Smyrna candidates for mayor, council address issues

SMYRNA — There’s plenty to choose from in this year’s city council election next Tuesday night.

There are retirees and college students, long-time residents and relative newcomers, young and old with various educational backgrounds and professional experience.

With four council seats out of seven open, 14 candidates emerged to compete for those positions. A meet- the-candidates night was held earlier this month.

Voting Tuesday, April 30, runs from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Citizens Hose Company No. 1 at 103 W. Commerce St. in Smyrna.

The town’s mayor position is a two-year term and the others vary; District 1 is a three-year term, District 2, a one-year term, and at-large, a three-year term.

District 1 and 2 residents can vote for their respective district candidates, one at-large candidate and a mayoral candidate each.

District 3 is not up for election this year, so residents of that area can only vote for the at-large seat and the mayoral spot.

John L. Embert III and Robert C. Johnson are the mayoral candidates.

To vote, residents must provide identification that includes name and address. For questions, call 653-9231 or email boffice@smyrna.delaware.gov.

Mayoral candidates

John L. Embert III
Age: 47
Educational background: High school, Delaware State Fire School, Smyrna School District training courses for continuing education.
Lived in Smyrna: 47 years,
Profession: Smyrna School District chief custodian.

Why are you running for mayor?
I am running for mayor because I have lived in this community all my life and would love to see it grow. As your current mayor, we have expanded the Smyrna at Night event and started a summer concert series.

We have started movies at the park. I created the town’s Veterans Day program that honors local heroes.

I believe in community and bringing people together. These events bring our residents out to enjoy our town and what it has to offer. As mayor, I will continue to promote the town and work to attract businesses to Smyrna.

What have residents indicated are Smyrna’s most pressing issues?
As I talk with residents, they have indicated to me that attracting new businesses is the most pressing issue. I do agree with them, we need a good mix of commercial, industrial businesses along with the residential community to support ongoing growth in the area. Currently, we are in discussion with a few developers that will bring services and jobs to Smyrna.

The planning and zoning committee has worked hard on updating the South and North Corridor plans and along with our town’s comprehensive plan.

The hard work completed by the committee supports our efforts to attract businesses.

As mayor, I will continue to work with our economic development consultant and the Kent Economic Partnership to attract business to Smyrna.

Another important issue for the town is continuing to grow our parks and recreation activities. Over the past couple of years, we have improved the area around Lake Como by adding fountains to improve water quality and updating lighting to improve security.

I will continue to update our town parks by updating equipment and creating new walking/bike paths. Updating our current infrastructure is another important issue. We are currently beginning an infrastructure project on South Main St. to update town services and make road improvements.

We have begun planning additional areas in town to update the infrastructure. We need to keep up with replacing old infrastructure throughout town and as the town grows, we need to plan for that replacement which in turn will help with economic development.

What important skills would you bring to the mayor’s office?
I bring experience to the office. I have served as mayor for two years and have been on council for six years.

I am dedicated to the town and care about the community I live in. I am a life member and Past Chief of the Citizens’ Hose Company. I can work through any problem and am a good listener.

I have experience being a leader and getting people to work together. Also, I understand budgets when I was fire chief, I was responsible for creating and following a budget and since becoming mayor have worked very closely with the finance committee.

I have served and chaired some of the following committees for the town: public safety, finance, charter review, personnel, Shade Tree and economic development. I represented the town on the 250-celebration committee.

I love this town and all that it has to offer and will continue to work to continue its growth.

Robert C. Johnson
Age: 66
Educational background: Smyrna High School, Delaware State University, Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting and Business Administration.
Lived in Smyrna: 42 years
Profession: Accountant with the State of Delaware. Retired as City of Wilmington Accounting Manager

Why are you running for mayor?
Because I have the experience and passion along with 31 years of municipal government experience.

I know I can unite the community in support of our children and bring new businesses to our town.

What have residents indicated are Smyrna’s most pressing issues?
Transparency – I feel that the town government has an obligation to share information with citizens that is needed so they are able to make informed decisions and be in a knowledgeable position to hold Town officials accountable for their conduct of the town’s business.

I will require that the town’s website to updated to reflect annual budget, current agendas, minutes and council recordings, all forms placed online like business license.

That will help us monitor the flow of active and inactive business. The gain or loss of revenue from business license affects our daily operations.

