Meet the candidates in the Smyrna Town Council election and see their background, experience, and the town issues they think are most important.

AT-LARGE CANDIDATES

Gerald Brown (at-large)

Age: 65

Years lived in Smyrna: 5 years

Family: I’m married to Carlyne and we have four children, Kenya, Malik, Micah, and Annie. Also we have six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Education: I attended Richmond Hill High School and served in the United States Army during the Vietnam era as a military policeman.

Occupation: Retired from Consolidated Edison.

Leadership experience: Over my 36 years of service with Consolidated Edison, I have held several positions of increased responsibility and authority, both union and management capacity, such as meter reader, customer service representative, law investigator, specialist in electric underground services, senior specialist in customer operations financial and budgeting, emergency management involving various electric, gas and steam incidents during outages/storm events, senior instructor for environmental, health and safety at the company training facility and decon squad leader for the biological weapons response team. Currently, as a retiree, I conduct classes in emergency response, hazmat tech and incident command to both union and management personnel as needed.

What are the three most important issues in Smyrna and how would you propose handling them?

A few of the main issues that I have heard and seen are taxes, economic development both commercial and residential, and the homeless population and drug epidemic.

Some of the ideas I would work on to address these issues would be two-fold by looking on the economic development to attract new commercial businesses that will help the town level off our tax burden, and by working with other local, state and federal partners to look at grants and other initiatives that would help with our town growth by creating open communication and transparency.

I would reach out to our churches and the various community-based organizations to work together on homelessnesss and families that are in need and work closely with our police department on ways to get additional grants to support the initiative that was in place to assist in our drug epidemic that has engrossed not only our town but every town both big and small.

What qualities, characteristics and/or experience do you have that will help the town if elected?

I feel some of my strong suits are my ability to work with people on every level from my many years in the business sector and my volunteer work with the Special Olympics of New York and Delaware as a result of the fact I have a special needs child who requires compassion and understanding.

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Justin N. Capps (at-large)

Age: 40

Years lived in Smyrna: 6 years

Family: Fiancé, Sonya Cobb, RN, and two daughters, Hannah, 15, and Meagan, 13.

Education: West Fork High School and I have a bachelor of arts in Biblical studies.

Occupation: Licensed minister, former limousine owner/operator, and now I volunteer for Hospice and Choose Joy as well as build motorcycles in my spare time.

Leadership experience: This will be my first run for office. However, I serve on the Board of Directors for Choose Joy, a Dover based non-profit organization for fire victims (four years now). I also volunteer for a local Hospice multiple nights a week providing support for our hard working medical professionals so they can provide quality timely medical care for our loved ones (two years now). I used to be an owner of Esquire Limousine Service so I possess the understanding of the needs of small business owners and I hope to be bringing a business of my own here to Smyrna as well over the next couple of years.

I'm also an avid Harley owner that takes my motorcycles to fund raisers and charities that raise money for children. Coming from hardship I have a special place in my heart for children who suffer. Be it abuse or sickness, I'm a protector of the less fortunate and will strive to see our children protected from everything from predators to the drugs that have found their ways in to our neighborhoods.

What are the three most important issues in Smyrna and how would you propose handling them?

Taxes, utility increases and our growth as a community.

Nobody wants to see their taxes increased, or their utilities. For this reason alone, I vow to vote a firm NO on any referendum that would increase those rates or take another dollar from the citizens of Smyrna.

However, we need revenue and I'm going to have to work diligently on behalf of our town to bring businesses here to offset that. Smyrna is virtually dead center of Delaware. We should be a hub of commerce, not watching our citizens take their money north and south for their needs.

What qualities, characteristics and/or experience do you have that will help the town if elected?

I was born and raised in a very small town on a 580-acre homestead that's been in my family for over 200 years (Smithville, Arkansas; population 72). I hold dear my small town values and ability to adapt and rise to challenges presented to me as well as having the gift of a truly unique personality...simply put...I get things done brilliantly, blatantly and with all the determination a country boy can possess.

