Rogers says experience will allow him to 'hit the ground running'

June 12, 2012

Lynn Rogers figures his appeal is simple. He’s as local as you can get. Rogers, the former 12-year Sussex County councilman, is running for the new 20th Representative District. He will face fellow Democrat Marie Mayor in the Tuesday, Sept. 11 primary.

At last week’s meeting of the Eastern Sussex Democrats held at Bethany Blues on Route 1, Rogers was asked why someone should  support him rather than his opponent in the primary.

Rogers didn’t hesitate.

“I’ve been here all my life,” Rogers began. “I know the county. I know the people. I know every road in this county pretty much and that district especially.”

He pointed to his experience, which, in addition to county council, includes 29 years as fire chief of Milton and 41 years as business owner of Rogers Signs, creating jobs, meeting a payroll. (Among the signs he has made was one for his opponent Marie Mayor’s business, Lavender Fields farm in Milton.)

“I’ve got political strengths. I’ve sat in Dover [at the General Assembly]. I’ve sat in county council forever. I’ve been to board of adjustment, planning and zoning.”

Much of that interest was because of his leadership role as a volunteer firefighter. “We had concerns, so we were always at the Legislature. We had a relationship with the legislators.”

That relationship - with legislators and their staffs - will allow him to “hit the ground running.”

“I think it will be a real good thing for Sussex County Council to have somebody in Dover who has experience with what they go through down here,” he said.

He did not mention any issues he hoped to champion or his differences with Mayor, who also attended the luncheon meeting of about 20 people.

During the question-and-answer session, referring to a continuing controversy, one man asked, “Is the sheriff the chief law enforcement officer of the county?”

(Sussex County Sheriff Jeff Christopher has been contending that the Delaware Constitution’s reference to the sheriff as a “conservator of the peace” grants him full police powers.)

Rogers mentioned various problems with creating, in effect, a county police department - including the expense, jurisdictional issues - but seemed to favor a judicial rather than legislative solution.

“The Supreme Court needs to address [the issue], put it to bed, get it over with,” he said.

He pointed out an interesting sidelight to the sheriff issue. Until 1968, he said, school custodians were called “conservators of the peace, just like the sheriff was.”

That wording in the Constitution, Rogers said, was removed by the Legislature. Which makes me wonder why it would be a problem for the Legislature to remove that same wording for the sheriff.

Rogers back in the ring

Rogers stepped aside from county council in 2008 after his wife Linda was seriously injured in a horse-riding accident that broke 24 of her bones.

The initial prognosis could hardly have been more grave. Doctors gave her little chance of surviving, much less walking again. She spent 18 months in rehabilitation.

“They said she’d never walk again,” Rogers said, “but I think those grandbabies is the reason she walked.”

But now that she’s home again “she said I’m spending too much time around the house, taking too much of her space, and she wants me to get out there.”

Married 39 years, Rogers said he and his future wife met while he was harvesting lima beans south of Milford, when he was 12 years old.

Waiting for the mechanic after his machinery broke down, he said she came “bouncing across the field,” bringing him an iced tea. “She’s been the apple of my eye my whole life.”

Mayor campaigns on the issues

After the meeting, Mayor discounted the importance of having been born and raised in Sussex County to represent the 20th District.

Noting the huge influx of people in the past 10 years, Mayor said, “We’ve come here at different times, but we’re all in the same boat now.”

Referring to Rogers’ talk, which emphasized his experience with county council and his life in general, Mayor said she would have spent more time on issues, such as education, healthcare and the economy.

The 20th Representative District, which was moved from New Castle County following redistricting, includes Lewes and Milton.

As it stands, the winner of the Mayor-Rogers primary will face Republican Stephen Smyk of Milton in the November general election. The deadline for candidates to file is July 10.

Odds and ends: Rogers said that based on his experience with his sign business, “the economy is starting to come back.” The last four years, he said, have been tough. People still wanted signs made, but he said they were having a difficult time paying for them.

Other candidates attending the meeting included Joan Deaver, running for re-election to Sussex County Council; Andy Staton, candidate for the Sixth Senate District; and Mitch Crane of Lewes, who at Saturday’s State Democratic Convention in Dover became the party’s endorsed candidate for insurance commissioner.

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