by Terry Rogers
On Monday, May 11, Milford City Council voted to appoint Acting City Manager Mark Whitfield to the position permanently. Council approved his contract unanimously after a short Executive Session. Whitfield actually began serving as City Manager on May 1.
“The Mayor and a couple council people asked that I consider taking on this position,” Whitfield said. “My hesitation initially was that all my experience was in Public Works and not City management, so I really did not feel as qualified as other candidates. Over the past several months, I gained more confidence in my ability to handle the position.”
One of the first challenges Whitfield faces is coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. He knows the City will need to analyze where they are financially and forecast what impact the City will face as well as the business impacts of the pandemic. Whitfield stated that there will need to be decisions made based on those financial impacts.
“We have some financial hurdles to deal with on the General Fund as well as the Enterprise Funds, which include electric, sewer, water and solid waste,” Whitfield said. “After doing a Cost of Services study for each of the enterprise funds, we have a road map to follow for making sure we keep those funds on a good financial foundation. There are pressing issues on the General Fund, including funding for police officers coming from Real Estate Transfer Tax Revenue that needs to be reconciled in the future. As an operational expense, the City needs to use Transfer Tax Revenues for Capital Projects, which can be delayed. In lieu of having a dependency on the revenue for operational needs.”
Other challenges that Whitfield faces in his new position include the construction of a new police station, retirements in key positions and the need to now hire a new Public Works Director.
“With the new Bayhealth hospital, Nemours and Nationwide, Milford is really in a position to become the healthcare “hub” for the peninsula,” Whitfield said. “Enhancing what we have and attracting other entities will assist us to grow in that capacity, which, in turn, will create demand for other businesses in the area as well as residential growth.”
Whitfield attended Penn State at Mont Alto, located near Gettysburg, after graduating from high school, earning a two-year degree in engineering with a major in land surveying. For four years, he worked as a land surveyor with a few engineering firms before moving to and accepting a position with State College, PA. While working full-time, he attended school part-time and earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management. While working with State College, he held five different positions in Public Works, including 18 years as Public Works Director. He retired in 2016 to accept the position in Milford.
“My father always taught me to leave something in better shape than when you found it,” Whitfield said. “That has always been my creed and gives me the greatest satisfaction, and that’s what I will strive to do as City Manager, whether it’s the City infrastructure, staff, finances, departments, whatever. I hope to leave it in better condition than when I started.”
Mayor Archie Campbell watched Whitfield over the past four months as he served the City as the Acting Manager, realizing that he was a perfect fit for the position.
“When he was head of Public Works, he did an outstanding job,” Mayor Campbell said. “Over the past four months, he demonstrated he had all the qualities we were looking for. He is a people-person, you can talk to him. He doesn’t get upset if you disagree with him and he is very open-minded. His personality gets things done. That was why, after four months, I came to him and asked him to apply for the position.”
Whitfield’s initial goals are set forth in the Strategic Plan adopted in 2017 and Mayor Campbell explained that additional goals will be set once they hire a Public Works Director.
“He has been doing two jobs and actually doing them quite well,” Mayor Campbell said. “I have had conversation with him at night, on weekends, on holidays. He is always available, and he does an amazing job even with everything on his plate.”