I'm also fairly well known in my community (Worthington) for being extremely blatant and candid. What this means for everyone is I'm a no B.S. guy that's going to be 100% transparent and I WILL represent them diligently. You want Honesty? Transparency? Accountability? Someone who will stand up and say enough is enough? I'm that guy with the fortitude and spine to stand up and do all he can to ensure it. After all, I know in my home when bills arrive and money's short, I'm expected to tighten my belt and make ends meet. Shouldn’t our government operate the same? I truly believe so.

Serving on the board for Choose Joy and my years of volunteer work on other campaigns and events has left me with a network of other people and resources I can reach out to on behalf of the town to help achieve our goals and promote a safer transparent Smyrna for all of our community.

Over the years living in Delaware (10 now to be exact) I've not only grown to love it here and wouldn't leave now, but I've also made many fantastic friends. Smyrna is my home now and I'm proud of this opportunity to potentially serve the town and its residents.

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Marie Fontaine St. Pierre (at-large)

Age: 35

Years lived in Smyrna: 4 years

Family: Married for 13 years and I have a 13-year-old son.

Education: I graduated from Seaford High School; Graduate of Delaware Technical Community College and Delaware School of Real Estate.

Occupation: I worked at the Blood Bank of Delmarva for two years as a certified phlebotomist. Now I am working as a full-time real estate agent at ERA Harrington Realty Inc.

Leadership experience: I am a member of the Kent County Association of Realtors®, a member of Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the 28th District Committee.

What are the three most important issues in Smyrna and how would you propose handling them?

The three most important issues in Smyrna are lack of businesses, lack of information for homeowners on easement (do’s and don’ts), and a great library for the people of Smyrna.

“A growing town is a glowing town.” As a business woman I believe in businesses, the benefits and the growth that it will bring to the town. Some people don’t have the luxury to travel outside of Smyrna to find a job, but if we have businesses in town a lot of people will be able to benefit from it. I believe in growth, I believe in wealth and I believe in the people of Smyrna and we want to see a better Smyrna for our children. I want to work closely with the council members and the mayor to welcome beneficial businesses in the town.

Buying a home is one of the most expensive purchased that anyone could ever make in their lives, as a Realtor® I work with clients or customers every day and it’s a nerve racking and exciting moment for any home buyer. I want to work closely with the town council members to get involved with the builders, the planning department and the home owner associations to have information on easement (do’s and don’ts) for homeowners in their neighborhoods.

After I graduated from Del Tech in 2016 as a certified phlebotomist I didn’t have a computer or internet to apply for a job at home, but because the library was in town, I was able to walk to the library and apply for different jobs in my field. In a few months I found a job at the Blood Bank of Delmarva and worked there for two years. Having the library in town will benefit the elderly and the people who cannot afford a car to drive elsewhere. We need a bigger library with more books and better technology. Education is knowledge and growth for the town. We are blessed in the United States to have books to read and computers. There are places in the world where people have never seen a book in their lives, and children who walk miles from home surrounded with danger to get an education. I will work with the town council members to help and support a new library for the future of our youth.

What qualities, characteristics and/or experience do you have that will help the town if elected?

I have worked in the healthcare industry for many years, and now as a full-time Realtor® I love working with people. I have the experience working with different people, with different backgrounds, cultures and religions. I am a great listener, I have great communication skills, love to learn new things, I am very patient and work well on a team. I want to focus on the people of Smyrna and listen to their complaints and frustrations on what matters the most.

I want to also bring a light on the drug epidemic in the Town of Smyrna to the town council members, the mayor, and the State of Delaware to find a way to help the people who are seeking guidance and the resources for a better life.

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P. Francis Hartnett (at-large)

Age: 59

Years lived in Smyrna: 59 years

Family: Married with three children and two grandchildren.

Education: Graduated from the Smyrna School District.

Occupation: Petroleum manager, Southern States Smyrna-Clayton Cooperative.

Leadership experience: Former director of safety and health for a large communications company; current manager of a mid-sized petroleum company.

I have held a number of leadership positions within Smyrna’s fire company, Citizens’ Hose Company No. 1, Inc., over the last 42 years.

