A Sussex County retired nurse will run for the Delaware House of Representatives District 37 seat vacated last week by the General Assembly’s only Republican woman.
Valerie Jones Giltner, who will run as a Republican, said she plans to continue the work of former Rep. Ruth Briggs King, who resigned because she was moving into a new house that was not in her district.
While Giltner hasn’t been active in local or state politics, she said she has plenty of experience in her job as a healthcare consultant and community volunteer of helping to negotiate win-win deals, which she thinks will be crucial in Delaware’s Democrat-loaded legislature.
The Special Election to replace Briggs King will take place Dec. 21, the state announced Tuesday.
She will run against Jane Hovington, who was nominated by the Sussex County Democrats. Hovington may be familiar to area voters. She ran in the 2012 election for Delaware State Senate District 19, but lost to longtime Sen. Brian Pettyjohn.
Giltner’s top priorities, she said, would be:
- Strengthening working families
- Protecting citizens’ freedoms while limiting burdensome government regulations
- Maintaining safe and secure classrooms
- Improving healthcare for our communities
- Ensuring government accountability and efficiency
“I’m already starting to get out there and understand what the constituents of the 37th District need, what’s their priorities,” Giltner said. “I’ve already heard some of those things that I put out there as far as my platform, but I really am excited to learn more about it because there’s so many people out there I’ve not met in this district that I want to give a voice to. So I’m going to use this next 35 to 40 days to get to know the constituents and understand their priorities.”
Giltner got a little taste of politics when she got upset about a proposed subdivision near her that would have affected traffic in the area. She organized opposition among her neighbors to stop Short Leaf Preserve from being approved.
They didn’t manage to stop it, but during the process, they did get DELDOT to commit to adding another entrance on Route 113 that would alleviate traffic congestion and make nearby roads safer, she said.
“You can watch what’s going on. You can sit back and complain or you can do something about it,” she said. “And I’ve always been one that didn’t just sit back and complain. You come up with a plan to address it … “That’s the same thing I see with this position, to be the voice of the people who instead of just complaining takes it to Dover and impacts change.”
Giltner — a lifelong resident of the Georgetown area –said she started thinking about running when she heard Briggs King planned to resign.
“I knew that we have to make grassroots change, and so much is at the state level,” she said. “If you ask anybody, I plan. I prepare. I do my homework. So I started planning, talking with people and seeing if this was something I really wanted to pursue.”
She had several long conversations with her husband, John Roehl, about whether the role was a good fit. He told her she was.
“So then it just became stronger and stronger that this was right,” she said. “I was at the right place and time to be able to serve the people.”
Giltner had accepted a buyout earlier this year from Premier Inc., retiring at age 56, enabling her to spend a lot more time Roehl doing things like playing pickleball.
“I’m not one to relax and sit around a lot,” she said.
Giltner family, career
She married Roehl in 2008 after her husband, Eric Giltner, died in 2005 when their daughter was 8 months old, leaving Giltner to raise Olivia and their son, Parker who was 4.
“So suddenly, I was thrown into being a single mother,” she said. “You know, caregiver, had to earn the income, had to keep up the house, cut the grass. I always talked about how I would cut my grass with Olivia in a backpack.”
Today, Olivia, 19 — who Georgetown area residents might recognize as a star volleyball player for Delmarva Christian — is playing at Penn State in York. She’s working on a dual major in business management and supply chain management.
Parker, now 23, graduated from Old Dominion, where he joined the Virginia National Guard. He surprised his mom a couple of years ago by telling his unit was being called up and sent to Africa for a year.
The experience not only matured and changed him as a young man, Giltner said, while giving the family a view of what’s happening over there, but allowed him to meet his future wife, Lexie, a communications specialist.
They have just made Giltner and Roehl grandparents with Eden Grace, who will be visiting for Thanksgiving.
Despite her years as a healthcare consultant for Premier Inc., which required her to travel several nights a week, Giltner said she thinks of herself first as a critical care nurse.
That’s the point of view she often represented when dealing with clients and their business partners, who included some of the biggest names in hospital suppliers.
It wasn’t rare for her to go to bed at 1 a.m. and have to get back up at 4:30 a.m. to do it all over again.
She worried about the effect of all that on her kids, but a counselor told her the kids would watch her and learn how to be an adult through that.
Even so, she managed to also be past president of the Delmarva Christian High School Parent-Teacher-Fellowship Board; lead fundraiser for Delaware Elite Basketball; a participant in numerous Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity outreach efforts; and volunteer with the Felton/Harrington Little League.
If elected, Giltner said she doesn’t think being a Republican in a majority Democrat legislature will be easy.
“I’m not naive,” she said. “I think it will be frustrating. But in all my prior years, there’s always been frustrating experiences and it’s just how you approach them and how you handle them.”
She also is running because she hopes to stop the House Democrats from flipping the district and getting closer to gaining a supermajority.
“Then we have no voice,” Giltner said. “This district loses its voice and a lot of the state of Delaware loses its, so that’s like the No. 1 priority.”
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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