The town of Blades will hold its annual municipal election for mayor and two councilmen on Monday, June 5 at town hall from 2 to 6 p.m. Two candidates have filed for the position of mayor: Robert Atkinson (incumbent) and Sharon Alston. The candidate receiving the highest number of votes shall be elected mayor and serve a two-year term.
There are three candidates for councilman: William “Bill” Stang (incumbent), Joseph Donahue and Garold Miller. The two candidates receiving the highest number of votes shall be elected for a two-year term for councilman.
Anyone needing an absentee ballot should contact Town Administrator Lisa Marks at town hall as soon as possible.
Candidates were asked to respond to five questions for this article. Their answers were used to provide the profiles below.
Candidates for Mayor
Robert Atkinson, incumbent mayor, moved to Blades in 2007. He has traced his family’s presence in Delaware back to the 1630s.
Atkinson has 38 years experience in retail sales; 30 of those years in management. “I understand people and money,” he said.
He served five years on the Blades town council and two years as mayor in 2015-16, then again in 2021-23. When he became mayor the second time, he was told the town would run out of money by the end of June and would have to raise taxes by $200,000. By collecting past due taxes and water bills, he was able to pay past due debts the town owed — without raising taxes.
There are a lot of “best things” about living in Blades, Atkinson said. “I like the easy living of ‘Lower Slower Delaware.’ The lack of traffic. Going to church on Sunday. My friends at Dunkin’ Donuts and morning coffee. My past rounds of golf with Danny and Mike. Most Town Hall meetings. Being able to take a morning walk. And I just like people. I didn’t want to bring Baltimore to Blades; I wanted to be part of Blades.”
Some of the major problems: “Our Police Chief needs the town to support his efforts while he rebuilds the police department. We are working with the EPA for possible expansion of our water delivery to an area outside of town with need. We are working to deliver water to east Blades across Route 13. We are trying get our right to annexation back so we can expand the town limits in areas that would provide job opportunities.”
Asked what changes he would like to see to make Blades a better place, Atkinson said he would like to see the town eventually build a youth center on the dry cleaner property (a Superfund site), once it is cleaned up and safe for use. Plans might include a study hall for after school and an indoor basketball court.
Sharon Alston, mayoral candidate, moved to Blades with her husband two years ago. “We visited many areas in Delaware over the course of a few years before choosing Blades as the place where we would retire. We liked its small size and the friendly people,” she said.
As for experience, she has managed large and small teams, has had budget oversight and managed projects, and understands the importance of working together with different organizations to reach a goal. “I am also a problem-solver,” Alston said. “I believe in bringing the team together, respecting their knowledge, experience and points of view, in order to address concerns. Finally, I am a caring person with a strong work ethic, who studies hard, is a good listener, and results-driven.
Alston added, “The small size of Blades is a plus. As a result, people are friendly, look out for each other, and are welcoming. The size makes you feel as if you are a real part of the community. Diversity of the residents is another plus. So is the location. The area has so much to offer: access to beaches, antiquing, shopping, cultural, and other events. I also appreciate that we celebrate history and traditions here. Finally, I appreciate the community-oriented approach of our police department. They take an interest in getting to know the residents and being visible.
“The town would benefit from more business development (supermarkets, home improvement, restaurants and so forth),” she said.
There are four areas where Alston would suggest changes:
“First, we would benefit from more retail business.
“Second, I believe we need to improve our communication by using different ways to reach our residents. Use of the website and social media are helpful but not everyone is comfortable with technology. We should consider creating a newsletter that is mailed to residents, perhaps on a quarterly basis. This could include a calendar of upcoming events and other items of note occurring within the quarter. Residents could still be directed to the web, Facebook and such for additional updates.
“Third, I believe we need to get our residents more involved. This might take several forms:
• “‘Neighborhood associations’” across the town that would serve in an advisory capacity to the Town Council and provide input. It could also serve as a “training ground” for those who might have an interest in serving on the Council at a later date.
• “A youth advisory group would also engage our younger citizens in the community – providing them with insight into the workings of government within the town as well as a leadership opportunity that would serve them well when applying to college.
• “Activities that are focused on getting residents registered to vote.
• “We should work to improve safety. Niche.com has reported a Community/Safety grade of C+ for our town (Note: Niche.com is a national company that runs a ranking and review site. The Community/Safety grade is based on violent and property crime information as reported by the FBI). As a small town we can best promote our public safety by following the ‘see something – say something’ rule. Additionally, we should work with our public safety officers to develop neighborhood watch programs. Finally, we should also come together to discuss our concerns and how best these can be addressed.”
Candidates for Council
William Stang is an incumbent member of the town council who was asked to serve the remaining term of the late Joseph Russell. He has lived in the Seaford area for 35 years, four of those years in Blades. In his professional career in architectural millwork, he has managed a lot of people, he said.
“For the past year, I have listened, watched and learned much. I like people and have a strong desire to help in any way that I can to make Blades a community people want to live in.”
Some of the best things about Blades are the people and their diverse backgrounds. “We are close to major roads and fire, rescue and medical services,” he noted.
A major problem he sees is “maintaining a budget without overburdening the citizens. We need open communications and civic pride.”
One change he would like to see is “transparency in government.” He added, “I feel the council is on the right path to making Blades a more cohesive community, one where citizens can show their pride by being the best that they can be.”
Joe Donahue has lived in Blades for three and a half years. He held management positions in the military for 21 years and also managed in a union role throughout his employment career.
One of the best things about Blades is its location, Donahue said. “It’s a somewhat quiet community and town.”
Problems he sees are “issues of revitalization that have to be addressed and resolved. They are not magically going to go away.
“The town should have a common goal to better itself for the good of the community, to gain the respect of the state of Delaware and beyond.
“Don’t look into the future until the present problems and issues are resolved,” he continued. “Everyone involved should leave their egos and personalities at the door. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Please, everyone, work together to make this a better town for future generations. Sussex County is growing, don’t let the town of Blades be left behind.”
Asked what changes he would suggest, Donahue said, “To me, revitalization is very important for the growth and the future of this town.”
Garold Miller left New Jersey to be nearer to his brother in Dover. He has lived in Blades for three years. Miller owned a condo in Ocean City in the 1970s.
In his former residence in Jackson Township, New Jersey, Miller served on the rent leveling board for 12 years, the zoning board for four years and the planning board for two years. He also served for six years in a volunteer national position with Housing and Urban Development’s Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (HUD-MHCC).
In the town where he grew up, his mother was on the planning board. She tried to quit at age 85, but the mayor and both parties asked her to stay, which she did for four more years. She taught Miller and his four siblings that being part of a community means working for the community in many ways.
The surroundings in Blades are “absolutely beautiful,” Miller said. He appreciates the much lower taxes than he was paying in New Jersey. He also likes to bicycle and feels he can “ride all over in a nice, safe community.”
Some of the problems he sees in Blades are drugs and development — the lack of a plan for in-town growth. Things seem to have been done on a spur-of-the-moment idea, with no plans for the future, he said. “I would like to see that changed.”
Miller does not want to hear, “That’s the way we have done it in the past.” He would prefer to hear what the town’s engineer has to say about a proposed development rather than the developer’s engineer’s opinion.
Changes he would suggest include an increase to at least seven members on the Planning and Zoning Board; a five- or ten-year master plan; a re-opened seafood restaurant; something done with the former dry cleaner property; and a program to help upgrade older homes in town.
“Overall, I’m happy with the mayor and what I see on the council,” Miller concluded.