For the Town of Smyrna, I had the opportunity of sitting on the Board of Adjustments and the Planning and Zoning Commission in a non-voting position for the last two years.

What are the three most important issues in Smyrna and how would you propose handling them?

Planned growth of the town to have a mix of businesses, industry, and residential growth, to help support the services of the town and the tax base for the residents of the town. We need to find ways to bring at least some light industry to the town.

Responding to the questions and concerns of the residents of the town. We need to respond to these on a timely basis.

Give the emergency services and the service departments of the town the help they need to keep pace with the growth of the town and the increased call volume placed on them. As more and more folks move into the town, we will need to give these departments priority in giving them the tools they need to keep pace with the growth.

What qualities, characteristics and/or experience do you have that will help the town if elected?

I have had the pleasure of sitting on the Smyrna Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Adjustments for the last two years. During that period of time, I have learned a tremendous amount about the future plans for the growth of the town. With what I have learned, I can help with the planned growth and future plans, as well as working to get new industry and businesses to locate here.

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Jason (Jay) Millman (at-large)

Age: 42

Years lived in Smyrna: 15 years (Delaware born and raised).

Family: Currently single. I come from a large Catholic family with a total of eight siblings and 11 nieces and nephews and 10 great-nieces. Good core family values.

Education: Attended Delaware schools (both private and public) and graduated from University of Delaware.

Occupation: Currently working as assistant manager at Ronny's Garden World.

Leadership experience: No reply

What are the three most important issues in Smyrna and how would you propose handling them?

Lower utility rates – Taking a look at all expenses and third parties involved and reevaluating their need and importance while looking for alternatives can help reduce utility costs.

Beautification of the town – By focusing allotted resources on specific projects, working with local schools, environmental and youth organizations to clean up problem areas and creating incentives for homeowner and business owners, we can make Smyrna even more beautiful appealing than it already is.

Support of local law enforcement agencies – Working with local agencies to meet the needs of the town with more focused patrols in neighborhoods and during higher volume times such as weekends and holidays, supporting these agencies to insure they have the resources and training necessary to serve our current and growing population.

What qualities, characteristics and/or experience do you have that will help the town if elected?

Working and living in the Town of Smyrna for 15 years, I have become a known figure in the town and have built strong relationships with both many residents and businesses. Volunteering with the American Heart Association for many years has given me the opportunity to navigate several committees and bring them together for a greater cause. These experiences have given me the leadership needed to stand up and fight for what is right. I have made this town my home and look forward to seeing it prosper and reach its full potential .

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Mike Rasmussen (at-large)

Age: 39

Years lived in Smyrna: 5 years

Family: Wife, Janessa Rasmussen; daughter, Nova Rasmussen, 6, and son, Cole Rasmussen, 2.

Education: Masters in Public Policy from University of Delaware (2005), Bachelors in Political Science and Secondary Education from the State University of New York Geneseo (2001).

Occupation: Co-owner of Painted Stave Distilling; formerly the director of operation at The Vision Network of Delaware and program officer at The Rodel Foundation of Delaware.

Leadership experience: Current member of the Governor’s Tourism Advisory Board (appointed by Gov. Jack Markell and reappointed by Gov. John Carney), current member of the Kent County Quality of Life Steering Committee, former board chair of the Newark Day Nursery and Children's Center, former member of the Governor’s Commission on Early Education and the Economy (appointed by Gov. Markell).

What are the three most important issues in Smyrna and how would you propose handling them?

Transparency – One of the most common concerns I hear from residents in Smyrna is about how our tax dollars are spent and utility rates are set. Taxes and utilities are the largest investment that citizens make into our town and I feel that the town must do a better job communicating this information to our citizens so that we can have an open and honest conversation about how the money is spent. The town must be as transparent as possible with how our tax and utility rates compare to other communities in Delaware, and that information must be clearly communicated on at least a yearly basis.