Economic development – Work to increase our efforts to attract businesses to Smyrna and work diligently with the existing businesses to maintain their status quo.

I will seek ways to improve the economic well-being and quality of life for our community.

I will be looking at existing revenue streams to validate that we are billing and collecting everything due to us.

Then work with the Economic Development Committee to continue to seek additional revenue sources to increase our tax base and limit the need to increase property taxes, raise electric and/or water rates.

There has been a proposal to build the Smyrna Library since around 2008; my goal is to look at current resources to assist with the construction and funding of the daily operations after completion. This project has been a reachable vision for many years.

Now is the time for the Town Council, Citizens and Library Guild to come to the table and complete this project.

Public safety – Reduce the drugs, provide for the homeless, and reduce crime.

Other issues include more fine dining restaurants, lower utility rates, larger public library, improvement to the downtown business district, pace the vacant properties for sale on the website for possible investors to view, continue the Smyrna Night out and Summer Concert series, facilitate better relationship between HOA and builders.

What important skills would you bring to the mayor’s office?
With a degree in accounting, I possess the skills to understand financial statements, how to develop and prepare budgets. When I first served as finance chairman, I recommended and implement the 3-5 year budget plan.

The committee subsequently, prepared bare bones budgets and maintains costs at most effective level to maintain operations at their peak.

I have served in various leadership roles during my tenure as councilman for the Town of Smyrna including, among others: member of the Smyrna school board finance advisory committee, former chairman of the utility committee, currently council secretary, current chairman of the negotiating committee, former chairman of the charter review committee, current chairman of the audit committee, member of the personnel committee, member of Association of Governmental Accountants.

District 1

Tabitha J. Gott
Age: 50.
Educational background: Attended Wilmington University,
Have certifications in project management, event/wedding planning, legal administrative assistant, life coach,
Lived in Smyrna: 30 years, annexed into town in 2015.
Profession: Retired from MBNA/Bank of America as executive
administrative assistant. Working for Delaware Department of Correction.

Suzanne R. Harris
Age: 58.
Educational background: Delaware Technical Community College associate’s degree in human services, diploma in word word processing. Bachelor’s Degree in psychology from Delaware State University.
Lived in Smyrna: 5 1/2 years.
Profession: Retired Home-based therapist for Child Inc., Phoenix Behavorial Health, substitute teacher in Capital School District.

Ayonne Miles
Age: 21.
Educational background: Delaware Technical Community College criminal justice major.
Lived in Smyrna: 12 years.
Profession: Social media marketing director, communications director.

District 2

Scott H. Holmes
Age: 53
Educational background: High school, U.S. Army.
Lived in Smyrna: 49 years.
Profession: Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds, Smyrna School District.

Margaret B. Mann
Age: 62
Educational background: Brandywine High School, University of Delaware, University of Central Missouri, BSE in home econnomics, Wilmington University Masters in career and technical education.
Lived in Smyrna: 27 years.
Profession: Retired consumer sciences teacher in Appoquinimink and Christina school districts.

At-large

Gerald Brown
Age: 65
Educational background: Richmond High School, United States Army, served as a military policeman.
Lived in Smyrna: Five years.
Profession: Retired from Consolidated Edision, positions in both union and management.

Justin N. Capps
Age: unavailable.
Educational background: unavailable.
Lived in Smyrna: unavailable.
Profession: unavailable.

Marie Fontaine St. Pierre
Age: 35
Educational background: Seaford High School, Delaware Technical and Community College, Delaware School of Real Estate graduate.
Lived in Smyrna: Four years.
Profession: Real estate agent, former certified phlebotomist for Delmarva Blood Bank.

Patrick F. Hartnett
Age: 59
Educational background: Smyrna School District.
Lived in Smyrna: 59 years.
Profession: Petroleum company manager in Smyrna-Clayton area.

Jason C. Millman
Age: 42
Educational background: Newark High School, University of Delaware Bachelor of Science in Plant Science.
Lived in Smyrna: 14 years.
Profession: Assistant manager and sales, Ronny’s Garden World.

Michael A. Rasmussen
Age: 39
Educational background: University of Delaware Masters in public policy, SUNY Geneseo Bachelors in political science and secondary education.
Lived in Smyrna: Five years.
Profession: Owner of Painted Stave Distilling in Smyrna.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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