Q&A: Kent County Levy Court At-large candidates respond to issues

Name: Terry L. Pepper

Party: Democrat

Office Sought: Kent County Levy Court at-large commissioner

Age: 62

Occupation: Retired Delaware state trooper, current Delaware Homeland Security Advisor, Office of the Secretary

Family: Married 40 years to Valarie Coyle Pepper. Daughters: Lauren Cusick (Brian), Heather Pepper-Imhof. Grandchildren: Mackenzie, Brooklyn and Brielle Cusick and Colton and Quinn Pepper-Imhof

Elective Experience: Served as Kent County commissioner at-large from 1994-1998 (Did not seek reelection), Re-elected Kent County commissioner at-large from 2010 to present

Name: Jimmy Callaway

Party: Republican

Office Sought: Kent County Levy Court at-large commissioner

Age: 60

Occupation: Self-employed general contractor and owner of Anything’s Possible Construction

Family: Married to spouse, Lisa; three children, two step-children, nine grandchildren

Elective experience: First time running for office

Why are you running for this office?

TP: I have been a public servant for the majority of my adult life. From serving the state as a Delaware State Trooper to Delaware Homeland Security Advisor to Kent County Levy Court commissioner, I have dedicated my life to insuring Delaware, specifically Kent County, is a safe, prosperous and great place to live and raise a family. I have been involved with projects aimed at helping Kent County to continue to grow and am resolved to see them to completion. Specifically, the Kent County Comprehensive Plan was recently passed, providing new zoning areas which allow for commercial growth in specific areas. Kent County cannot thrive on housing growth alone and we must have areas which are designated for business growth where new jobs are created and businesses can grow.

As Chairman of the Public Safety Committee for Levy Court, one of my initiatives has been expanding our Paramedic services. Within the past two years, we have established a 24-hour paramedic station in Frederica, providing coverage from Bowers Beach to the county line in Milford. This improvement has lowered our response time and has helped save lives. In addition, I am pursuing the expansion of our paramedics to the west of Dover to improve the response times in the western portion of our county.

JC: As a lifetime Kent County resident, I believe it is time for change. It’s time to move forward with controlled economic growth, time to repair our failing infrastructure and support that growth. Kent County should be a place where you want to raise your family, where good jobs are available and the cost of living is manageable. I am running because I believe I can help secure the future of Kent County.

What about your background qualifies you for this office?

TP: I was Kent County Levy Court commissioner at-large from 1994 to 1998, serving as President and Vice President. I was involved with establishing the first county comprehensive plan, built the 911 Center and helped modernize the county wastewater treatment facility. Although I did not seek reelection, I continued to be involved, using this time to gain experience and to look at county government from a different perspective. I continued my career serving the State of Delaware as the Governor’s liaison to county and local governments. I was able to provide insight to the Governor as to the difficulties local governments face and provide aid to local governments on issues pertaining to state government. I served as Governor’s liaison to volunteer fire companies and the State Fire Commission, working to improve the support for these agencies. I also served the Governor as policy advisor on safety and homeland security issues. As a Delaware state trooper and as Homeland Security Advisor to the State of Delaware (my current position), I have obtained valuable knowledge of the challenges the residents of Kent County are facing. As Kent County Commissioner, I am Chairman of the Public Safety Committee where I am responsible for the 911 Reporting Center, the County Emergency Preparedness office and the Kent County paramedics.

Jimmy Callaway

JC: I was raised on a farm here in Kent County so I understand the local culture. In my professional life, I have managed projects and budgets for major corporations. I have managed personnel and have been heavily involved in problem-solving. Currently, I own a small construction business and am knowledgeable regarding the requirements and challenges of businesses and homeowners. I have extensive knowledge of building code, zoning and permitting rules and regulations. I would enjoy the chance to use my experience to move Kent County forward.

What would be your top priority if elected?

TP: The main issue of concern for me is the continued support of constituents and continued improvement in the quality of life for all Kent County residents. My plan for this includes: One, preserving jobs, not just creating new jobs, but retaining the jobs that are here. Two, continuing support of the small businesses currently here and helping them to succeed. Three, continue to improve the paramedic services being provided to the residents of Kent County, expanding the service for the under-served areas of the county. Four, continue to keep county taxes low while providing superior services to all.

JC: One of my top priorities would be economic development. We should invite and encourage new business and new industry which would create new jobs for Kent County residents and allow them to realize their success. Kent County should make every effort to ease the process and assist, or find ways to assist, new business ventures to open their doors, grow their business and find success operating in Kent County.

If you could change one county policy or law, what would it be?