Revitalizing our downtown – Smyrna has a wonderful historic downtown with an amazing amount of potential, but it will require concerted long term support and creative thinking if it is to reach its full potential. The downtown is the heart of this community, and it should be a place of pride for all Smyrna residents. Right now there are many empty storefronts and buildings that are in need of significant repair, and businesses that are struggling to keep their doors open. While there has been some significant private investment over the last few years, the town can and should do more to elevate the downtown and support the businesses which are investing in this area.

Investing in our future – Hand in hand with revitalizing our downtown, the town needs to be focused on investing in infrastructure and amenities that our future residents will want and need. There are areas where the town has done a good job, such as investing in water, sewer and electrical infrastructure to ensure future needs are accounted for, but there are areas where more can be done. A big recent example is the town’s decision to rescind support for the downtown library project after significant public and private investment over the last few years. A library is more than a building, it is a symbol that the town is investing in the future needs of its citizens, and I would like to see the library get back on track to be an anchor in our revitalized downtown.

What qualities, characteristics and/or experience do you have that will help the town if elected?

As a small business owner I have seen first hand how it takes a supportive and engaged community to help a business succeed. To build that kind of community support I need to be an accessible owner, utilize all of the communication tools at my disposal to engage my supporters, and listening to my customers to better meet their needs. These are all things I feel our town government must do to meet the needs of taxpayers; be accessible and transparent, communicate effectively, and listen honestly to the needs of the citizens.

I have also seen directly how town government can support small businesses as they seek to start and grow. We chose to locate our business in downtown Smyrna because the town leadership was supportive and responsive to our needs, and they showed a willingness to invest in helping us succeed. We need more of that support and openness if we want to see more businesses choose to locate in our downtown and I feel I can help bring that perspective back to town council.

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FIRST DISTRICT CANDIDATES

Tabitha “Tabi” Gott (first district)

Age: 50

Years lived in Smyrna: 30 years

Family: Married 30 years to Russell Gott and we have two adult daughters, Kati and Ali Gott.

Education: High school graduate; some college at Wilmington University; Project manager certification from Delaware State University, CPAA.

Occupation: Work for Department of Correction in maintenance administration. I retired from mbna/Bank of America after 25 years. I was a strategic engineer, executive assistant/community liaison, human resources and credit analyst during my time with the bank.

Leadership experience:

Manager – mbna/Bank of America (11 years),

Trainer – mbna,

Event planner/wedding coordinator (6 years),

Chairperson for American Cancer Society – Relay (off and on over 12 years),

Christina School District workplace advisor (4 years),

Easter Seals/mbna – community coordinator (14 years),

Community Bible study – secretary (1 year),

Employee Recognition Committee – secretary (2 years),

Diversity/Unity Council – (2 years),

International Order of Jobs Daughter – (35+ years).

What are the three most important issues in Smyrna and how would you propose handling them?

Public safety – Ensuring that our community is safe and protected while encouraging positive growth and support. I would propose continuing the programs that are in place while growing the Public Safety Committee in Smyrna. Ideally the more participation and support that the community gives, the more involved and successful the endeavors will be going forward. This will allow us to remain a great community with a strong bond while wrapping our arms around new endeavors to resolve issues. I think public safety is also a huge factor in the success and positive growth of the children in Smyrna. This town is incredibly proud of our youth and their endeavors. I believe providing a safe environment helps encourage successful ambitions for everyone.

Library – Support plans to build a new library that will meet the needs illustrated in the University of Delaware assessment.

Taxes and finances – The Town of Smyrna has two sources of revenue: property taxes – which are low in comparison to other communities in Delaware – and utilities including water, sewer and trash. Studies have been done to compare Town of Smyrna utilities with other communities and have documented that the rates charged are consistent with other communities. We should make sure through studies and evaluations that are conducted by an outside source that Smyrna has a well-defined rate, process and utilities program for the citizens of our town.

As for finances, the mayor of the Town of Smyrna and the council have the responsibility, according to the town charter, to prioritize the needs of the town and “find the money” to pay for the necessities (approved and documented projects) within the town.

What qualities, characteristics and/or experience do you have that will help the town if elected?

