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Middletown Transcript
  • Townsend council nixes adding mayoral elections to town charter

  • Townsend council members shot down a proposal last week that would have added mayoral elections to the list of proposed charter changes the town will seek from the Delaware General Assembly.
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  • Townsend voters won’t be electing a mayor any time soon.
    Townsend council members shot down a proposal last week that would have added mayoral elections to the list of proposed charter changes the town will seek from the Delaware General Assembly.
    Councilmen Rudolph Sutton Jr. and Joel Esler voted in favor of including a popularly-elected mayor to those requested changes, while Councilman John Ness and Councilwoman Lorraine Gorman voted against the measure.
    That left incumbent mayor Jermaine Hatton to cast the deciding vote.
    “My biggest concern is there aren’t enough people who get out and vote, and even fewer who actually run for office,” Hatton said after voting against the proposal. “Until we get more public involvement in what goes on in our small town, I think we need to keep the status quo.”
    Currently, Townsend voters elect five councilmembers to two-year terms with three seats up for election in odd-numbered years and two in even-numbered years.
    Following each election, council members then chose one of their own to serve as mayor for a single year.
    Esler first proposed allowing voters to directly elect the town mayor last year.
    However, a vote on a final decision was tabled until April 30 when council finalized the language in its charter revision proposal.
    “A lot of residents have asked for [a popularly-elected mayor] and its one of the reasons we started revising our charter in the first place,” Esler said after the vote. “But if people want something to happen, they’ve got to attend the council meetings and voice their opinions. That didn’t happen in this case and it got voted down, so now we move on.”
    Councilman John Ness cited the town’s most recent council election as an example of why he thinks Townsend cannot sustain another elected position.
    After Esler chose not to seek re-election, only Hatton and challenger Cindy Cook filed to run for two open seats, resulting in both candidates automatically assuming office next month. It was the second time since 2011 that Townsend has had to cancel an election due to a lack of competition.
    “At this point, it doesn’t make any sense to me [to add a popularly-elected mayor],” said Ness, who is entering the second year of his third term on council. “Unless and until the town grows and these become paid positions … I don’t see having a separate election for the mayor as a good thing.”
    Town council members could be paid for their services if the latest draft of Townsend’s revised charter is approved by the state legislature, although the exact amount of that compensation would have to be set by ordinance.
    Page 2 of 2 - The proposed changes also would add a code of ethics to the town charter that would allow sitting council members to be removed from office if convicted of a felony or found guilty of malfeasance.
    Town council members also could be forced from office if they miss three consecutive monthly meetings, without permission from their fellow elected officials.
    But voters would be allowed to cast their ballots in municipal elections without having to first register with the town, as currently required.
    Townsend town council is expected to forward its final draft of requested charter changes to the Delaware General Assembly later this month.

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