Wilmington City Council recommends candidate advance in vacancy process
A Council committee of the whole interviewed seven candidates for the seat Friday. They recommended Linda Gray advance to a full vote by Council.
The 1st District seat has been open since November, when former councilman Nnamdi Chukwuocha was elected to the General Assembly. Chukwuocha’s twin brother, Albert Mills, failed to get full-council approval last year after being recommended by a five-member selection committee.
Gray is president of the Brandywine Hills Community Association, a member of the 1st District Neighborhood Planning Council and a retired magistrate judge.
She nearly fell short in committee. Councilwoman Yolanda McCoy initially voted against recommending Gray, then changed her vote to ‘yes.’
“I just did not feel like going through this process again, and I felt as though we should make certain that 1st District is represented,” said McCoy.
At-large Councilwoman Rysheema Dixon voted against the recommendation. She supported candidate Subira Ibrahim. “I know the work that she has put in thus far and also the community support that’s come behind her. So I thought it was kind of unfair to a certain degree to go against that request,” said Dixon.
A recent ordinance changed the controversial process for filling a vacancy. It allowed interviews to be conducted by the entire council in public. Friday’s deliberations were closed to the public.
Council is expected to vote on Gray’s nomination at its Thursday meeting.
Gray, who is also a former probation and parole officer, said in her interview she would consider “compassion and accountability” when making decisions about tax hikes. She also noted her membership on several boards including the Brandywine Zoo.
Ibrahim, who some council members had advocated for before Friday’s interviews, listed her involvement in several civic organizations, including as president of the 1st District Neighborhood Planning Council. Her background is in cosmetology, and she said she has owned salons in Wilmington and Philadelphia.
“It’s the responsibility of City Council to work together with the Mayor to better the lives of the residents, employees and visitors that come to the City,” said Ibrahim. She emphasized the importance of listening and communicating with constituents.
Candidate John Fisher-Klein, who works at the state Department of Education, cited in his interview experience as the executive director of AIDS Delaware and work at A Better Chance for our Children, the Delaware Humane Society and Faithful Friends. He said he values diversity “over many things,” and would not hesitate to vote to raise property taxes if it meant preserving social services for “those of us who need the most assistance.”
In his interview, candidate Harry Marrero emphasized the importance of council members representing the desires of the constituents who live in their districts. “I’ve always said City Council is the body that represents all the residents of the City of Wilmington,” he said. Marrero, now retired, said he worked as a housing inspector at the Wilmington Housing Authority and served on the board of the Latin American Community Center.
Candidate Haneef Salaam, who was born and raised in the City of Wilmington, said one of his biggest strengths is to “foster collaboration and bring people together.” He said there is work to be done in the city improving quality of life and workforce development.
Pastor Tyrone Johnson is also a member of the 1st District Neighborhood Planning Council. When asked what values a council member should consider when voting on tax increases, Johnson said, “I’m more of a social person, that’s my claim to fame. So I would probably look at raising property taxes, but I would also look outside to get some help— state, federal resources.”
Raheemah Jabbar-Bey is an assistant professor in the Biden School of Public Policy & Administration at the University of Delaware, with expertise in community-based economic development and neighborhood and community planning.
Jabbar-Bey said in her interview one of the primary functions of City Council is “holding the administration accountable.” She urged council members to “dig deeper” on proposed policies.
“We can’t divide,” she said. “We’ve got to bring people together.”