I have a finance background that extends from credit analysis to project management. I feel that the details of the projects and programs that will help the community grow or require continued support to be maintained are critical in the success of the community. Our hometown is growing by leaps and bounds. I would like to be part of the successful decisions that ensure positive growth and success.

Addressing concerns, resolving issues, follow-up and following through to completion, networking, and producing results for the community, residents and businesses is a well-practiced skill that I take pride in. I welcome anyone to reach out to me to research issues or concerns. I may not know the answer immediately but I will address each concern and communicate with you along the way so that you have an understanding of what I am doing and what I anticipate accomplishing. With that being said, I appreciate and enjoy positive communication about what is going well so that we can use that as a cornerstone for continued success without having to “recreate the wheel” as we implement new opportunities and ideas within the community.

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Suzanne R. Harris (first district)

Age: 58

Years lived in Smyrna: 5 and 1/2 years.

Family: I am happily married to Jeffrey Harris. We have a blended family of six children. We have three grandchildren, William, 3, Kendell, 3, and Cayden, 1. I am most fortunate and blessed to be able to spend time with our grandchildren many days during the week. They are our joy.

Education: I have a year diploma in word processing from Delaware Technical and Community College in 1986. I have an associate's degree in human services from Delaware Technical and Community College in 1987. I have a bachelor's degree in psychology from Delaware State College (aka Delaware State University) in 1989. I was inducted as a member in Psi Chi National Honor Society for Psychology. I have taken two years (1989-1991) of graduate level classes in social work from Delaware State College, but chose not to complete my graduate degree.

Occupation: I am currently a house wife, home maker, grandchild supervisor – sounds funny but true.

In the past, for about 22 plus years, I worked for Child, Inc. and for Phoenix Behavioral Health as a parent aide, and later, as a home-based therapist. I worked with various agencies, the court, clients, maintained records and reports, and trained some incoming staff.

I have also worked at Claire's in the Dover Mall for a couple years. I was third-key, opened and closed the store, kept records, counted drawers, made bank runs, input and put up stock, pierced ears, and helped train new staff.

I was also a substitute teacher (K-12) for Capital School District for a couple years.

Leadership experience: I trained coworkers while working as a parent aide and home-based therapist. I also trained new staff at Claire's. I worked as a volunteer assistant art teacher at Kent Christian Academy for three years. I also helped set up and ran the daycare program at The Learning Center at Kent Christian Center for the first year as a volunteer. I am currently a part of the deaf ministry at the Pentecostals of Dover Delaware Church.

What are the three most important issues in Smyrna and how would you propose handling them?

The three most pressing issues in Smyrna, Delaware, according to the citizens with whom I spoke are public safety, bringing businesses which can thrive to the area, and the Duck Creek Regional Library.

Public safety seems to be paramount to many of the citizens and to me as well. There have been issues with drug dealings in public and various other community based problems. I would make myself available to meet and listen to the concerns and suggestions by the community. I would encourage the community to become involved in programs such as community watch and encourage involvement of the police so the community knows where to go and what to do if they are aware of crimes or dangers in the community.

It is important for Smyrna to bring businesses to help this town survive and thrive in today's economy. I would encourage and work with the town council to develop plans that encourage and promote small business inside the town, and other businesses to the industrial parks.

The Duck Creek Regional Library has been an issue in town for a while. I would encourage participation and cooperation to improve the library and its facilities between the citizens, the library association, and the town council. I would also not promote excessive taxes to support the library as there are alternative methods to explore that would not cause hardships on the citizens of Smyrna.

What qualities, characteristics and/or experience do you have that will help the town if elected?

I am good leader. I have worked as a social worker (public service) for many years. I know of many resources to help the citizens which I will represent. I take time to research before I make decisions and explore all options. I am not easily influenced by other people so I will work for what I believe and the citizens’ concerns despite opposition. I am easy to talk to, listen well, and will work hard for our beautiful little town.

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Ayonne Miles (first district)

Age: 21

Years lived in Smyrna: 12 years

Family: Not married, no children.

