Four candidates have filed to run in Milton’s municipal election, with two candidates for council seats and two candidates filing to run for mayor.
In the mayor’s race, Mayor Ted Kanakos will be up against Councilman John Collier.
Kanakos has served on Milton Town Council since 2015 and was elected mayor in 2016. He was re-elected unopposed in 2019.
“I feel the challenge is still there,” Kanakos said. “I feel the town and the council are doing good work.”
One of the biggest challenges, he said, is the future of the town’s wastewater system after the sale of Tidewater Environmental Services, the town’s wastewater provider since 2007, to Artesian Wastewater. The town is currently trying to appeal the Delaware Public Service Commission’s approval of the sale, although Kanakos said the town and Artesian are working out a deal to settle contractual obligations Tidewater was on the hook for.
Kanakos said when he became mayor, the town did not have a police chief or a town manager. Now, he said, Milton has a police force of nine and has become attractive to developers wanting their properties to be a part of the town through annexation.
“They want to annex into something that has a great water infrastructure, a great police force, that’s safe,” Kanakos said.
He said annexations are in part a way to defend the town, as it allows for the town to have input on growth and development, whereas if developers build within county jurisdiction, the town has no say.
Collier was elected to town council in 2020, his second go-around on the council after previously serving from 2013 to 2014. He left at that time to take a job as the town’s project coordinator, a title he held until 2019.
As for why he decided to run for mayor, Collier said, “I believe it’s time for a change. Too many items in this town, the can keeps getting kicked down the road. I think it’s time to put a stop to it.”
Among those items, Collier said, are sidewalks, crossings, Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and planning for growth.
“I don’t believe at this time the current leadership is looking at it that far down the road. We have a lot to be proud of in this town, but if we allow for new growth to come in and overshadow what we have to be proud of, it just becomes the rundown side of town, and I don’t want that. If we don't start today, we’re going to be in trouble the day after tomorrow,” Collier said.
He said the town has been fortunate so far to receive federal funding for infrastructure projects, since the town would be responsible for serving the capacity needs of new growth.
“If we didn’t have this money, we would have to think long and hard about whether to accept these annexations we’re accepting now, because if we had to serve the entire Granary parcel tomorrow, we couldn’t do that. And with these additional applications, we have to look even further ahead,” Collier said.
Both Kanakos and Collier said despite being political opponents who still have to work together on council, the mayor’s race should not affect their working relationship.
“I’ve known John for years. It’s something that was a personal choice of his, and we’ll go forward. I’m looking forward to it,” Kanakos said.
“At the end of the day, I still represent the same people on the council that I’d represent as mayor. I do not intend to let the council table become a forum for a campaign. When it’s meeting time, it’s business,” Collier said.
In the council race, Annette Babich and Councilman Larry Savage were the only people to file, so they will win the two available seats. Longtime Councilman Sam Garde chose not to run for re-election. Babich and Savage will be sworn in at council’s April meeting.
Savage will serve a full term after being appointed to council in May to serve the remainder of former Councilman Michael Coté’s term after Cote passed away in April 2020.
“It was a privilege and honor to finish the term of Mr. Coté,” Savage said. “I’m liking what I’m doing and would like to serve three more years.”
Savage is an Army veteran who spent a 39-year career with Wilmington Trust. He has lived in Milton for more than 40 years and has served in various town capacities: as treasurer of Milton Community Foundation, a member of the Milton Board of Adjustment and chair of the town’s board of elections.
“This town has really grown,” he said. “I would like the town to maintain its small-town atmosphere, but at the same time, we need growth.”
Savage said he would like to do more work to help lower-income families in Milton, and continue to learn more about the wants and needs of the community. He said he wanted to further encourage small business development within downtown Milton, and he believes the town needs to figure out a solution to finding more parking downtown.
Babich moved to Milton from Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2018, when she and partner Mal Meehan established Inn The Doghouse bed and breakfast on Chestnut Street. After coming to Milton, Babich helped establish the Dog Days of Summer festival, and she serves on the Milton Theatre board of directors.
“I truly love Milton and plan to stay here for the long term and make it my home. Having lived in a big city, I have a deep appreciation for the beauty and charm of a small town; friendly, a simpler life, safe, and all of the town activities,” she said.
Babich said she had three major issues she wanted to tackle on council. First, further development and promotion of Milton’s commercial district, including revitalization of Front Street as spelled out in the town’s comprehensive development plan. She said she would like to establish an economic committee to promote and facilitate responsible growth in the commercial sector.
Second, Babich wants to establish an arts and culture committee to promote and grow the arts in Milton. She also would like to build a community center in town.
Finally, Babich would like to establish an events committee to work with community leaders on promoting Milton and helping attract visitors.