Councilwoman Janet Kilpatrick (R-Hockessin) has proposed changing the residency requirement for cabinet level officers in New Castle County’s executive branch.


Councilwoman Janet Kilpatrick (R-Hockessin) has proposed eliminating the residency requirement for cabinet level officers in New Castle County’s executive branch.

Kilpatrick introduced her ordinance at the New Castle County Council meeting held Tuesday night in the City/County Building.

Her ordinance addresses the fallout of council’s decision to appoint David M. Culver as general manager of the New Castle County Department of Land Use despite the fact that Culver still lives in Elkton, Md. At its June 14 meeting, council voted 10-0, with two abstentions and one absence, to approve Culver, in essence granting him an extension to sell his Maryland home and move to New Castle County.

When County Executive Paul Clark took over the county's top position upon Chris Coons’ election to the U.S. Senate in November 2010, Culver was an acting manager until council formally approved him. Therefore, it was not technically considered a reappointment under county law.

At that June 14 meeting, County Attorney and Acting Chief Administrative Officer Gregg Wilson had advised council that it had the discretion to change the county code’s residency requirement if it so desired.

Ordinances are introduced by council without comment. But before Tuesday night’s meeting, Kilpatrick’s intention to introduce the ordinance was circulated in an email she sent out in response to criticism by Nancy Willing of the Civic League for New Castle County for deciding to sponsor this ordinance.

Kilpatrick took issue with Willing’s criticism because Willing herself had also suggested that if council wanted to keep Culver as Land Use manager, it should just eliminate the residency requirement. Willing went on the record with that suggestion at the June 14 meeting of County Council.

Willing’s criticism that Kilpatrick was simply trying to protect Culver was unfair, Kilpatrick said.

“It’s not about Dave Culver,” she said. “It won’t even be enacted until Paul Clark’s term is over, which means Dave Culver would have to be appointed by [the next] county executive if indeed he stays on."

Kilpatrick said her ordinance would pave the way for the county to hire the best and the brightest – similar to the way private businesses do.

“I sat through Bond Bill [in the state Legislature] many, many years and they would say, ‘How come you gave this state contract to an out-of-state person?’” said Kilpatrick, a former state representative. “The bottom line is, we want our borders open. We want the talent pool from wherever. What are we talking about here, maybe 10 positions that would be affected?”

In addition, Culver worked several years for New Castle County before a Maryland town lured him away, Kilpatrick said. He’s also a hometown boy who graduated from Thomas McKean High School and did his undergraduate work at the University of Delaware.

“We took him back,” she said. “So, obviously, somebody [besides] us believed he’s a good planner.”

Councilman John Cartier (D-Brandywine Hundred East), for one, opposes Kilpatrick’s ordinance based on criticism he's heard firsthand.

“I’m just reflecting what people think in my district,” he said.

However, Councilman David Tackett (D-Christiana) acknowledged that it would be hard for Clark to find a replacement at this point for Culver since he’s up for election in November 2012.

“Who in the world is going to give up his job to become his Land Use manager for what could be a temporary job?” he said. “It’s not going to happen.”

Councilman Joseph Reda (D-Elsmere) said Culver has been trying to sell his house in a tough real estate market.

“The bottom fell out,” he said. “Let’s face it.”

Now that the ordinance has been introduced, council can discuss it in committee, Kilpatrick said. She anticipates a vote in two weeks.

“If it’s up, fine. If it’s down, fine," she said. "I’m not going to hold it. It’s going to go through the process. There’s no hidden agenda here.”