Education: Currently a student at Delaware Technical Community College majoring in Criminal Justice.

Occupation: Full-time student and social media marketing manager for multiple companies/organizations.

Leadership experience: I’ve been a member of Smyrna Troop 635 from the LDS Church since I was young. I now serve as assistant scoutmaster.

I’m a member, now an adult advisor, for the Masonic fraternal organization “DeMolay,” a group of young men, building tomorrow’s leaders today. I have held their highest local position of Master Councilor and received the “Representative DeMolay” award.

I was the online chair for Smyrna/Clayton Relay for Life until it was decided that we will no longer have an event.

What are the three most important issues in Smyrna and how would you propose handling them?

Communications – Residents should be aware of anything the town does or changes immediately. There should always be a public forum when any changes happen. We are the citizens and pay taxes for a reason. Right? The town’s website is outdated and difficult to navigate. This needs to be a complete redesign. Another key outline is social media. Most of the neighborhoods in Smyrna have some sort of group online. We need to utilize these groups. I plan on having a monthly separate meeting specifically for District 1 to keep our residents informed.

Small business – Smyrna businesses have had issues with starting and after a year or so closing down because not having enough business. With my experience in marketing, I want to visit struggling business owners and see how the mayor and council can best help keep them successful.

Public safety – We all want our community to be safe. There are drug issues in Smyrna. I will work actively with our police department and the mayor to come up with some solutions in high crime areas, whether it be increasing patrols or creating neighborhood watch programs that our police department can help with training on what to look out for.

What qualities, characteristics and/or experience do you have that will help the town if elected or re-elected?

I’ve worked on various campaigns over the past few years. I’ve been involved in multiple organizations and have been put into leadership roles. I have the dedication and experience in how to plan, organize and execute. I have experience for social media marketing that I started freelancing when I was 14 to big businesses. I’ve taken law classes to help understand why we do things a certain way. I grew up here in Smyrna and know the biggest struggle this town has. I can identify with the younger people as well.

To serve on town council I believe you have to be committed, diligent and effective.

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SECOND DISTRICT CANDIDATES

Scott Holmes (second district)

Age: 53

Years lived in Smyrna: 49 years

Family: Widower with three children and seven granddaughters.

Education: High school and U.S Army.

Occupation: Supervisor of buildings and grounds, Smyrna School District.

Leadership experience: Past Commander of American Legion Post 14, executive board member of American Legion Ambulance Station 64, and past executive board member of the Moose Lodge.

What are the three most important issues in Smyrna and how would you propose handling them?

Growth, infrastructure, and public safety.

What qualities, characteristics and/or experience do you have that will help the town if elected or re-elected?

I’m dependable with vast knowledge and experience in many areas. I always try to do the right thing. I work well with a diverse group of people.

I am running for office for the good of the town. This has been my home for most of my life and I only want what’s best for this town.

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Maggie (Margaret) Mann (second district)

Age: 62

Years lived in Smyrna: 27 years

Family: Married (Chris), three children, four grandchildren.

Education: Brandywine High School, University of Delaware, University of Central Missouri, Wilmington University (master's degree in career and technical ed).

Occupation: Retired teacher.

Leadership experience: Advisor for student leadership organizations and competitive culinary team, Holly’s Club member for 25 years (fundraising to support various non-profits and donations to local students and families), volunteer with Fresh Start Resource Center (support for families in need).

What are the three most important issues in Smyrna and how would you propose handling them?

Communication, transparency, and responsiveness: renew positive communication between council and citizens, conduct open town meetings, respond to citizen concerns, support positive town employee relationships.

Town development: renew efforts for downtown revitalization and neglected properties, encourage sustainable “destination” businesses and downtown events.

Support the development of a community center/library that would bring resources for citizens of all ages to our town.

What qualities, characteristics and/or experience do you have that will help the town if elected or re-elected?

As a former teacher, I understand the value of feedback and responsiveness, and I believe that I’m approachable and quite able to listen and respond to the concerns of my fellow citizens. I’m excited to have the opportunity to serve the people of the Town of Smyrna!