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Meet the candidates for Middletown Town Council

Amanda Parrish * Delaware
aparrish@doverpost.com
Middletown Transcript

The Middletown Town Council election is Monday, March 2, and three seats are open.

Incumbents Robert McGhee, James Reynolds and Robert Stout are running for re-election against three challengers, William “Billy” Duck, Bruce Orr and Farah Ramsammy. Samuel Ortiz filed for candidacy but withdrew from the race.

Voting will be at town hall, 19 W. Green St., from 12-8 p.m.

Before ballots are cast, candidates took the time to share a little bit about themselves and to explain why they believe they are the best person for the job.

William “Billy” Duck

Age: 28

Years lived in Middletown: 2 years

Occupation:Continuous improvement leader at Advanced Drainage Systems

Leadership experience:Committee chairman, treasurer, and honorary delegate for high school Model United Nations Club; high school steering committee secretary

George Mason Model United Nations General Assembly secretariat; founder/president of Submersible Research Team; secretary and purchasing leader of the Robotics Club at Millersville University; production engineer and project leader for IKEA

What are the two most important issues facing Middletown and how would you deal with them? 

I want to close the current $4.6 million budget deficit (FY20 Middletown Budget). I believe this can be resolved without raising taxes. My job from day one would be to analyze all areas of the current budget to find where there is a waste, and/or overspending and work to optimize. I would be leveraging my purchasing experience gained from working for IKEA Purchasing Services, where there is a constant drive to understand different cost drivers and their impact. Raising taxes should be a last resort and shouldn’t be done unless absolutely necessary. I would also offer much higher transparency on the budget and place that information on the website for all people in the community to view. 

I want to ensure that there is sustainable growth in place for Middletown. There is no question that Middletown is an attractive place to raise a family or start a business, but in order to keep it like that, we need to ensure that the growth is organized and well planned. I would work to ensure that the current infrastructure can keep pace with the increased demands, and work to find creative ways to manage effectively. I am very interested in expanding public transportation, bike/pedestrian trails/lanes, and also the usage of passive traffic controls (red light and speed cameras) to keep everyone safe. Ensuring that there is also plenty of green space is also important. That means having proper zoning and allocation for parks and recreation areas. We also can’t forget that we need to protect the environment and preserve fertile farmland, this for me is a top priority in the sustainable growth plan. 

Why should residents vote for you?

I am a fresh, young person which offers a diverse background in international supply chain management by previously working in purchasing for IKEA, “Think globally act locally”. I am highly analytical and understand finance. I embrace diversity and culture and seek to have a more inclusive community where the voice of the many is heard and acted upon. I am committed to creating a transparent, inclusive, and relatable platform for everyone to share and learn. The job of the government is to serve the people and to achieve this we need to find more creative ways to achieve it. I understand other cultures and want to make sure that all people living in Middletown have a voice no matter their background. 

Robert McGhee

Age: 73

Years live in Middletown: 52 years

Occupation:Cost accountant

Leadership experience:I have spent 16 years on the town council. While at work, I directed clerical staff as needed; managed the water and wastewater departments for the Town of Middletown; a trustee for DFIT Delaware Insurance Trust; board member for the Warriors Helping Warriors; and treasurer and vice president of the M.O.T. Male Choir.

What are the two most important issues facing Middletown and how would you deal with them? 

The most common complaint we hear about is traffic congestion. We are currently working with the State of Delaware to widen Route 299 and to create new, alternate extended routes from east to west. 

Because the town is getting older each year, we need to address the aging infrastructure. I believe the town does a great job keeping up with this aging. For example, in my water and wastewater departments, each year we target water and sewer lines that need to be replaced and we tackle them one-by-one. 

Why should residents vote for you?

When I first ran for office 16 years ago, I thought I could help and make a difference. Looking back, I can see the difference I have made being a part of a town council, which has always strived to make this town a better place. There is more to be done, and I’d love to continue to be one of the seven decision-makers taking Middletown to new heights.

Bruce Orr

Age: 55

Years lived in Middletown: 6 and a half years

Occupation:I currently work for Lacrosse Homes LLC, a Maryland based new construction home builder in the position of vice president of sales and marketing. I have been in the field of real estate for more than 18 years. I began my real estate career working for a national home builder, Pulte Homes, working my way through the ranks from sales consultant to vice president of sales. Since then, I have worked for both regional builders and national builders. 

Prior to my home building career, I spent five plus years in the public accounting field working for PriceWaterhouseCoopers as a senior accountant. 

