Nutter is leaving city council after 32 years

By Lynn R. Parks

There’s nothing of the braggart in Henry Nutter. The city council has had successes in the 32 years he has been a member, Seaford has moved forward on many fronts. “But that is not because of any one individual,” he said. Seaford has “been so successful because the council was able to work together as one body.” “That sounds just like Henry,” said Ron MacArthur, who was elected to the council in 1990. “Henry is always quiet, but he is a quiet leader. A lot of people don’t realize what he does behind the scenes.” For example, said MacArthur, when situations have arisen at the intersection of Third and North streets, an area long notorious for alcohol and drug abuse and drug sales, Nutter has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to quell rumors and calm residents. “He was able to meet with people, explain what the city was doing and bring messages back to the council,” MacArthur said. “He was a liaison between the community and the council.” “He is the senior statesman of Seaford,” said Mayor Dan Short. “He fought just as hard for the white community as he did the black community.” Nutter, 72, the only African-American to ever serve on the Seaford City Council, is retiring. His seat will be filled in an election March 4. Five people have filed to run in the election, including MacArthur, whose term is also up this year. The top two vote-getters will fill the two seats. While Nutter accepts no personal credit, there are several council actions of which he is proud. “The industrial park,” he says quickly, when asked to name them. “The downtown renovation. And the several parks we have put in over the years.” That does not mean that there haven’t been some failures. “I would like to see a future council get the Riverwalk finished,” he said. “I was disappointed when we didn’t get Wal-Mart.” The giant retailer was considering Seaford for a warehouse, but elected to put the facility in Smyrna. The warehouse is expected to employ over 1,000. “I would like to see something of that magnitude come to Seaford,” Nutter said. “Something that would bring that many jobs. So many people have to travel so far for work that pays a decent salary.” Nutter grew up in Seaford and attended Frederick Douglass School. He graduated from Delaware State Laboratory High School — Sussex County had no secondary school for black students at that time — in 1947 and continued at Delaware State College (now University), taking general courses.

Nutter left college in his sophomore year and returned to Seaford, where he went to work for the DuPont Co. nylon plant. He retired from the plant in 1985 as a supervisor. Until recently, he owned and operated the Nutter Disposal Company, a trash disposal company. Nutter is a member of Macedonia AME Church, Seaford, where he is organist. He also belongs to the Shriners and to the Masons. He and his wife, Vera, have two children, Darlene, Seaford, and Ralph, Wilmington, two grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Nutter was appointed to the council in 1970, to finish the term of Robert Lofland, who had died in office. “I lobbied strongly for him,” said Marshall Nesbitt, who was on the council at the time. “We needed representation from the east side of town at that time and Henry was very capable and level-headed. He has been a great asset to the council.” MacArthur said that when he joined the council, Nutter proved to be a mentor. “If you needed any information about the history of the town, Henry knew it,” he said. And his knowledge extends beyond the town, MacArthur added. “He is a news junkie. He knows everything that is going on and is able to put town decisions into perspective nationally and across the state. He is so up on what is going on in the news.” Short said that council meetings have been made more lively by Nutter’s sense of humor. “We do hard work and are serious, but we have a good time too,” he said. “Henry’s humor is subtle, not obvious, but we will miss it.” Or will they? Short said that he would like to see Nutter stay active with the town, particularly in light of his knowledge of the last 30 years of city history. “I am sorry to see him go,” Short added. “But I don’t think that we will let him get too far away.”

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