City election set for ward two council seat

MILFORD — Three members of the Milford City Council will continue their roles uncontested this year.

Only one of wards one through four will be up for election Saturday, April 22. Vice Mayor Doug Morrow and council members Douglas Mergner and James Starling, Sr. will all be uncontested again this election and are therefore entitled to continue their roles without a formal election.

All three ran uncontested in 2015.

Ward two incumbent James Burk announced his re-election bid Saturday afternoon on the front steps of city hall in Milford. Newcomer to local government John Bechtold is also vying for the ward two council seat.

James Burk

Incumbent James Burk hopes to continue his work with the Milford City Council. He took his seat as the ward two representative after Dirk Gleysteen stepped down. With no one to compete against, Mr. Burk, then chairman of the city of Milford planning commission, assumed the ward two seat on the council in 2015.

He spent eight years on the planning commission. Mr. Burk now chairs the police commission.

“I love this town,” he said at the beginning of his re-election announcement speech on Saturday afternoon.

He spoke to the crowd of his desire to run for re-election, including issues such as taxes, public safety, smart growth and family.

“This year, a major challenge will be passing a balanced budget without a tax increase,” he said citing budget shortfalls stemming from the state of Delaware. “It’s not the time for a learning curve.”

His support of the police department is another strong factor to his continued desire to be involved.

“Lastly, one of the more important reasons is family. Milford is where we decided to raise our family. It was not a decision we took lightly,” he said. “We try to give back as much as possible. We try to help as much as we can. We try to get the kids involved. We want Milford to be the kind of town where our children can turn back to. That’s why we sacrifice; that’s really important to me.”

Mr. Burk can be reached at JBurk@milford-de.gov with questions, concerns or comments.

John Bechtold

Formerly a resident of Hartford County, Md., Mr. Bechtold moved to Milford ten years ago. At the time, he had a job with Air Mobility Command based out of Dover as a chief flight attendant. He currently works in the same field for American Eagle.

“I see Milford is growing in the right direction. I keep up on events and things, but, to me, I see the city council hasn’t changed,” he said of why he will run against Mr. Burk.

As a concerned citizen, he said he is encouraged by the “great architectural plan for the riverfront” and wants the city to concentrate on smart growth.

Curb appeal will also be important in the coming years, he said.

“We have some neighborhoods that need some addressing. It needs some sprucing up; let’s put it that way.”

Enhancing the look around town, including the repurposing of older buildings, will help attract the right candidates for new positions at the upcoming health campus and other opportunities to the town, Mr. Bechtold projected.

As a former chemotherapy patient himself, he knows the importance of finding quality healthcare professionals. He does his part, too, by volunteering at Bayhealth.

Other top issues for Mr. Bechtold include school taxes which increased last year because of tuition tax needs and the chicken laws prohibiting pet chickens within city limits.

“It’s a big thing for some of these people,” he said.

Mr. Bechtold can be reached at Bechtold4milford@yahoo.com with questions, concerns or comments.

Voting in the election

Milford residents must register to vote within the city of Milford. This is not automatically done when a resident registers to vote with the state of Delaware.

To determine if you are currently registered to vote in Milford, call city hall at 302-422-1111. Voters must be registered to vote by March 23.

Special voter registration times have been scheduled for Thursday, March 1 from 4:30-8 p.m. at city hall and Saturday, March 18 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., also at city hall. New registrations are also accepted from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Applicants must present verification of identity and residency and/or proof of ownership of property.

The upcoming ward two election will be held Saturday, April 22 from noon until 8 p.m. at city hall located at 201 S. Walnut St.

School Board election

Two seats on the Milford School District’s Board of Education are available.

At-large board member Barry Fry and area D board member Eugene Rust both said they will not be seeking re-election this year.

Mr. Rust said after fighting cancer, volunteering with the fire company for 25 years, working for a school district for 30 years, and putting five years into the school board, he’s put in enough time. He is looking forward to taking a step back at 62-years-old.

Mr. Fry cited similar reasons.

“When I ran for the board five years ago, I intended to only run for one term. I’m 70 now. I’d be 75 when it was over if I took another term. I’ve put in 37.5 years of teaching and another five years on board. I think that’s enough to the Milford School District,” he said. “The board has seen a bit of heat lately because of the school taxes, but that in no way has influenced this decision. In fact, this decision was made when I first decided to run.”

The filing deadline for school board candidates is Friday, March 3 at 4:30 p.m.

Anyone interested must fill out a Candidate Filing Form at the Department of Elections for Kent County.

Currently, only one candidate, Ronald T. Evans, has filed for candidacy in the at-large election. No one has filed for area D as of press time.

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.