Leadership experience:Since moving into the Legends community, I have been a volunteer member of the Legends Civic Association Board as the acting secretary. The focus and mission of the board is to make sure that our community looks its best to ensure that property values continue to increase and that we all take pride in how our community presents itself. 

Throughout my adult life, I have always volunteered my time to various community activities. Those activities have included but are not limited to; helping build homes for those less fortunate through Habitat for Humanity, assisting to coordinate food drives for food banks, most recently for our local Middletown food bank, Our Daily Bread and donating time and money to local charities. My wife and I hope to instill in our children the understanding that helping others less fortunate than you is one of the greatest rewards one can achieve. 

What are the two most important issues facing Middletown and how would you deal with them?

One of my main concerns as it relates to Middletown is growth. Someone may find this to be at odds with what I do for a living but growth for the sake of growth is not a sound long-term strategy. I believe that there should be “smart” growth. As a council member, I would focus on growth that can be a measured and strategic approach that will promote and maintain the high quality of life we have here in Middletown. I would focus on streamlining the permitting process for small businesses that service the residents of Middletown. I would look to designate downtown development zones that promote utilizing existing infrastructure for “in-fill” projects that could redevelop underutilized areas within Middletown.

Another issue that I believe warrants attention and is directly related to the significant growth of Middletown is infrastructure and more importantly, roads. With the tremendous growth in the area, our roadways are becoming more densely populated and I believe that there needs to be additional attention paid to how this growth is impacting our roadways. Traffic studies are critical in the process of approving growth projects, but if we focus more on existing underutilized land parcels, there would be less overall impact to the infrastructure. 

Why should residents vote for you?

One lesson that I have learned over the years in the field of real estate is there are cycles of growth and there are cycles of contraction. How should we position ourselves as a community? Should we be proactive or reactive to these cycles? How we plan and prepare has a huge impact on us all. I favor a proactive approach and that is seen as “smart” growth. 

Some may interpret my language here as “anti-growth” but that is not the case. Measured growth is both necessary and vital to the health of a community and I hope to utilize my many years of financial industry knowledge and real estate development to help keep Middletown on the path of healthy growth that will benefit all of its residents, young and old.

Farah P. Ramsammy

Age: 36

Years lived in Middletown: My parents and I originally moved here in 2001 prior to my enlistment into the Armed Forces in 2004. After 7 and a half years of active duty in the Air Force, there was no doubt in my mind that Middletown would be the best place to raise a family. I returned to do so in 2011 once my enlistment ended.

Occupation: After my time in the military, I transitioned to working at the Veteran Affairs Hospital as an Administrative Officer.  The position allowed me to utilize a full range of management skills and analytical techniques to address the immediate and future needs of the organization. In 2017 after the birth of my second daughter, my husband and I made the conscious decision to put our family first. I stepped away from that career to dedicate more time to our girls and their development. My desire to serve and help others however, never wavered. I began to pursue a new path as a holistic wellness practitioner. I employ modalities, such as yoga, mindfulness and conscious guidance to help my clients become more centered and balanced. I see taking on the role of a city councilwoman as the next evolution of my journey in helping to serve my community. 

Leadership experience: This is my first time running for town council. I have volunteered with many different charities and organizations through the years. I am an active board member and volunteer with Forget Me Not Families, a non- profit organization started in 2012 to provide Delawareans in need with a helping hand. Partnering with local individuals, schools and other charitable organizations helps us to identify the needs of those we seek to serve. Forget Me Not Families is a 100% volunteer-based organization with members providing storage space, picking up donations, organizing holiday drives, and working on outreach opportunities - our roles are multifaceted and ever evolving. My decision to be an active member of this organization is driven by my desire to help others and to do so in an environmentally conscious way. Discarded clothing and shoes that go directly to landfills take up valuable space from items that cannot be reused or recycled.  By creating an organization that provides an accessible way for people to drop off their unwanted clothing and shoes, we reduce the number of items that go into landfills and decrease our community’s carbon footprint. 

What are the two most important issues facing Middletown and how would you deal with them?  

Middletown is growing at an exponential rate and our needs are constantly evolving. The first issue I would bring to light is diversity and inclusion. When most people think of a small town, they don't think of a melting pot of cultures, ideals, and economic mobility. But we aren't your typical small town. The vibrancy of culture and diversity of our growing population are some of our greatest strengths. I have spoken with several families who indicated diversity and culture as the driving factors in choosing Middletown as a place to live. We must embrace our diversity and make sure that our local government reflects that. Women and people of color need their voices elevated and at the center of the conversation. As our population continues to expand and diversify, how are we meeting the needs of our citizens?  What community programs and opportunities do we need to provide? I have spoken with many parents who call-out affordable childcare, safe spaces for teens to gather, and support in being successful both at work and in the home as the issues meaning the most to them.  

