On Tuesday, November 8, local voters will be deciding which candidate they want to represent their County district in the upcoming general election. The 3rd District of the Sussex County Council represents northeastern Sussex County including parts of Ellendale, Milford, Milton, Lewes and Slaughter Beach. Democrat Leslie Ledogar and Republican I.G. Burton III are on November’s ballot.
Leslie has a Masters Degree in Forestry and eight years working in the field. She also has fifteen years of experience as an Environmental Attorney, and she is a certified mediator. Born in New Mexico, Leslie grew up in several different towns in the US as the daughter of a corporate attorney for AT&T. She landed in North Carolina for high school and college, where she studied biology at UNC-Greensboro. Her lifelong interest in the environment led to a graduate degree in forestry and eight years as a forestry consultant based in the Deep South. Leslie graduated cum laude from Temple Law School in Philadelphia, worked in private practice, and later joined the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, retiring from its Site Cleanup Program. There she collaborated with scientists, engineers, policymakers, and the public to shape regulations that balanced environmental concerns with economic realities. A Sussex County homeowner for three years full time and a weekender for fifteen years, Leslie lives outside of Lewes near Love Creek. She is involved in local volunteer activities including land-use planning, environmental education, Democratic politics, and assistance for seniors.
1. What is your opinion of Delaware’s overall financial health and what can be done to strengthen it?
As a candidate for Sussex County Council, my first concern will be for the financial health of Sussex County, which in turn, contributes to the overall financial stability of Delaware. That’s because Deleware’s financial health depends on the health of each of the counties.
Sussex County’s award-winning beaches, delicious dining, beautiful state parks and collection of boutiques and specialty stores, are often and correctly praised for fueling growing tourism revenue. Agriculture is also a dominant industry for Sussex County, contributing nearly $1 billion to the local economy. Additionally, we are experiencing a revolution in the craft beer, wine and spirits industries, and our small businesses have a proven track record of taking advantage of market opportunities.
We must continue to support and strengthen our entrepreneurs. I pledge to support the County’s economic development office, and build partnerships between it, the Delaware Economic Development Office and Delaware Technical Community College, to ensure that our young people are educated so that our entrepreneurs have the trained personnel that they need to continue to move forward in profitability.
2. Do you believe Delaware’s economy is getting better, worse or stagnant and what can legislators do to help build a strong economy?
I see a need for strong economic development in Sussex County. We need to build on what we have. The beach towns along our shoreline are becoming known as the Culinary Coast. That’s because of our great restaurants. And, it’s also because of our great farmers, who supply the fresh ingredients. We need to continue to improve on technology to help those industries work together. Better technology includes expanding our fiberoptic and wireless networks. We need to help small businesses use that technology to manage their supply and distribution chains. If they don’t, they will be left behind in the new economy. And we need our schools, our businesses and our state and local governments to work together to bring about dynamic economic growth.I am excited about the new, 10-mile Broad Valley Micro Fiber Network fiber ring that is being installed around Georgetown. With this fiber-optic broadband infrastructure in place, central Sussex will be much more appealing to internet-dependent businesses. Access to this infrastructure must be expanded County-wide.
I am also excited about recent grants by Perdue and others to Delaware Technical and Community College to expand manufacturing training and education in Kent and Sussex Counties. We have a shortage in skilled labor for the manufacturing sector, and I want to support Del Tech’s efforts to educate the next generation of modern manufacturing workers in Delaware. Manufacturing is no longer a dirt-under-the-fingernails endeavor. Rather, manufacturing jobs are high tech jobs, with high-tech work spaces. Our high school graduates need to know that a college diploma is not the only route to a good paying job. Rather, a certificate in a high tech manufacturing skill set is what is required to enter into the manufacturing workforce of the future. We need to get the word out to the students that Sussex offers exactly this training, and to the manufacturing industry that we have the trained workers that it is demanding.
3. What current challenges are present with Delaware’s infrastructure and roadways and how can these challenges be met? What role will you play?
From May to October, traffic congestion at every major crossroads in the beach region regularly reaches what experts call “intersection failure” — when the vehicles waiting at a red light can’t get through on the next green light.
For our seniors, “aging in place” now means sitting in traffic on our major roadways from late spring until the start of fall. Because that’s what happens when we rezone virtually every square inch of land for McMansions, shopping centers, and parking lots. This congestion is the most obvious sign of something gone badly wrong with county planning, but it’s hardly the only sign. As we continue to build, develop, and grow without regard for infrastructure, all our resources are strained to the breaking point. In fact, those who travel major Sussex County roads know that from Thursday through Monday during the summer, intersection failure is the rule rather than the exception.
I believe that interests of developers must be balanced against the interests of families, neighborhoods, working people and seniors. I believe that is it essential to keep young people in our area by providing educational opportunities and a vibrant economy that offers something more than construction jobs and retail wages. My background as an environmental attorney, forester, appraiser, mediator and project manager gives me experience and insight that are crucial to putting Sussex County back on the right path. My commitment to the region, its neighborhoods, its residents, its natural beauty and its vibrant economy will help it stay on that path. I may not be able to make our traffic jams instantly vanish, but I aim to make the “business as usual” mentality on the County Council disappear in a hurry.
4. As Sussex County continues to grow, how will you balance economic development and quality of life? What are your thoughts on the need to protect agricultural lands?
