Dover council adds two minority seats to city’s economic panel

City of Dover sealDOVER — Several minority members of Dover’s business community have spoken out recently saying they deserve representation on the city’s new Economic Development Committee which replaced the city’s Economic Development Office on May 26.

Dover’s City Council reached an accord with the minority population by voting to add two minority voting members to the Economic Development Committee at its meeting at City Hall on Monday night.

The two minorities that will be added to the committee can be African-American, Native American, Latino, Asian, female, just as long as they are minorities with a keen business acumen.

Councilman David Anderson was among those who pressed for the addition of minority voices on the committee.

“It’s a victory I think, not only for us, but for all of the city because the more ideas the better,” Mr. Anderson said. “With everyone buying in to what is happening I think we’re going to have better solutions.

“Plus, you shouldn’t be talking about what’s happening, you should be able to be part of the conversation.”

Mayor Robin Christiansen, chairman of the Economic Development Committee, said he welcomed the addition of more diverse viewpoints on the economic committee, which will expand to eight members.

“It’s something that I have said we needed from the beginning of the committee,” he said. “The committee was approved by the council. The suggestion at the first meeting was that the minority community should be incorporated.

“When we had our last [Economic Development Committee] meeting [on Sept. 13] I made that proposal [to add two minority members] and it came about. I follow through on my word. My actions speak louder than my words.”

Mayor Christiansen said he just hopes city council ensures the new members will bring business experience to help the committee steer companies and jobs to Dover.

“Now we will have two minority members who will be representative of our community and we will have an Economic Development Committee that now will sit down to the important business of not who’s on the committee, but what we want to do for the economic development for the city and provide jobs for all our citizens,” Mayor Christiansen said, “which was my intent and goal all along.”

City Manager Scott Koenig announced the Economic Development Committee’s decision to add two minorities on Monday night.

He indicated that council would decide how they wanted to post the committee vacancies and select members. The committee will not be making recommendations on who will be joining them.

Mr. Koenig said that council members could solicit potential minority committee members, vet their qualifications and recommend to the full council who should sit on the committee.

“There was substantial debate about [minority inclusion] and discussion,” Mr. Koenig said. “We had specific requests from members of the community to add minority voting members to the committee, not just advisory members. This was the recommendation put forth by the Economic Development Committee.”

Mayor Christiansen noted the vacancies should be posted on the city’s website today and candidates could be brought to the Economic Development Committee by the first meeting in October and approved by council.

The issue of minority inclusion on thee committee came to a head at a council meeting on Aug. 22, when Councilman Roy Sudler Jr. and Mayor Christiansen erupted into a shouting match, most of which was related to the subject.

Both have since apologized for their behavior during the meeting.

Clay Hammond used the public forum to address council on Sept. 12 regarding the need for “an honest and open examination of the issues of race, diversity and inclusion, due to what the black community felt were inexplicable actions by council over the last several months.”

He said the black community was outraged because when the new Economic Development Committee was formed, there were no people of color placed on it.

Now, with the addition of two minorities, three of the eighth members of the committee will actually be minorities.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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