Terry Pepper

TP: Kent County Levy Court constantly revises county ordinances to reflect the needs of the present and future as opposed to the needs of the past. I will continue to work on having a quicker turnaround time when plans are submitted to the County Inspections office.

JC: Kent County currently charges an impact fee for sewer connection inside the growth zone. This fee should only apply where there is currently a sewer district, or one being developed. At this time, all lots being developed within the growth zone are subject to this $8,000 impact fee. When a single lot that is being developed is surrounded by property that can never be developed, farmland preservation for example, it would not be economically feasible for Kent County to run sewer to that individual lot. These singular lot locations should not be subject to an impact fee on a sewer service that will never exist. Currently, these lot owners must install conventional septic systems as well as pay the impact fee. Essentially, the lot owner is paying for 2 waste systems: a septic system that will service their home and a county sewer connection that will never exist. If there is no existing sewer district, or one being planned in the future, the impact fee should not apply since the lot owner must install a conventional septic system to develop the lot.

What are the biggest issues presently facing this office?

TP: One of the biggest issues the county is facing is attracting and retaining business to insure Kent County will continue to grow and be a great place to work and live. Along with this growth, the county must continue to improve its sewer infrastructure to support future growth.

JC: Growth and infrastructure are two of the biggest issues facing Kent County today.

The population of Kent County is going to grow whether we manage it or not. Best practices dictate that we manage not only residential growth, which will happen naturally, but that we also manage economic growth. It is our responsibility to ensure that both types of growth are supported. Factors such as traffic patterns, the agricultural industry, the environment and our waterways all need to be taken into consideration. Managed growth will be healthy growth.

With growth of any kind comes a burden on our existing systems. Services such as our sewer systems, wastewater treatment facility and pump stations will all be under higher demand. With the thought that some of these systems are of a 1970’s vintage and have already failed, the concept of higher burden without upgrade and sizing to accept future growth would be a disaster. Improperly sized infrastructure and improperly maintained systems will stifle our ability to grow economically and residentially.

What are the biggest opportunities presently on the county’s horizons?

TP: The employment centers recently created by the new comprehensive plan and the restructuring of the Kent Economic Partnership is an opportunity for Kent County to become business friendly and grow. The joint venture between the state of Delaware, the federal government and Kent County to develop the county-owned land between the Kent County Aero Park and the Dover Air Force Base into a flight and maintenance terminal, is providing a great opportunity to bring high paying jobs and revenue for the county.

JC: Kent County is positioned to realize economic growth in many areas. The area surrounding Delaware Turf as well as our small coastal towns and our quaint villages can all become economic drivers allowing us to attract larger business. These areas have much more to offer.

Festivals, concerts, sporting events and industrial centers should all be investigated as opportunities for economic stimulus. Delaware Turf is in place and being used. We would be remiss in not taking the opportunity to supply the support needed in the form of hotel/motel accommodations, restaurants and other entertainment venues that would encourage Delaware Turf participants to further contribute to the economy of our county.

Rather than being the forgotten county, I’d like to see Kent County be a destination. Hence: if you do nothing, nothing changes! Let’s do something and put our county on the map.

What, if anything, should be done to increase revenue for the county or cut spending?

TP: Kent County has not had to increase taxes for the past 10 years. The revenue stream is adequate in order to accomplish capital projects within the county, provide public safety and maintain adequate reserves. Kent County has two sources of revenue: property taxes and service fees. Ten years ago, the county reduced its work force through attrition and has continued to provide excellent services with cost savings. Additional cost saving initiatives such as: reducing energy costs through technology and conservation, requiring multiple bids on all items purchased and requiring a review by the county administrator for all county purchase requests has reduced the county budget by approximately $10 million dollars.

JC: Kent County should go through a third party audit. This would allow the commissioners to have a look at current spending, the effectiveness of that spending and to identify waste. Identifying and eliminating waste is a first step in increasing revenue.

Surveys conducted during the drafting of the county’s new 2018 Comprehensive Plan indicated that residents were most concerned about future economic development. What role should the county take in this?

TP: Kent County’s role is to provide a business friendly atmosphere and zoning areas to support business growth. This is addressed in the new Kent County Comprehensive Plan by creating “Employment Center Zones” where future commercial, industrial and business growth will be directed. Kent County is currently working on a master plan that will support the Comprehensive Plan. Its focus is to make it easier for business to start and enable easier and quicker job growth in Kent County while maintaining Kent County’s natural beauty.

JC: Kent County should be actively soliciting new business and industry. We should be working closely with our Chamber of Commerce to identify and reach out to new business and sell our county as the perfect place for them to open their doors. Our current businesses and industries should be supported and fostered so that we hold on to what we have in place. Becoming the county where businesses want to come should be our focus and Kent County government should be sending this message far and wide.

 

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