Recent elections bring new member to Laurel Council

By Tony E. Windsor

Elections in Laurel on Thursday, March 28, brought a new face to the council table and a much unexpected change of plans from a mayoral candidate.

A seat currently held by Ward 3 Councilman Alan Schweitzer, who did not seek re-election, will be filled by newcomer Jonathan Kellam. Kellam faced off against Larry Calhoun and won the seat by a vote of 62 to 34. Kellam is retired from the DuPont Company in Seaford, and is presently a substitute teacher with the Laurel School District. He has served on Laurel's Planning and Zoning Board and is currently serving on the town's Police and Community Relations Commission.

Kellam says since retiring and having worked in various community roles he now wants to offer his service to town government. "I have lived in Laurel for over 50 years and I have been involved in various organizations and committees during that time. I decided that it was time for me to step up and help develop our town into the great town which I know it can be and help move Laurel forward in the 21st century," he said.

In a surprise eleventh-hour decision, mayoral candidate Theodore Ray decided to withdraw from his campaign against incumbent Mayor John Shwed. Last Wednesday evening, the eve of the elections, Ray contacted the newspaper and said he had formally withdrawn from the elections.

"I may pursue a future career in politics if the opportunity is made available," he said in a statement. "However, I intend to keep up on all town current affairs and work together with the community in an effort to restore our aging town and improve the quality of living for my neighbors and friends."

Ray offered his appreciation for those who had supported him in his candidacy, but said he felt "the writing was on the wall" in regards to the elections. "This town truly has some of the best people you can ever wish to count on as friends," he said. "The outpour of a decisive vote and power the people have displayed in the past weeks made it clear who would have won the election. As, some have said, the writing is on the wall. We should reflect on the spirit of this community, and that includes the folks who opposed change here, their opinion counts as well. However, the majority of the town stood firm on the ground of embittering themselves with strength and home town pride."

Ray said he intends to stay involved in town affairs and hopes to see the existing Mayor and Council exhibit nothing less than "nose to the grindstone hard work for the betterment of the community." He said he has high expectations for the town government.

"If I, or anyone else, were to run again in the future, it would be only proper the current town management passes the baton on with the town in better condition than when they received it," he said.

Shwed said he would not comment on Ray's withdrawal from the Mayor's race. He said he could only confirm that his former opponent handed the town a letter saying he would not seek the Mayor's seat and was withdrawing from the race citing "personal reasons." Shwed said he understands that although he gained his seat back as Laurel Mayor, there are some in the community who supported his opponent.

"I know that not everyone supported my candidacy; there were a few who supported Mr. Ray. That is fine. This is how the democratic process works," he said. "But, the Mayor represents everyone in the community, so I will do my best to represent the interests of all the people."

Shwed said he is happy to be able to continue working on the many important issues facing the town. "I will be particularly happy to open the construction bids for the expansion of water and sewer to U.S. 13; that is a definite game-changer for Laurel. It is extremely important. I think April is going to be very exciting and busy."

During the campaign Ray expressed his desire that if elected, he would seek to revamp the Laurel Police Department and make sure it was made up of all Laurel citizens. He also said while this reformation was taking place he would fight to seek law enforcement support from the Sussex County Sheriff's Department. Once the police department was restored, Ray said he would seek to have the Sheriff's Department have its presence remain in Laurel performing law enforcement in the community in tandem with the Laurel Police Department.

Shwed said he disagrees with Ray and feels that Laurel has an exemplary police department and Chief of Police. "I am extremely happy with our police department and our Chief. I am also very proud of our administrative staff," he said.

"I am aware that not only has the Delaware General Assembly made it clear that the Sheriff's Department does not have law enforcement powers in the county, but now Judge T. Henley Graves has ruled this to be the case. So, I am going to support the law."

It is expected that Mayor Shwed and Councilman-elect Kellam will be sworn in during special ceremonies on Monday, April 15, during the regular Mayor and Council meeting at Laurel Town Hall.

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