a privilege representing my constituents, but now I think it is time to enjoy retirement,” he said when he announced his decision in March 2018.

Republican Shannon Morris won election to the post later that fall.

A spread-out district stretching across a largely rural area, the 30th Representative District covers the southwest quarter of Kent County, extending from just outside Dover to the Maryland state line and the Sussex County border.

Mr. Outten never faced any especially close contests, winning election seven times and never garnering less than 59 percent of the vote.

He did not have a major-party opponent three times, which House Minority Leader Danny Short said was a credit to his reputation in the area.

One of the General Assembly’s quieter members, Mr. Outten mainly sponsored bills dealing with charter changes and agriculture in his time in the General Assembly. During his last two years in office, he sat on the House Agriculture, Corrections, Public Safety and Homeland Security, Judiciary, and Veterans Affairs committees.

Rep. Short, a Seaford Republican who was in the legislature with Mr. Outten for 12 years, described his former colleague as especially focused on constituent service. He was also easy to get along with, Rep. Short recalled.

“He was a stable force,” Rep. Short said Wednesday. “He sat up front in our caucus room, at times sitting right next to me. And all you had to do was look over and see the expression on his face to get some sense of where we were going.

“He was a good friend to everybody, and what I would say, was a lot of fun to be around. If you got him out of Legislative Hall the seriousness disappeared.

“He had a great sense of humor, although sometimes a lot of people couldn’t get it because … folks actually had to think about a little bit. So, it was a test to see of you could actually get the humor.”

Outside the legislature, Mr. Outten was on the board of directors for the Delaware State Fair and was a member of the Harrington Fire Company for many years, including a tenure as president.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced yet.

Glenn Rolfe contributed to this story.