by Terry Rogers
Patricia “Patti” Drago recently registered with the Delaware Department of Elections to run as an official write-in candidate for the District 3 seat on Sussex County Council. In the recent Delaware Republican primary, Mark Schaeffer defeated incumbent Irwin G. “I.G.” Burton by a narrow margin. Because there was no Democratic candidate registered to oppose Schaeffer, Drago felt anyone who could not vote in the primary would have no voice in who represented them on County Council.
“I am not affiliated with any political party,” Drago explained. “Delaware has a closed primary system. The result meant that the primary winner would fill the seat and that more than half of district voters, including me, would have no voice in who would fill that seat. I believe Sussex County is at tipping point and that our future will hang on the five individuals who fill those County seats. I thought I.G. was the right candidate. I didn’t vote for him when he first ran but he won me over with his Council work, his willingness to collaborate to find solutions and his sincere interest in finding fair and balanced solutions. I didn’t always agree with the outcomes, but I respected his commitment and process. So, I started a petition, a first for me, to persuade him that he had support and ask him to file as a write-in candidate. When he decided not to enter, after serious thought and discussion with my husband, I decided to jump in. It was a difficult decision, but the right thing to do. I am blessed to have the values, skills and experience to serve taxpayers well as we work to solve current issues while preserving the rich history and traditions of Sussex County.”
Drago has been married for 19 years to Rich Weissman, a United States Air Force veteran who retired as a captain. Drago is also retired after working for more than 25 years in the commercial insurance business as an investigator. Drago says that Weissman brought “four children and five beautiful grandchildren into her life.” She was born in Brooklyn, New York, and earned a Bachelor of Arts from State University of New York at Stony Brook, working while she earned her degree. She earned a law degree from Brooklyn Law and worked her way up in the commercial real estate industry to become CEO, leading teams through good times and crises, Drago stated. In 2014, the couple settled in Lewes, falling in love with Sussex County. She currently volunteers with the Historic Lewes Farmers Market where she serves on the Advisory Board. She works with the Cape Community Coordination for COVID, handling internal communications, researching reports on Sussex County topics and maintaining the Facebook page. Drago assisted with the Delaware Botanic Garden at Pepper Creek in Dagsboro, serving as the business manager for one year.
“I do think that County Council has made good progress in several areas. I don’t want to see that progress backslide,” Drago said. “Our issues are complex and take time to resolve. Council members hold the whole County’s interests in trust. They sometimes come across as five silos, each working and advocating for the particular interest or area they represent. That may be okay for some issues but can result in net harm to the County as a whole for some of the more critical issues facing us. I’m not saying it’s easy, but would like to see a more effective balance between representing district and County-wide issues, a strong effort to identify collaborative solutions and a recognition that each of their decisions affects taxpayers outside of their district and the future of the county as a whole. The County also needs a steady and consistent hand implementing the County Comprehensive Plan. That plan is a roadmap to guide decision-making on many of the issues facing us. It needs to be followed.”
In the area of economic development, Drago feels County Council decisions affect the very qualities that make people want to live and work in the County. Her view is that if the qualities are damaged, economic prosperity, jobs and land values will also become damaged.
“It’s all tied together,” Drago said. “Something I want to learn more about is what efforts are underway at the County level to recruit businesses to our area. I’m aware of the Sussex County Economic Development Office and I would assume there is a collaboration with the Delaware Prosperity Partnership and Southern Delaware Tourism, but this subject is too important to delegate entirely. Council should be involved in determining how we can diversify our economy. The pandemic has shown us just how vulnerable we are economically. My career was all about risk management, diversification and response to misfortune and disaster. I have a lot to offer here. Council can also identify and explore economic opportunities to build bridges and partnerships. I’d like to learn more about what is already being done before commenting further.”
One of the challenges Drago faces in the race is educating Sussex County voters how to use the write-in candidate option when they go to the polls or submit a mail-in ballot. Her campaign team has developed a one-page instruction sheet that they will post on the campaign website.
“I think most people are going to say ‘is that all?’,” Drago said. “At the polls, the machines have a write-in button at the far right of each seat for the election. You click that button, a keyboard comes up, the voter types in “Patricia Drago” and darkens the circle to select the choice.”
Drago believes this election is not about political parties or static views but should focus more about local issues that effect everyone.
“It’s not about viewpoints for me,” Drago said. “I don’t come to issues with preconceived notions. For me, it’s about how we approach the issues to find the best solutions or decisions. I listen. I do my homework. I understand the landscape and I recommend decisions, building alliances as necessary. I work hard to protect what works and fix what doesn’t. We have something special here in Sussex. We need to hold on to that while managing growth responsibly.”