At the 2011 dedication ceremony for the newly opened Nanticoke Senior Center, then Mayor Ed Butler gave credit for the new center, located in the former Seaford Golf and Country Club clubhouse, to another former mayor, Bill Slatcher.
Slatcher was driving by the clubhouse with his wife, then city manager Dolores Slatcher, when he mentioned that he thought that the building would make a nice home for the senior center, Butler said.
“That’s how it all started,” Butler told the crowd at the ceremony. “Dolores went back to the office, called me and called some people from the senior center, and that same day, we went to Dover to meet with people from Wilmington Trust,” the bank that held the $1.8 million mortgage on the country club.
Soon after, members of the club voted to give the board permission to sell the country club property, including the clubhouse and the golf course. Today, because of that sale to the city, citizens not only have the senior center, but the city-owned golf course and Seaford Community Swim Center as well.
Bill Slatcher’s role in helping that to happen was just one of several ways he worked to benefit the city of Seaford. He served as mayor from 1969 to 1984 and as state senator for the 21st Senatorial District in 1985-’86 and 1987-’88. He was chairman of the city’s firetruck restoration committee, which oversaw the restoration of the Seaford Volunteer Fire Company’s 100-year-old Engine No. 1, now on display in the Seaford Fire Museum on High Street. And he was chairman of a task force set up in 2005 to study the feasibility of building a new senior center, which at the time was located in the Western Sussex Boys and Girls Club building.
Slatcher, 93, died Thursday, June 27, at his home in Seaford. On Sunday, members of the House of Representatives paused their last working day of the legislative year at 4 p.m. for a moment of silence in his memory. And at his funeral on Monday in St. John’s United Methodist Church, where Slatcher was a member and lay minister, city manager Charles Anderson presented Slatcher’s widow, Dolores, with a proclamation from the House, recognizing his service to the city and to the state.
“It was a fitting thing for us to say thanks for all that he did,” said state Rep. Danny Short, who spoke briefly about Slatcher in the House before the moment of silence. “The people who have served the city in the past have set the bar pretty high for those of us in there now. They did all the right things, and worked hard to make sure that things were taken care of, and Bill set the standard for that.”
Short was elected a city councilman several years after Slatcher left the mayor’s seat. Even so, he was familiar with his work ethic and appointed him chairman of the firetruck restoration committee. “Bill’s leadership on that was extraordinary,” he said. “He made sure that everything was done to the nth degree.”
Guy Longo was a city councilman for six years while Slatcher was mayor, then became mayor after Slatcher retired. “We’ve come a long way in the last 50 years, and Bill Slatcher was a big part of that,” Longo said. “He had a lot of interest in doing things to enable the city to develop economically. He was a big supporter of not keeping stagnant.”
Longo said that during Slatcher’s time as mayor, the city began realizing that the DuPont nylon plant would not continue to employ the thousands of people it had employed in the 1970s. City government “began doing things to offset what they felt was inevitable,” he said. That included extending the city’s water and sewer lines, to be more appealing to companies looking for a home. It also included promoting growth along the U.S. 13 corridor, Longo said.
“When I came here in the 1960s, Seaford had a Tastee Freez on Stein Highway and the [Nylon Capital] shopping center, and that was about it,” Longo said. “We were just a sleepy little town. A lot of the planning for what we are today took place under Slatcher.”
Slatcher was also instrumental in developing the Seaford Industrial Park, which welcomed its first business in the mid-1980s.
“He always worked toward a good business model,” Short said. “Without the industrial park, when DuPont started downsizing, we would have been way behind the eight-ball.”
“Mayor Slatcher’s legacy will certainly be one of progress in the city,” said city manager Charles Anderson. “Without his vision, Seaford would not have the infrastructure in place to benefit from the economic development opportunities that we were able to take advantage of. These critical investments led to growth, jobs creation and opportunities that benefited our community and all of western Sussex County.”
In addition to his work with city and state government, Slatcher was also one of the founders and organizers of Better Homes of Seaford Inc., which was started in 1969. The nonprofit corporation’s first task was developing Chandler Heights, an affordable apartment complex in the city. Since then, it has developed six more housing projects for low-income families and senior citizens for a total of 250 apartments, and is preparing to start on its eighth project, Herring Ridge, which will add 34 apartments for senior citizens.
Bill Roupp is executive director of Better Homes of Seaford. He said that Slatcher’s role in the organization is still paying dividends to the community.
“Bill’s leadership and inspiration in the development of Better Homes of Seaford Inc. continues to provide new, safe, decent and affordable housing for the residents of Seaford,” he added.
David Genshaw is currently Seaford’s mayor, the fifth since Slatcher left office. When he graduated from Seaford High in 1983, Slatcher was approaching the end of his tenure as the city’s mayor.
Despite the length of time that separates their years of service, Genshaw holds Slatcher in high esteem.
“When you get elected, you are never sure how long you will hold that position,” Genshaw said. “A true statesman should be concerned not only about the impact of any legislation passed today, but for future generations of citizens, employees, and the elected who will serve after you.
“Seaford is very fortunate to have had leaders like Bill Slatcher, who are dedicated and hard-working. Even long after holding an office, he continued to serve our community. He will be missed.”