On Wednesday, July 30, Mayor Joseph “Ronnie” Rogers, who retired as the mayor of the City of Milford after 40 years of service was honored at a dinner at the Rookery North in Milford. The dinner, which was attended by many state and city officials, included a program hosted by Councilman Skip Pikus.
“My relationship with Ronnie goes back even before he decided to serve the city,” Councilman Pikus said. “It goes back to the service station he owned at the corner of Southeast Second Street and Marshall Street. That was the most immaculate gas station I have ever seen. Ronnie was talked into running for city council and, 40 years later, here we are. He has done a fantastic job of representing the city.”
Mayor Rogers graduated from Milford High School in 1956. In 1972, upon the urging of other Milford citizens, he won a city council seat representing the First Ward. Mayor Rogers was elected to the position of mayor in 1982, a position he held until 2008 when he was defeated by Daniel Marabello in a close election. Until losing that election, Mayor Rogers was the longest serving mayor in the state of Delaware. He was re-elected in 2010 before retiring in 2014.
In addition to city and state officials, the dinner was attended by the Rogers family, including Mayor Rogers wife, Ruth, who appeared at many events with the mayor over the last three decades. Senator Gary Simpson acknowledged Mrs. Rogers’ contribution to her husband’s long political career.
“We come tonight to honor [Ronnie], but I also feel we should honor Ruth,” Senator Simpson said. “She has stood by you all these years and at every event you attend with her, she makes you feel welcome, greeting you with that big smile. She has been the rock, pushing you when she needed to and holding you back when she needed to. You have surrounded yourself with good people and I have never heard you boast about your successes. You are always so humble and have praised others for their good work, not taken credit yourself. That is the sign of a good leader.”
Mayor Rogers was presented with a proclamation from the Governor’s Office as well as from United States Senator Chris Coons who congratulated Mayor Rogers on four decades of service. Senator Simpson presented a proclamation from the Delaware Senate as well, saying that the award was given not only in honor of Mayor Rogers, but his wife as well.
Councilman Pikus said that he had asked Mayor Rogers how many councilpersons had served with him, and that the estimate he gave was around 35. “Mayor, you have served with 54 different council persons since you took office and with five city managers,” Councilman Pikus said. “The fact that this city has done well with so many different personalities on council is a tribute to your leadership.”
Representative Harvey Kenton, along with former Representative George Carey, presented a proclamation from the Delaware House of Representatives. Representative Kenton recalled when Mayor Rogers came to the Milford Church of God and presented Kenton’s mother with a key to the city, proclaiming it “Miriam Kenton Day,” saying that he was proud to present the Mayor with recognition from state leaders.
“We have two things in common,” said Representative Carey. “We have wives who supported us in everything we did and we don’t really talk too plain. We are simple country boys and sometimes our words were not clear. But when it came time to get money for the city of Milford, we talked clearly and plainly so we were well understood.”
Chief of Police, Keith Hudson, presented an award to the former Mayor thanking him for his years of service. Mayor Rogers commented that he remembered when Chief Hudson came to the Milford Police Department and that it was rewarding to see him now working as the police chief.
Mayor Rogers retired in early 2014 based on advice from his doctor after suffering a stroke the year before. Mayor Bryan Shupe won the election in April after also representing the First Ward on city council. Mayor Shupe said that he was honored to follow the tradition and carry on the legacy of a man who had been a leader in the city for more than 40 years.
“You have been the mayor for the entire 30 years I have been alive,” Mayor Shupe said. “I have always had the utmost respect for you, and now, after a few months in office, I have an even greater respect for you. You have left behind a legacy of fiscal responsibility, forward-thinking leadership and exemplary dedication that I plan to continue.”
City Manager, Richard Carmean, joked that he promised his wife that he would keep his comments short, admitting that it was difficult to do so after working under the mayor for so long. “It’s not easy working for a guy for 40 years and keeping your comments short,” Mr. Carmean said. “I not only had the honor of working for him as city manager, but also as the police chief. He is the one who came to me and suggested I consider the city manager position. I would never have taken the position if Ronnie had not been the mayor. Everyone I have talked to in this town has given you their support. I just wanted you to know that they may have supported you to your face, but they also supported you behind your back.”
Gary Emory, Director of Parks and Recreation, presented Mayor Rogers with a scroll that was displayed during the Bud and Bug Festival with more than 1,000 comments written by citizens who wanted to express their gratitude to Mayor Rogers. Councilwoman Katrina Wilson thanked the mayor for accepting her as a council person for almost 20 years.
“Even though we did not always see eye-to-eye, we were always able to shake hands and embrace,” Councilwoman Wilson said. “I respect you and you have always been there for Ward Four, which I represent. However, I always say I represent the City of Milford because that is the legacy you instilled in me.”
Mayor Rogers thanked everyone for their kind words and his family for being with him for the evening. He recalled that when he took office in 1972, there was nothing in the area where the current Milford Plaza and Milford Village are today.
“It has been a pleasure to serve the city, although sometimes it was not,” Mayor Rogers said with a laugh. “I had a lot of people around me who helped me get things done. We didn’t serve the city, the city served us. I have been blessed in Milford and I know the new mayor is going to do well. I would have run again, but my doctor said I could not, so on my wife’s orders, I stepped down.”
Dave Burton summed up the legacy of Mayor Rogers in his comments.
“The only thing a politician has to be true to is his word, and Ronnie has always kept his,” Mr. Burton said. “If he said he would do it, he would. If he said he would not do it, he wouldn’t. And if he said nothing, you were on your own.”