New Smyrna mayor John Embert III eyes strong future for town

SMYRNA — One of the things John Embert III likes about serving in Smyrna’s small town city government is the level of access he’s able to provide constituents just by living his day to day life.

“I run into everyone at church or the Acme or just on the street,” he said. “And all of us (town council members and mayor) own houses here in town and are raising our children here — we’re equally invested in the community. I’m available to the people that live here and it feels like we’re all pulling in the same direction.”

After serving four years on the town council, the 45-year-old Smyrna native decided to run for mayor when he’d heard that Joanne Masten decided not to seek reelection. Running unopposed, he won the position in the April 25 election and was officially sworn in on May 3. His goal as mayor is to continue economic development that is already underway in the town.

“I’d like to keep building on the economic development in the town and fiscal responsibility,” he said. “I have been a member of the finance committee for about a year or so as well so I’ve picked up some important ideas there. My goal has always been to keep making Smyrna a better place than it is today.”

A U.S. Census Bureau population estimate from 2015 put the town of Smyrna’s population at 11,319.

New Smyrna mayor, John Embert III, walking into Town Hall. He was sworn in on May 3. (Delaware State News/Ian Gronau)

Ms. Masten, who served two two-year terms as mayor, feels that Mr. Embert will bring the strong work ethic he showed on council to the mayorship.

“I find John to be very flexible, he has a passion for the town of Smyrna and he wants to do the right thing,” she said. “All of us who’ve spent some time on council know that we have to continue to grow to expand our tax base. Otherwise we could have a problem meeting our budgets. But I think John is going to do a great job and represent the residents well. I thoroughly enjoyed working with him.”

Joanne Masten

Ms. Masten, 68, said that although she enjoyed her time as mayor, she decided not to run for reelection because she wanted to travel more with her husband while she still has her health and the inclination.

“It really wasn’t fair to be traveling while I had work to do for the city, but there’s more of the world that I’d like to see,” she said.

Mr. Embert has a similar affinity for Ms. Masten.

“Over her years of service, she always had the best interest of the town at heart,” he said. “She’s a woman who’s worked very diligently and tirelessly for the town — I hope to be able to carry on the same level of enthusiasm that she had.”

Mr. Embert is currently the chief custodian with the Smyrna School District and has been working for the district for 21 years.

He feels that Smyrna already has many strengths that can be developed.

New Smyrna mayor, John Embert III assumes his seat in the council chambers at Town Hall. (Delaware State News/Ian Gronau)

“Our location is great,” he said. “We’re dead center of everything that’s happening, really. We have access to Route 1 on both ends of our town, making us accessible. We’re close to New York City, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Baltimore and even south to Richmond, Virgina. Even though we’re that close to all the main East Coast hubs, we’ve kept that nice small hometown charm.”

Despite strengths, he feels that challenges looming for the town include attracting new businesses.

“The biggest challenges facing us in today’s tough economic times is the same thing that’s facing all small towns — attracting new businesses,” he said. “I want to try to bring not only new businesses to town, but manufacturing too so there are good jobs for our residents. That’s easier said than done. Companies want to invest, but with the economy the way it is they’re still hesitant. We have to figure out the selling points that convinces them that Smyrna is the place they want to invest their money.”

According to Smyrna’s town charter, the mayor and town council act, more or less, as one. It reads: The government of the town and the exercise of all powers conferred by the charter is vested in and exercised by a town council composed of a mayor and six council members. Unless the context is clearly to the contrary, the term “council” or “town council” means the mayor and council members.

“It’s basically the mayor and council work together as a team,” Mr. Embert said. “The mayor is the face of the town that meets and greets and acts as a liaison.”

Outgoing Ms. Masten had this advice to offer Mr. Embert as he assumes his new role:

“Never lose sight of your employees because they’re your most valuable resource and listen closely to the residents,” she said. “Also, like most other towns in the country, the drug issue is growing. I think our police department is faced with a major issue trying to eliminate drugs or at least stop the flow of them coming in to Delaware. It’s going to be a long battle and sometimes I’m not sure if there is a win in sight.”

A special election will be held in July to fill Mr. Embert’s vacated at-large town council seat.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.