Millville freeholders won’t gain voting rights after council vote

Before retiring as Millville mayor, Gerald “Gerry” Hocker Jr. led the town council in shooting down the proposed right of non-resident property owners to vote and to run in town council elections, at least for now.

Having recently moved outside town limits, Hocker announced his retirement at the Jan. 12 council meeting, two months before his term was to expire.

But his last major motion was to lead the council in removing language from a proposed charter amendment that would allow non-resident freeholders (which he himself is becoming) to participate in elections and hold one of the five town council positions.

The motion to remove the language was approved, 3-0, with support from Charter & Ordinance Review Committee Members Susan Brewer and Robert Gordon. (One seat on the committee is vacant, and member Steve Maneri was absent.)

With two council vacancies (due to Hocker’s resignation and Harry Kent’s recent death), “It just wasn’t the right thing to do,” Hocker said.

“With other people coming on board, they have other views — they may wish to entertain it in the future. But at this time, with two open seats, it just wasn’t the right time. But there were some very good charter changes that needed to be implemented immediately.”

According to Delaware Code, once voting rights are given to landowners, they cannot be revoked.

“You always have to be careful not to bind a future council,” Hocker said.

On a personal note, the amendment (if approved by Delaware State Legislature) could have allowed Hocker to return as a freeholder candidate in future elections.

“It’s just my gut feeling,” Hocker told the Coastal Point, after weighing the positives and negatives of the vote. “This potentially could be detrimental to the town. It could be 10 — it may be 20 years down the road … and I think the council as a whole kind of has that view. If we move forward, we move forward cautiously.”

The rest of the charter changes were approved. The other code changes will update and clarify town council rules and regulations regarding existing donations to local emergency services and map records.

Officially, Millville only passed a resolution asking Delaware State Legislature to approve the charter changes. Sponsored by State Sen. Gerald Hocker Sr. and State Rep. Ron Gray in the legislature, the request must pass with two-thirds majority in Delaware General Assembly, as well as obtaining the governor’s signature.

“I always kept Millville in my heart and strived to do the best job and make the best decisions for this town,” Gerry Hocker told the public during his farewell.

Every year, someone calls Town Hall to ask, “What am I getting for my taxes?” Hocker said. “You get a staff that loves working for you, and you get a council that strives every day to make Millville [a good] place to live.”

The next meeting will be the council workshop on Tuesday, Jan. 26, at 7 p.m., during which the council may review applications to fill Kent’s seat for the remaining year of his term.