By Terry Rogers
The City of Milford will hold an election on Saturday, April 22, 2017. Polls will open at noon and close at 8 PM. Christopher Mergner, Ward 1, Douglas Morrow, Ward 3 and James Starling Sr., Ward 4, will all run unopposed for the upcoming term. Councilman James Burk who currently represents Ward 2, will be opposed by John Bechtold for his seat.
“I moved to Milford about ten years ago because I had family and friends who lived here,” Mr. Bechtold said. “We are in the middle of the state and I think people are simply passing through rather than stopping to see what we have to offer. It is time to shake things up a little.” Bechtold said that he believes many people drive into Milford seeing neighborhoods falling down, broken sidewalks and disrepair. He said that this could lead them to think their vehicle will not be safe where it is parked or that something bad could happen. He said he decided to run for City Council in order to change some of that.
Councilman Burk took his seat on City Council in an unopposed election when former Councilman Dirk Gleysteen decided to step down. He currently serves on the Finance Committee and is Chairman of the Police Committee. Councilman Burk says that he plans to focus on taxes, public safety, smart growth and family.
“This year, Council will have a major challenge to pass a balanced budget without a tax increase,” Burk said. “The State of Delaware has projected a $350 million 2017 budget shortfall and the proposed budget takes real estate transfer tax revenue from local municipalities to help fill that void. Now is not the time for a learning curve. I have direct experience with the City budget process and have completed many budgets in my professional career as well. As a member of the Finance Committee, will be on the front lines making sure Milford stays fiscally strong while providing its citizens needed services.”
Bechtold said that infrastructure is a major focus for his campaign. He said with a new health campus being built in Southeast Milford, he sees a need to make sure the City infrastructure can support such an endeavor.
“We want growth and this new hospital is going to bring a significant amount of growth to this area,” Bechtold said. “Although the infrastructure in place may support the hospital, will it support the housing necessary for doctors and nurses to move here? Will it support the businesses that will be created as a result of the hospital? We need to be proactive and make sure we have all of that in place now.”
Councilman Burk agrees that Milford is on the verge of serious growth and that there are articles available that name Milford as the next boomtown. Burk said that it is now time to ensure the city’s unique character is not lost. With smart planning and careful consideration of development, he believes that Milford can retain its identity. Prior to joining City Council, Councilman Burk spent eight years on the Planning Commission, experience he says gives him real world experience to add to conversations about growth. In addition, Councilman Burk said that he sees public safety as a primary issue facing the area.
“As the Chairman of the Police Committee, I work with Chief Brown and his dedicated staff to provide the tools needed to keep crime in check,” Burk said. “Everyone is well aware of the current heroin epidemic in Delaware and what effect crime can have on a town. Chief Brown has made community policing a major focus of his department. Last Saturday, I watched an officer stop at the city basketball courts and shoot hoops with several teenagers before walking the beat downtown. These efforts help to build community support for law enforcement while reducing crime. I proudly support Milford PD and this is a major reason I have decided to run for reelection.”
Bechtold also said that public safety is important and that he hoped to make decisions that would not only keep residents safe, but those who visited the City as well. Bechtold said that he lives in a neighborhood with a large number of senior citizens and that he volunteers to run errands for them, take them to appointments and perform chores for those who cannot do them any longer. He believes that Milford may have forgotten a core group of people in the City.
“Our senior citizens are critical to our City and I am afraid we may not be listening to them,” Bechtold said. “I want to provide more services for them and to give their concerns a voice. I also feel there needs to be more transparency in City government. I have tried to read some of the town codes and you almost need to be a lawyer to understand them. I think they need to be simplified and available so anyone can understand the rules and regulations.”
Bechtold is originally from Elkton, Maryland, but transferred to Dover as part of the Air Mobility Command. When his commission ended, he decided he wanted to remain in a rural area similar to where he grew up. He chose Milford because he had friends and family who lived here. He “fell in love” with the town and decided he could do more to improve it as a member of City Council. Mr. Bechtold volunteers at Bayhealth Medical Center, especially in the Oncology Department where he was formerly a patient. He says that he loves working with the elderly as he feels he connects with them.
“Milford is where I decided to raise my children,” Burk said. “It is not a decision my wife and I took lightly. Our family loves this town and we try and give back as often as we can. I encourage my children to volunteer whenever possible. My goal is to help Milford attract young families and hopefully my children will want to raise their families here.”
Mr. Bechtold said that anyone who wishes to discuss issues in the City or has suggestions they would like expressed if he is elected can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Councilman Burk can be reached via email at CouncilmanBurk@gmail.com.
In order to vote in the City Council election, citizens must be registered with the City, even if they are registered for state and federal elections. The deadline to register is March 23, 2017. Absentee ballots are available as well. To learn how to register or obtain an absentee ballot, call 302-422-1111 or visit City Hall.
Sign up for you free digital subscription of The Weekly Review, delivered directly to your email every Tuesday morning. A quick cover-to-cover read to catch up on the news of the week and experience great stories about our local communities. Sign up for your free email subscription below.