Briggs King resigns from office
Rep. Ruth Briggs King’s official resignation Nov. 15 marks the end of the steady presence and attention to detail she gave to the 37th District.
“I have enjoyed it. There’s a great amount of dedication to do the job and do it well,” the Georgetown Republican said. “I always tried to get out into the community to meet people and hear their concerns.”
While her resignation may seem sudden to some, Briggs King said she has been candid about property she and her husband bought a few years back so they could downsize and build a new home. The property, however, lies just over the 37th District line and is in the 35th District. State law - which Briggs King voted for - requires a legislator to immediately resign if they move out of the district they serve.
Briggs King was first elected in September 2009 during a special election for a seat vacated by former Rep. Joe Booth.
Since then, her presence at community meetings and events has been constant. When the heroin epidemic hit Sussex County, she held meetings and attended forums meant to curb the deadly trend, and to stop the rapid rise of drug-related crimes that hit the Long Neck area.
After the 2015 death of 8-month-old Aiden Hundley, a substance-exposed child who ultimately died at the hands of his parents, Briggs Kings was a primary sponsor of Aiden’s Law aimed at protecting infants exposed to illegal drugs and alcohol during the mother’s pregnancy.
Her attention to detail was evident when she regularly posed technical questions to legislation under discussion on the House floor or during committee hearings. In her last legislative session, Briggs King served on Appropriations, Health & Human Development, Corrections, Judiciary, Public Safety & Homeland Security, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, and the powerful Joint Finance Committee.
Access to state power brokers can often make more impact than simply writing new laws, she said.
She recalls telling Gov. John Carney that he needed to come to Sussex County and see first-hand the dire need for affordable housing. “It worked; he put in $25 million in his budget for housing in Sussex,” she said, referring to his last budget.
Briggs King said she appreciated meeting with Carney shortly after his 2016 election and sharing her two concerns at the time – a school board at Sussex Tech that had become an administrative arm, and unrest brewing in Delaware prisons.
Her prescient warning soon came true as a deadly riot took over a prison in Smyrna, and the state auditor released a report on multimillion-dollar mismanagement of funds at Sussex Tech.
Briggs King said she is pleased with the way Sussex Tech has returned to its vocational roots.
“It’s wonderful now,” she said. “They’re back on track with tech and doing apprenticeship programs. We all had that vision of what a vocational technical school should be.”
Looking ahead to her replacement, Briggs King said she would like to see a woman elected.
“Men look at things through a different lens,” she said. “It’s important to have that kind of voice.”
As the only elected Republican woman in the state Legislature, Briggs King said her position afforded her the chance to tackle issues such as the lack of OB/GYNs for women in Sussex County, and challenge hospital boards that had paltry female representation.
The 37th District is still Republican-leaning, but there are many Independents, she said. Whoever fills her seat must have the right sense of desire to serve all constituents in the 37th District, she said.
“Just be yourself, be attentive. People respect that,” she said.
Under new election rules, the speaker of the House must issue a writ of election within 10 days of a House vacancy calling for a special election. The Department of Elections then sets a special election about a month after the writ of election is issued. By state law, the chair of the county committee for each political party must name a candidate to run in a special election that will be held to replace Briggs King.
Jones Giltner announces for seat
A day after Briggs King’s resignation, Georgetown resident Valerie Jones Giltner announced her interest in the 37th District seat.
In a press release sent Nov. 16, the retired critical care nurse and healthcare consultant said she has contacted the Sussex County Republican Party chair and stressed that she is motivated to run an aggressive campaign to represent all the people of the 37th District.
"I am excited to announce my candidacy for state representative and to continue the great legacy of public service that Rep. Briggs King has started,” she said. “I am committed to maintaining her hard work ethic and community service for the people of the 37th District."
Jones Giltner said her priorities include strengthening working families, protecting citizens’ freedoms while limiting burdensome government regulations, maintaining safe and secure classrooms, improving healthcare for communities, and ensuring government accountability and efficiency.
She was raised and educated in Sussex County, graduating from Sussex Central High School. Active in the community with deep ties to the Georgetown and Millsboro areas, Jones Giltner is past president of the Delmarva Christian High School Parent-Teacher-Fellowship Board, served as a lead fundraiser for Delaware Elite Basketball, participated in food bank and Habitat for Humanity outreach efforts, and volunteered with the Felton/Harrington Little League.
Briggs King said she supports Jones Giltner for the 37th District.
“The district would be well served to have another woman,” she said.