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Wilmington City Council votes to change process for filling vacancies

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
A prior Wilmington City Council meeting

Wilmington City Council has passed an ordinance changing the way it fills vacant seats.

The legislation passed Thursday aims to speed up the process of filling the 1st District council seat — which has been open for nearly three months.


The first candidate to come before the full council vote was rejected last year.

“We all want to get this done, and get it done as quick as possible,” said City Councilmember Michelle Harlee, who sponsored the ordinance.

Under current rules, a five-member selection committee interviews applicants for a vacant seat, then recommends one candidate for the full council to vote on.

Harlee’s ordinance expands that selection committee to include all members of Council. She thinks this will speed up the appointment process.

“We’re going to come out of that deliberation with a name. So all the council members that hear the candidate are going to have the opportunity to see the candidate. So we’re going to come up with a recommendation. We have to come up with a recommendation,” she said.

Harlee says the other goal of her legislation is to increase transparency in the selection process. She says thanks to a floor amendment, the interviews will be open to the public this time.

“The purpose of it was to be more transparent and for [all of] us to be involved in the process that we were elected to do,” she said. Harlee was not on the selection committee appointed by Council President Hanifa Shabazz last year.

Harlee says Council’s next step is asking the 12 candidates who interviewed last year if they want to remain in the selection process — and interview again, this time for the full council.

Albert Mills, who was recommended by the selection committee last year to fill the vacant 1st District seat, was rejected during a full council vote. Mills is the twin brother of Nnamdi Chukwuocha, who previously held the seat.

Three council members voted against the ordinance to change the vacancy filling process. The legislation has yet to be approved by the Mayor.


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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