Voters to chose mayor, two council members

By Lynn R. Parks

Residents of Seaford will go to the polls on Saturday, to select a new mayor and two council members. Voting will take place in city hall from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Vying for the mayor's seat are two current members of the city council. The winner will replace current mayor Ed Butler, who is retiring after 25 years in city government.

Pat Jones, 44, was first elected to the council in 2002 and is finishing up the first year of her fourth term on the council. She is a native of Seaford and graduated from Seaford High School in 1985. She is currently employed as head teller at the Seaford Federal Credit Union. If she fails in her bid to become mayor, she will continue serving as councilwoman. Council terms are three years.

Bill Bennett was named to the city council in January 2009 to fill the vacancy left when councilman Mike Vincent was elected to the Sussex County Council. Bennett was reelected in March of that year when no one filed to run against him.

A native of Seaford, Bennett, 53, graduated from Seaford High School in 1976 and is vice president and chief of operations at Harley-Davidson of Seaford. He was a member of the city's planning and zoning commission from 2007 until being named to the city council. He is a 34-year member of the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department, where he went through the ranks and served a term as chief.

Bennett's term as councilman is up this year. If he loses the mayor's race, he will be off the council completely.

In a March debate at Seaford High School, Bennett said that his top three priorities as mayor would be generating economic development in the city, keeping the police department a "top-notch organization" and coming up with a plan to improve the look of the community. Jones said that she would focus on keeping electricity rates low, job creation and retention and making sure that the city has affordable housing.

Three people are running for two seats on the city council. Incumbent Grace Peterson is being challenged by Doug Lambert, who is running his fifth campaign for a council seat, and newcomer Dave Genshaw.

Peterson was first elected to the council in 1993.

She retired in 2006, only to be called back to fill the vacancy left when Councilman Larry Miller died shortly after being elected to his eighth term. She didn't face a challenger in her last election, in 2009.

Lambert first ran for the city council in 2005, when he lost by 36 votes to Councilman Rhea Shannon, who won his first term that year. Lambert ran again in 2006 when Miller won the lone council seat up for grabs, in 2010, losing to incumbent Leanne Phillips-Lowe, and in 2011, coming in third in a three-person race for two seats.

This is Genshaw's first try for the council. In a candidate's forum sponsored in March by the Greater Seaford Chamber of Commerce, he said that he wants to be elected to the council because "I enjoy serving and I think that I can make a difference."

A 1983 graduate of Seaford High School, he added, "I want to make Seaford better. I see Seaford bouncing off the bottom and coming up again."

In that same forum, Peterson identified her main areas of concern as electricity rates, bringing new businesses to town, keeping the city's wastewater treatment plant running efficiently and continuing the city's plan to install residential water meters.

Lambert told the chamber members at the forum that if elected, he would push the city to take five steps to "help return Seaford to its greatness."

"First, the city has to live within its means," he said. "Second, it has to save for the future." The city should be able to pay for its own projects, he added. "Too much dependence on the state comes with too much onerous regulation."

Third, he wants the city to focus on providing "core services only": water and sewer, electricity, roads, the police department and the fire department. He also wants it to work to attract new businesses to the area. "I know that the city is already working on that, but there's so much more that we could do," he said.

Finally, Lambert said, the city has to be careful in its spending. "I would never forget that I am spending other people's money," he said.

For your information The city of Seaford will hold elections Saturday. Voting will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in city hall. For details, call city hall, 629-9173.

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