Kent County officials sworn in

DOVER — “This is a solemn and serious event that has been occurring in public for 300 years,” said 1st District Levy Court Commissioner P. Brooks Banta at the top of the swearing-in ceremony held Wednesday.

The ceremony in the court’s chamber was prompt and smooth, possibly owing to the fact that all but one of the offices were filled by incumbents who have experience taking that same oath.

The only position filled by a newcomer was by Clerk of the Peace. Brenda Wootten. She’s no stranger to the office though. She succeeds her mother, Loretta Wootten, who held the office for three four-year terms.

Brenda Wootten earned a bachelor’s degree of science in paralegal studies from Wesley College and has worked 27 years for the state of Delaware in the judicial and executive branches of government. The work has included a nine-year stint with Justice of the Peace Court No. 7, two years with the Commissioner of Elections office, two years with the Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill and currently as a judicial case manager with the Court of Chancery for the past 16 years.

“Four years ago we figured if my mother would serve out one last term, I would have over 25 years with the state at that point and I could run for her office and retire from the state,” she said. “I ran and I won, and now it’s a wonderful feeling to have her here passing the torch.”

Brenda Wootten, Clerk of the Peace-elect, right, joins her mother, Loretta Wootten, outgoing Clerk of the Peace, after being sworn into office by Court of Chancery Vice Chancellor Joseph Slights III. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Wootten, a Democrat, ran against Republican DJ Silicato who she defeated by taking 55 percent of the vote on Nov. 8.

“I’ve been in this spot seven times, and have worked here at the Levy Court for the past 12 years, and it’s my privilege pleasure to pass this responsibility on to my daughter,” said Loretta Wootten after Brenda took her oath.

During her campaign, Brenda pledged to retire from her position as a judicial case manager in order to fully devote herself to the position of Clerk of the Peace if she won the election. She has made good on the pledge.

“I have officially retired as of Jan. 1,” she said. “I’ll be starting right here at the Levy Court on Jan. 3 — we’re having a business meeting that night and I’m so excited to be a part of it.”

Brenda appointed Patricia Anne Brown as her deputy clerk of the peace.  Ms. Brown was also sworn in on Wednesday.

Mr. Banta, a Democrat, took the oath of office for his sixth consecutive term as a commissioner. He defeated his opponent, Republican Charlotte Middleton, by garnering nearly 60 percent of the vote. On the campaign trail, his age and number of years in office were brought up as reasons to vote against him. Answering vigorously, the 81-year-old commissioner says this isn’t a problem for him.

“Some people talk about age, but age is just a number,” he said. “When you get to an age where you can’t function or your brain doesn’t seem to work, sure, it’s time to quit. But if you’re OK, it’s time to go forward.”

Democrat George “Jody” Sweeney also held off a Republican challenger, John Sigler, with 54 percent of the vote in the 5th District in November. Mr. Sweeney was sworn in as a commissioner for his third consecutive term.

Mr. Sweeney’s efforts with the new Boys & Girls Club of Greater Dover and the Kent County Recreation Center on New Burton Road is one of the achievements he’s proudest of during his time on Levy Court. He plans to continue the push toward improving the facility.

“During this term, I hope to add to the gym,” he said. “We’d like to see a full indoor turf field. We’d planned it originally, but because of finances we ended up dropping it. But, we left a pad that will be big enough to add a new indoor court, so I am planning on pushing for that.”

During the ceremony Loretta Wootten and court deputy Frances Moore, both of whom are retiring, were also recognized with honorary plaques for their service to the community.

Others to take the oath of office on Wednesday were current Register of Wills Harold Brode who fought off Republican opponent Michael Routh for his seat in November, and Mr. Brode’s deputy, Peggy Ivory.

Allan Angel, 3rd District Levy Court Commissioner, knew back at the Sept. 13 primary after holding off challenger Kieth Mumford, that he’d be sworn in again on Wednesday for his fourth consecutive term. No challenger was seeking the seat in the general election.

Mr. Angel looks forward to another four years, but wonders about the recently vacated seat on the court.

“I’m excited to keep doing the will of people,” he said. “They’re my boss, I work for them. I’m happy to be working with the same group of commissioners too, but I am interested to see who will end up filling Mr. Eaby’s seat.”

Bradley Eaby, a Democrat who represented the 2nd District, resigned effective Dec. 26. Mr. Eaby, who had two years remaining in his term, took a position with the state.

The Levy Court is now operating with six commissioners, but it has called for a special election to be held sometime within the next six months. Mr. Banta speculates that candidates will likely announce for the seat some time in the next 30 days.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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