hour-long valedictory speech, he recounted a dramatic turnaround
from an inherited $100 million budget deficit to a $242 million
surplus while completely restructuring county government,
expanding public services ranging from libraries to police
protection, providing folksy activities like overnight campouts
and swapping politics for professional management.
repeatedly emphasized, it was all done without increasing the
property tax or sewer fees.
worked tirelessly to bring opportunities for happiness here to
the 'End of the Rainbow' -- New Castle County," he said.
Officially, the occasion was the executive's annual report to
County Council on the condition of county government and
presentation of his proposed operating and capital budgets.
of that part of the proceedings was a proposal for the county to
provide $10 million toward development of the long-planned
Peterson Wildlife Refuge at the southern end of the Christina
Riverfront in Wilmington. Named for former Delaware Governor
Russell Peterson, who was in the audience, the 225-acre site is
to have walking trails and an educational center.
referred to the venture as being undertaken in partnership with
state, but did not spell out details of that arrangement. County
Council responded with the introduction, during its business
session following the speech, of an ordinance sponsored by
Councilman William Tansey authorizing an $11 million bond issue
to finance the project. The other $1 million would go toward
development of Iron Hill Park and Museum near Newark.
talk Gordon also proposed putting up $1 million toward
development of a 'greenway' system of connected walking and
bicycling paths throughout the county.
proposed operating budget calls for spending $205.9 million in
the fiscal year beginning July 1. That would be a 5.5% increase
over the $195.2 million authorized this year.
largest percentage increase, 37.3%, would go to cover the cost
of expanding County Council from seven to 13 members. At its
business session, Council approved adding $1.5 million to this
year's capital budget and authorization to finance remodeling of
its office area in the Redding Building to accommodate the new
members and their aides.
on that was unanimous, although Tansey, who sponsored the
measure, called the state law requiring expansion "an 'unfunded'
mandate by the governor that is completely politically
motivated." Governor Ruth Ann Minner vetoed legislation that
would have annulled the expansion and observers regard it as
highly unlikely that the General Assembly will override her
budget calls for adding 10 officers to bring the county police
force to an authorized strength of 356 and four paramedics to
increase that force to 99. He also proposed providing $500,000
to the Wilmington Fire Department to finance life-support
services, reducing the city's reliance on the county's volunteer
will the additional spending not require a tax increase, but
Gordon announced the channeling of the budget surplus into
several reserve accounts to, among other purposes, "protect the
[present] property tax rate" and "user-rate stabilization" of
the sewer fund.
executive urged that the surplus be carefully watched. "I worked
hard to secure this surplus and it belongs to every taxpayer in
the county. It is yours to be invested in your best interest and
happiness, not some future politician's treasure chest or trust
fund to buy political support and popularity," he said.
devoted the core of his speech to lauding, by name, the general
managers of the county's operating departments and their staffs.
"There was no way to accomplish what we did without these
general managers," he said.
that, he added, was putting top department management into the
hands of professionals promoted from the ranks of county
employees through a civil service-style merit system. "Each
current general manager was an expert internally in departmental
operations, but never allowed to manage because of politically
appointed directors. The political nature of the job required
their focus to be the re-election of the administration, not on
making hard, often unpopular decisions inside departments," he
reserved his most effusive praise for Sherry Freebery, the
county's chief administrative officer. "Everything I have
outlined this evening and in similar speeches of years past, is
due to her infectious enthusiasm, her can-do attitude and her
brilliant ability to create remarkable reality from simple
vision," he said. "She has taken so many undeserved attacks so
that I may take credit for all that has been accomplished."
who is seeking to succeed Gordon, immediately turned the tables
by calling out of an anteroom, where people who could not fit
into the overcrowded Council chamber gathered to watch and hear
the speech by closed-circuit television had gathered, a
congratulatory receiving line of civic leaders, beneficiaries of
county services and costumed re-enactors.