These are not unsolvable problems. With the right structure and resource allocation, we can as a community come together to address them head on. In order to do that, we must address a second issue – visibility of local politics. As I scroll through my social media, I see the great pizza debate of Middletown all over my feeds but only a few scattered posts about this upcoming town council election.  In hearing from those that I have spoken with, this is not due to a lack of interest or desire but a lack of visible and accessible information. Many residents whom I would consider well versed in government and policy don’t know who our town council people are. Having regular opportunities for the general public to engage with our elected officials is paramount. Appoquinimink School Board member, Michelle Myers Wall, puts this concept into action with her “Bagels with a Board Member” series.  If elected I plan to meet with citizens regularly and put myself out there so that folks will recognize me in the grocery store and other local hangouts. I also plan to explore ways to include residents in our meetings and processes in accessible ways such as live streaming, an active social media presence, and constant dissemination of information. 

Why should residents vote for you? 

I have lived in Middletown for the better part of my adult life. Our town has evolved from a rural landscape to the budding metropolitan it is today. I am deeply rooted here and can lift the voices of our underrepresented majority. I can and will bring light to the issues and find creative and innovative solutions.

James Reynolds

Age: 70

Years lived in Middletown: 70

Occupation:Retired from DelDOT Materials & Research Division after 35 years.  Presently work in sales for Contractors Materials

Leadership experience:Councilman for 30 years, 28 years as vice mayor; Volunteer Hose Company of Middletown,life member, board of directors for nine years, vice president six years; M.O.T. Little League Baseball manager, coach and umpire; board of directors for 25 years, president for two years; Relay for Life logistics chairperson for 18 years.

Co-founder of original M.O.T. Youth Football League; co-founder of original Big Ball Marathon for Muscular Dystrophy Association; Delaware Jr. and Adult Mud Run; volunteer M.O.T Senior Center member

What are the two most important issues facing Middletown and how would you deal with them?  

The traffic in town is one of the biggest problems we hear about the most. We have been working with DelDOT and the developers to help with this problem. The widening of Route 299 from Route 1 to Catherine Street should be starting later this year, and that should help the flow of traffic to some degree. Council has been working on several other alternate routes through Town and they should be implemented in the near future. These routes include an extended Green Street, an extended Lake Street and an extended Cochran Street.

Middletown, like every other town and city in America, is facing a huge drug problem.  This problem brings with it people who rob, assault, and commit other crimes to feed their addiction.  Our police force is fighting every day to curb this problem and are doing an excellent job in enforcing and arresting the people who are committing these crimes.

Why should residents vote for you?  

Through my involvement in many organizations, it’s obvious I have a longtime commitment to Middletown and its residents. I have always prided myself in being available to anyone, anytime, to listen to any residents about their concerns or issues concerning the town. If re-elected, I promise to continue looking out for the best interest of the Town and all of the residents I serve.

Robert Stout

Age: 52

Years lived in Middletown: 15

Occupation:CEO and partner of Alpaca Signs & Designs

Leadership experience:Five years serving on town council; two years as president of board of directors for Everett Theatre and seven years on the board, nine years serving on the board of directors for MOT Big Ball Marathon and honorary member for Volunteer Hose Company, Middletown.

What are the two most important issues facing Middletown and how would you deal with them? 

Growth continues to be the biggest issue facing Middletown. With the opening of the new Route 301 toll road, traffic levels have fallen on Route 299, but more work needs to be done to address traffic. We need to work hard to manage growth in a way so that it does not overwhelm us or threaten the feel of our small town community. And we need to make sure that the growth which does occur contributes to the cost of infrastructure, such as schools and traffic improvements, and is attractive and of good quality.

Second, and related to growth, is the need for more quality high wage jobs in Middletown. Too many of our residents get up in the morning and drive out of Middletown to jobs in northern New Castle County, Wilmington or points even farther away.  To improve our quality of life, we need more local jobs and always need to be focusing on good local jobs for our residents. I think that the mayor and town council have been focused on these issues, but we need to remain focused on them and constantly strive to do even better.

Why should residents vote for you? 

Middletown is a special place. We have a local community, where people know their neighbors, are involved in local activities and charities, and take a real interest in the success of our town. As a small business owner, and as an involved citizen, I want to grow our local economy, help create more high-wage jobs, and continue to revitalize our downtown. As a parent with two children in the Delaware Air Guard, I’m a strong supporter of our men and women in uniform who protect our community and our state. If re-elected, I will do everything I can to make our town and community even stronger and more successful.