Milford’s Peterman getting back to House work

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House Majority Leader Valerie J. Longhurst, D-Bear, welcomes Rep. Harold “Jack” Peterman, R-Milford, back to the House chamber Tuesday. Rep. Peterman missed last year’s first leg of the General Assembly session due to serious mobility issues. He now has an aide, Kathy Dorrell, left, to help him navigate his wheelchair around Legislative Hall. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — Rep. Harold “Jack” Peterman, who missed nearly three-quarters of roll calls last year due to health issues, is back at Legislative Hall, and perhaps no one is happier than him.

“I was ready to come back and I’m ready to roll my sleeves up,” the Milford Republican, 73, said this week after missing 174 of 242 roll calls in the first leg of the session.

A retired farmer who was born and still lives in Milford, Rep. Peterman was first elected to the state legislature in 2010.

Limited in how much he can do, he uses a wheelchair and has an aide who helps him get around the building.

“She’s a good driver,” he said of his helper, Kathy Dorrell.

After dealing with mobility troubles for several years, he saw those difficulties took a turn for the worse in 2015.

“Everybody thought that I had a stroke, and I did not have a stroke,” he said. “They thought that I had a heart attack. I did not have a heart attack. My left leg, I went to get up one morning, and it wouldn’t move.”

He has been to hospitals in Newark, Milford and Philadelphia in an effort to get treatment and regain mobility, and after some serious struggles, his health is improving.

“I walked yesterday for the first time in four years,” he said Wednesday.

On Jan. 12, the first day back after the annual six-month recess, lawmakers gave Rep. Peterman an ovation in his return to the chamber.

“Rep. Peterman, glad to see your smiling face back here,” said Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach.

The warm welcome, the Republican said, was touching.

When taking roll, chief House clerk Rich Puffer, who never deviates from calling names, threw in a quick greeting as he got to Rep. Peterman.

Seaford Rep. Danny Short, the leader of the House Republicans, said Rep. Peterman remains a valuable member of the caucus and frequently called to check in on legislative affairs while absent.

Rep. Peterman did not introduce any bills last year but said he is planning to file legislation dealing with elderly care.

“I’m going to try to do my best to enlighten people,” he said.

“You never how long your health is going to last. You think you’re going to be young all your life, but you’re not. But you’re not.”

Ms. Dorrell helps wheel him to the chamber and, on Wednesday, to committee hearings. Rep. Peterman is a member of House committees on agriculture, housing, natural resources and veterans.

Elected to Kent County Levy Court in 1990, Rep. Peterman was re-elected three times. He did not run in 2006, choosing to seek the 33rd Representative District seat instead. He lost the primary by 25 votes and ran again two years later, this time losing in the general election.

In 2010, he defeated the Democratic incumbent to earn election to the House. He was subsequently re-elected in 2012 and 2014, fighting off a challenger in the primary last election.

He is considering re-election, and while he has not yet made a decision, he said constituents have encouraged him to run.

“It’s just wonderful to get home, and this is my home six months out of the year,” he said.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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