We have to stop playing “Let’s Make a Deal” and start playing “Let’s Make a Plan.” I believe that I am the candidate who is able to distinguish between the two and work for planned, stable growth, a reliable infrastructure, and the wise use of resources. Every ten years, the County Council is required to create a Comprehensive Plan for Sussex. The well-kept secret is that Council is not required to actually follow it, unless it votes to do so. Current County Council did not vote to implement many of the current Plan’s recommendations. As a result, we have an inadequate plan that’s often ignored. Zoning variances are rubber-stamped, new developments and commercial centers breed like rabbits, and our resources and infrastructure are further strained.
Land use. Zoning. Traffic. Resources. Infrastructure. All of these issues tie together. Development affects roads and traffic. Roads and traffic have a critical impact on our environment and resources. All those factors in turn shape our economy and quality of life, not only for our workers and visitors but also — and especially — for our farmers and our seniors. I argue that these problems cannot be solved piecemeal. They must be addressed through the new Sussex County Comprehensive Plan, to be completed in 2018. This plan provides us with the opportunity to change business as usual. Past plans have been both inadequate and poorly enforced, bringing us to our current state of affairs. That makes the 2018 Comprehensive Plan the single most important issue on the table in Sussex County. I would like to be a part of the solution rather than yet another part of the problem. I am deeply committed to “smart growth.” I would like the chance to show what that means.
5. What are some of your ideas of promoting tourism throughout Sussex Country outside of the beach resort areas?
Tourism is a $1.7 billion industry in Sussex County, and it continues to grow. Nearly 20 percent of all of the jobs in the County (approximately 18,000 of them) are related to the tourism industry. Why is tourism such a successful industry in Sussex County? It’s because of our fortunate geographical location in proximity to major metropolitan areas, including Wilmington, Baltimore, Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York. It’s because of our beautiful, five star beaches. It’s because of our culinary talent, leading us to rapidly gain the reputation as the Nation’s Culinary Coast. Without a doubt, tourism is a major economic engine for Sussex County. Whether located on the eastern or western side of the county, each of Sussex County’s towns has something unique to offer. Our Economic Development Office is key to doing just the right amount of publicity to ensure these towns’ character is properly marketed without attracting so much attention that they are overrun and lose their charm. An easy lift would be to encourage tourists to our beaches to take day trips to explore and drink in the charm of our charming towns on the western side. The newly branded Delaware Coastal Airport can and should be a cornerstone in economic development for Sussex County, including for the tourism industry. As long as we have the workforce trained to support our aviation and aviation – related businesses, we can expand to accommodate flights to and from this area. With adequate demand data, we can convince TSA to set up a security office here, in Sussex County, which is key to being able to entertain small and medium aircraft and their passengers and crew.
6. If voted into office, how will you communicate with constituents and ensure public transparency during your term?
Eight years ago, voters in the Third District helped Democrat Joan Deaver make history as the first woman ever elected to County Council. Since then, Joan has valiantly represented what she called “the new Sussex County — one that is becoming as diverse as the country itself.” With Joan having announced her retirement, I am asking District 3 voters to support me as I seek to build upon the Deaver legacy. I am passionate about bringing an open door to District 3 neighborhoods and families. Open government opens doors and provides accountability to the people. That’s what we need going forward. I pledge to use all of the County’s available resources to ensure that residents are informed, are educated, and feel that they are a part of and up to date on all of the Council’s activities and decisions.
7. Why should residents vote for you on Tuesday, November 8?
Over the years, I have come to love Sussex County. That’s why I am running for County Council and why I have a clear plan to guide us into the future. On November 8, residents of District 3 should also vote for me because of who I am and who I am not. Let me explain. First, I am an environmental attorney, not a tree hugger. I deeply value land stewardship, and I believe that in order to reap the benefits of the land, we must learn to protect it. Whether making a living as a waterman, a farmer, or a forester, good land stewardship is always a high priority. I also have a strong conservation ethic that involves buying and preserving those areas that are the most precious for the good of both humans and the natural environment.
I have a balanced approach. I have a master’s degree in forestry and worked for many years as an environmental lawyer. Part of that time, I counseled businesses from Fortune 100 companies to mom and pop small business people. I appreciate and understand business interests, including the economic benefits of investment and growth.
Second, I am not a politician. I am a public servant. I have never run for political office. I have no interest in a self-perpetuating political career. But I do see the County Council as a place where I can make a real difference right now. That’s because the Council will be developing a new Comprehensive Plan for 2018. This document will shape the future of Sussex County.
Third, I am not “anti-development.” I am for smart, well planned growth. I am a realist. As I am fond of saying, once a project is underway, “it’s really hard to pick up the concrete and make it go away.”
Last, I am not an ideologue. I am a pragmatist. I share the progressive values of the Democratic party and I am also a trained mediator who has lots of experience in working with all sides on complex environmental issues and projects. I can and will reach across party lines to implement solutions for the benefit of all Sussex County residents.
At the end of the day, whether we are a “come here” or a “from here,” we are all “live heres.” And we are all in this together. We need a representative on the County Council who has the skills and ability to clarify the issues and find solutions that serve us all. That’s why I am asking folks of all political persuasions to vote me in as the next Sussex County Councilwoman from District 3.
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