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Progress on Wilmington City Council vacancy stalls

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
A recent city council meeting

The controversy over a vacant seat on Wilmington City Council continues.


Thursday’s meeting brought Wilmington City Council no closer to filling the open  First District seat. It was left vacant by the election of former councilman Nnamdi Chukwuocha to the Delaware General Assembly last month.

City Councilwoman Loretta Walsh had requested that Albert Mills, Chukwuocha’s twin brother and the choice of a council committee, be reconsidered after he was rejected by a council vote last week. But she put the issue on hold Thursday.  

“Because I don’t have the votes,” said Walsh.

Councilman Bud Freel hit pause on another agenda item— his resolution asking the General Assembly to change how council vacancies are filled to a special election.

“Once we have more of a concrete idea of what that special election would look like. Then come back to council and do a resolution to show our support. Because as you know it has to be handled in the General Assembly,” he said. “I just want to be able to give them more specific information.”

He called the current system “archaic.”

“We followed the process, we did everything we were supposed to do,” said Freel. “I think it’s time for a change.”

Walsh is also in favor of special elections to fill future vacancies.

“Well, we would have liked a special election from the beginning. Except that wasn’t our choice,” she said. “We have to follow a charter. We took an oath of office to do that. And unfortunately right now, between all of the regulations, a special election is not on the table. So we’re going to have to get permission from Dover to do that.”

District 1 resident Alan Lawrence is in favor of special elections.

“Even if the General Assembly does not approve it, at the very least they know that the people of the 1st District care about their right to vote,” he said.

Responding to reports a special election could be cost-prohibitive, Lawrence asked, “What’s the price tag for the right to vote?”  

Freel says he believes similar elections cost in the range of $35,000 to $45,000. "Personally, when it comes to budget I’m as tight as anybody, but I just think that’s money well served to have a special election whether than the process we’re doing now," he said.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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