By Terry Rogers
On Saturday, March 29, city officials and citizens gathered to honor Mayor Joseph “Ronnie” Rogers at the 31st Annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast at the Milford Senior Center. Mayor Rogers announced earlier this year he was retiring from the position he had held for 30 years.
“Not only am I thrilled to celebrate the legacy of leadership Ronnie has provided to the city of Milford, I am honored that he has been my friend for over 42 years,” said Reverend Royce Andrus of the Lighthouse Christian Center, who read a scripture reading during the breakfast. “Ronnie and Ruth have basically adopted us as their family. One thing we must do is reflect on the past to enjoy our successes, remembering that there are those who sacrificed to get us here. I personally want to thank the Mayor for having prayer at every City Council meeting and for putting God first in the city.” Reverend Joel Andrus also participated in the program, singing “I Look to You.”
Mayor Rogers is a Milford native, graduating from Milford High School in 1956. He was elected as councilman for the First Ward in 1972, and took the office of mayor for the first time in 1982. Mayor Rogers held that office until 2008, when he was defeated by Dan Marabello. Until his defeat, he as Delaware’s longest serving mayor. In 2010, Mayor Rogers was re-elected in an election that, at the time, had the largest voter turnout in Milford history.
“I want to thank everyone who is here, I never realized I would serve this long,” Mayor Rogers said. “It has been a pleasure, a challenge, an experience. I’ve learned a lot and am honored to have served the best city I know for as long as I have. I have had the opportunity to work with some great councils, and a few that were different.” Mayor Rogers said that there were three people running for his position, and that all three of them were good people. He said he hoped they understand that they will face many challenges as mayor.
Mayor Rogers has said in the past that he felt his biggest accomplishments were keeping the city in good financial shape and keeping things running smoothly. He said that the only way the city runs smoothly is when the mayor and council work together to manage the operations of the city, and that whoever his successor may be, that they understand that running a city is harder than they may think. He admits that he has made his own “dumb mistakes” when it came to the challenges facing the city.
“Despite those challenges, I look back and see what we have accomplished over the years,” Mayor Rogers said. “When I took office, there was no shopping other than downtown and now we have many options available to us. Milford has improved a lot and it is still a great place to live.” Mayor Rogers admitted that he did not want to step down from his position, but after a stroke last year, his doctor advised him it was time to slow down and take it easy.
By his side as he spoke, was his wife, Ruth, who has attended many events with her husband and is one of his biggest supporters. As the mayor introduced their family who were in attendance at the breakfast, his wife prompted him as he named the many members who came to support the couple that morning.
“I personally want to thank everyone who came today for Ronnie’s last prayer breakfast as the mayor,” Mayor Rogers’ wife, Ruth said. “We appreciate everything you have done for us over the years and hope that all of you know that Ronnie thinks of Milford as his family.”
Senator Gary Simpson also spoke in honor of Mayor Rogers.“I have admired how Ronnie has kept politics out of city government,” Senator Simpson said. “This allowed him to work with anyone who was elected to council. In my opinion, that is the hallmark of your administration. You acted as mayor with a sense of determination and higher character, not personal glorification. After losing the election in 2010, you could have given up, but you said you still had work to do, and you came back. You are now retiring honorably.”
Along with Senator Simpson, many other dignitaries attended the breakfast in the mayor’s honor, including Sam Wilson of Sussex County Council, Pat Emory of Milford School District’s Board of Education, Chief of Police Keith Hudson, Fire Chief Marvin Sharp, City Councilmen Owen Brooks, Skip Pikus and Bryan Shupe.
Representative Harvey Kenton, also spoke in honor of Mayor Rogers. “I want to thank you for your leadership,” Representative Kenton said. “Milford is a great city and that is a tribute to you. I have personally seen you turn challenges into opportunities, making Milford a better place to live.”
Several local clergymen in addition to the Reverends Joel and Royce Andrus contributed to the program, including Reverend Richard Portalatin of the Multi-Cultural Church of Milford, Reverend Joseph Cassey, the President of the Board of Directors of MSC, and Reverend Tim Wilson of Waters Edge of Milford and Milton. In addition, Cantor George Mason performed “In My Own Lifetime” and “Prayer for Our City and Nation.” The guest speaker was Reverend Dr. Paul Isaacs of Calvary Methodist Church, the home church of the mayor and his family.
“We value those who serve, even if they do not always do what we want them to do,” Reverend Isaacs said. “Often, we wait until someone retires or passes away before we honor them, and really shouldn’t do that. Mayor Rogers has served faithfully for 40 years, and, during that time, life has given him hard times, but he didn’t let go. Even though he has to retire, he is doing so with dignity and humility. Today, we celebrate the mayor’s service and value to our great city.”