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Five file for three seats on Lewes BPW

First election since 2011
April 9, 2018

For the first time since 2011, an election will be held for the Lewes Board of Public Works. Five people filed for the three open seats. 

Board President C. Wendell Alfred and board members Robert Kennedy III and Jack Lesher will each seek another term, while newcomers John Mavromatis and Thomas Panetta look to earn a spot at the table. 

The election will be held Saturday, May 12. Voter registration must be done in person at the BPW office, 107 Franklin Ave., during regular weekday hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., or from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, April 21. Deadline to register to vote is Friday, April 27. 

C. Wendell Alfred

Alfred has been on the BPW board for 18 years, the last seven years as president. He originally ran unsuccessfully for a seat, but shortly after the election was appointed by Mayor George H.P. Smith after one of the members stepped down. He’s lived in Lewes for 22 years. 

He said his reasons for running then and now are very similar. He spent 40 years working for insurance companies in the loss-control field. Safety was a priority in his job, and that’s something he said he believes to be very important for the BPW staff. 

His major goals are to continue replacing the city’s aging infrastructure, including pipes that are more than 75 years old. 

“We need to keep working with staff and our engineer to prioritize and plan and move forward with [a plan],” he said. “We still have a lot of unfinished business, and I want to be a part of that moving forward.” 

He said he’d like to continue improving communications and relationships with the BPW’s customers, whether through timely alerts of outages, main breaks and other issues or continued analyzation of the BPW’s various rates for services. 

Robert Kennedy

Kennedy is seeking his second term on the BPW board. He ran unopposed in 2016. 

He was born and raised in Lewes and resided in the town until he entered active duty with the U.S. Army. Following a two-year commitment, he resumed working for Fish Products Company until the company was sold in 1974. He’s owned property in Lewes nearly his entire life, but again became a full-time resident in 2004 upon the completion of his home in Cape Shores. 

He worked for 21 years as executive director and senior regulatory officer at Delaware Public Service Commission. 

“Overall, I think my first term is going well,” he said. “My initial focus was spent reviewing BPW policies, getting to know our employees and visiting and inspecting our utility equipment and operations.”

He credits the lack of a learning curve to the openness and willingness of the board and BPW staff to help whenever possible.

If reelected, he said, he would like to continue to provide safe, reliable and dependable utility service at the lowest cost, accelerate the replacement of aging water mains and valves and institute an early warning monitoring of water quality in the aquifer. 

He’d also like to extend water and sewer services to developed and to-be-developed properties to protect the environment, continue to find innovative ways to reduce the cost of electricity, increase the amount of renewable energy in the BPW’s portfolio and review the rates and rate structure on a regular basis. 

He said the biggest challenge to the BPW is unprecedented growth in the service area and its impacts on the environment and need for utility services. 

Jack Lesher

Much like Alfred, Lesher was appointed to the board after an unsuccessful bid in the 2011 election. He hasn’t had to run for his seat since. 

Lesher has lived in Lewes for 20 years, retiring to the area following a 29-year career as a certified public account in Lancaster, Pa. He says his accounting background is his biggest asset to the board. 

“The board needs a financially minded person – there’s just too much money there,” he said.

He said there’s $15 million in the BPW’s reserve account that needs to be cared for and watched over and an additional $13 million in revenue that comes in each year. 

“That needs oversight, procedures and audit, and that’s what I do,” he said. “I try to speak in terms of a layman. It’s almost a pleasure doing this. I like to share what I can.” 

He said the BPW is much like any other small business in that the staff wears many hats. He’s there to help with the finances in any way possible. 

John Mavromatis

Mavromatis entered the race, in part, because he didn’t want to see the incumbents get another term without an election. 

“There needs to be a little more excitement in the race,” he said. “We need a reason to have people get interested in the candidates.”

He continued: “Personally, I don’t think they’re doing a bad job. I’m not running against any particular guy. I’m running to win the election.” 

Since filing to run, he said, he’s talked to about 50 people, and two-thirds were unaware BPW had an election separate from city council.

Mavromatis bought a cottage in Lewes in 1974 and used it as a summer home before moving full-time to the town in 2008. He is originally from Newark, and his wife is from Georgetown. 

He spent his career as a building materials salesman and moved around a lot, living in North Carolina; Lancaster, Pa.; and Richmond, Va. 

If elected, he said, he’ll continue to beat the drum about the BPW being a separate entity from city council. He’d like to build up interest among the public.

“To me, the only negative thing [about the current BPW] is people don’t know about it or, possibly, that they don’t even care,” he said.

Tom Panetta

Panetta brings 30 years of experience in the electrical power generation and distribution area working for GE and as a consultant. 

He said he threw his hat into the ring because he wants to improve the BPW on a number of fronts, including potential impact of annexation on existing infrastructure, the affect of sea-level rise on BPW infrastructure and future regulation of stormwater runoff. 

“I see my experience in power and electrical distribution along with my analytical skills as being useful to help address these issues in a cost-effective manner,” he said.

Panetta has owned property in Lewes since 2001 and moved to the town full time after renovating a turn-of-the-century Victorian home. 

He’s been a member of the Lewes Planning Commission for the last three years, and was a founding member of the Historic Architectural Review Board when he lived in Phoenixville, Pa.