Kent County Levy Court President Brooks Banta won’t seek re-election

Kent County Levy Court President Brooks Banta shakes Joanne Masten’s hand at Levy Court on Tuesday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — He’s served Kent County constituents for nearly a quarter century, and is ready to step away in a few months.

Early Tuesday afternoon, Levy Court President and 1st District Commissioner P. Brooks Banta, 84, announced he won’t run for office in 2020. He was elected in 1996 and has contributed 60 years of public service overall to his lifelong community.

Just as soon as he confirmed his upcoming departure through a short prepared statement, Mr. Banta endorsed longtime friend, fellow Democrat and former Smyrna Mayor Joanne Masten, 71, as his preferred replacement.

“I’ve reached the age where I can happily look back at a lot of very positive and creative things accomplished for the benefit of Kent County,” Mr. Banta said.

“As we get older, however, we more clearly understand what we can and can’t do and I feel that the county would be better served by Mrs. Masten at this point.

“It’s important to elect good people and knowing her attributes the time is right for me to step away and have her do the job that she’s amply qualified for.”

Said longtime State Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna, about Mr. Banta, “Brooks is as well-known in Smyrna and Kent County as anyone.

“That kind of reputation doesn’t spring up overnight — it’s earned through countless hours, days, and years of dedicated public service. We will miss his leadership and wish him a richly deserved retirement.”

The First District covers about 32,000 residents in Smyrna, Clayton, Leipsic, Cheswold, Camden and the east side of Hartly.

Mrs. Masten said she’s passionate about maintaining and developing the well being of Kent County. She’s a lifelong Smyrna resident who served six years on town council after retiring from Hercules Incorporated as Worldwide Customer Service Manager in September 2010. Her work and elected office experience fit the requirements needed to be a successful county commissioner, she said.

“I have a strong work ethic, am very approachable, and anyone that has worked with me knows that I am very responsive to residents inquiries,” she said.

“I am a firm believer in customer service. My life and work experiences make me the best candidate for Levy Court.”

Understanding resident needs

Mrs. Masten (Smyrna High Class of 1966, married to husband Jim for 52 years) filed for candidacy Tuesday and has formed an election committee to canvass District 1, contacting residents “to gain a better understanding of their needs.”

Mr. Banta (SHS Class of 1953) said on Tuesday he’s taken 30,417 calls from the public in the past 23 years and a month. He’s prided himself on either taking the calls immediately or responding back directly as soon as possible. He feels Mrs. Masten will provide the same response time, stay on schedule and be on time, follow established protocols and provide sound financial acumen.

Working with the county’s economic team, Mr. Banta said he’s proud of the recent economic development in the Del. 1/South Frederica/Little Heaven area (including the DE Turf complex where he’s the inaugural wall of fame honoree), along with the private-public partnership with the Boys and Girls Club that erected a new recreation center. A new paramedic station is planned for the west Dover area, with construction set to start within 60 days.

Levy Court President Brooks Banta, center, became the first to have a jersey hung in his honor at the DE Turf sports complex last year. Shown with Mr. Banta are DE Turf executive director Chris Giacomucci, left, and sports complex board chairman Bill Strickland. Delaware State News/Andrew West

Before Levy Court, Mr. Banta was a Clayton town council member for 14 years, two-term Clayton mayor, spent 10 years each on the Smyrna Board of Education and as a non-resident commissioner for the Town of Dewey Beach, along with a four-year stint on the Kent County Regional Planning Commission.

“It’s extremely important to have a team effort even though (local government operations) can be very political in nature,” Mr. Banta said. “In the end there has to be teamwork to meet the needs of the people of Kent County who we all serve.”

And now, Mr. Banta is nearing a new chapter in his life.

“Ruth, my lovely bride of 60 years, will find plenty for me to do and I already have a to-do list of my own as well,” Mr. Banta said. “I need to exercise and take care of some things, and there will be more free time for all of that.”