Fresh leadership to guide Harrington into the new year

HARRINGTON — Karen Emory Brittingham of Ellendale will lead the charge as Harrington’s new city planner this year, helping the city continue to grow after former planner Jeremy Rothwell’s exit from the city.

An investigation has launched by the Public Integrity Commission to inquire about claims made by Mr. Rothwell before he left. City Manager Don Williams is now on paid leave from his city duties leaving Harrington Police Chief Norman Barlow in charge as the acting city manager. Mayor Tony Moyer has voluntarily stepped away from his city role, as well.

In the meantime, Ms. Brittingham has been offered the job as part-time city planner to help the city press forward in spite of their current news.

Dr. Jesse Riggin, owner of Delmarva Chiropractic and Wellness Center in Harrington, says the change in city planner has been “seamless” for him as the president of the Harrington Business Association which has relied on the city’s partnership since its inception two years ago.

“I hadn’t been here very long when I heard about the business association,” Ms. Brittingham said. “The thing that I was very impressed about is that when you have a group of people that are all working together to keep your community strong and healthy, that’s fantastic. They’re also willing, and I picked up on it very quickly, to be there for each other. If you have a problem, let’s bring it together because chances are, we’ve been through it before. And when you have that kind of mindset that is moving your town forward, that’s an awesome, awesome start.”

She comes to Harrington after more than 20 years of planning work, offering planning services to the city of Milford and DelDOT before finding her new position. During her time with DelDOT, she also managed municipal street aid, giving her a unique perspective for city leadership.

“One of the things that you realize is that each town is different. Not every town is a Wilmington or a Milford or a Dover,” she said. “My hopes for the city: I would like to see that you grow at a rate that you’re comfortable with. By that, I don’t want to say that I don’t want you to have a Walmart, but by the same token, I don’t want you to have a Walmart. I want you to be able to have your Food Lion and your Byler’s and still maintain some of the things as you as a community… I want you to be able to go down to your chiropractor or your pediatrician. As a community, I want the buildings that are boarded up to open up. … Develop what you have in a way that you can live with 20, 30, 40 years from now.”

Looking forward, she said there are a few challenges in Harrington that can be handled over the next few years with her help.

One of the first major projects on her desk is to create an inventory of available or vacant properties around the city of Harrington so they can offer suggestions when someone is searching for a new location. It will also be important to create an inventory of the city’s infrastructure detailing what works, what doesn’t and what might need funding in the near future, she added.

“Sewer and water is great, but it’s one of those things that you put it in the ground and as long as it works, you don’t worry about it. It’s only when the toilet doesn’t flush anymore that you think, ‘Oh, I’ve got a problem. I’ve got to fix it.’ But that’s not when you need to fix it. You need to take care of it on a graduated thing so that it’s always functioning,” she explained. “One of the reasons one of your projects took so long was because they didn’t know where the infrastructure was properly located. And when they hit it, you’ve delayed the project significantly.”

Creating such an inventory has already been helpful in finding a business for a vacant spot in town, according to Ms. Brittingham.

“We have one that came to us and said, you know, we’re industrial, we’d like to come in and we were able to give him a spot that he’s very seriously looking at. And it’s been an empty spot for quite some time. So those are the things that I’d like [Harrington] to use is an inventory of vacant places. You want to be able to utilize your existing talents. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time,” she said. “I think Harrington’s greatest challenge is letting people know, ‘Here we are.’ You have your own parks and rec department, your own school system, you have your fire company, you have your police department, you have a senior center, a very viable senior center. Your downtown, I think it’s a matter of getting people down there to take a look at what’s there.”

From Ms. Brittingham’s new position with the city of Harrington, she summed up what’s in store in one word: “Progress.”

Ms. Brittingham can be reached at kbrittingham@cityofharrington.com.