Smyrna resident Brooks Banta has spent the last 16 years as a commissioner on Kent County Levy Court and he's going to continue doing so for another four years as he's running unopposed for Levy Court District 1 in the Tuesday, Nov. 6 General Election.
Banta, who currently sits as president of the commission, is running for re-election because of his love of working for the people.
"Levy Court provides a great opportunity for public service in that you're very close to the people you serve," Banta said.
On a daily basis Banta receives numerous calls and emails from residents of Kent County. He always answers the call and then works to find a solution, if he doesn't…he'll put the resident in contact with someone who knows the answer.
"It's important, of course Delaware being so small, that you're able to network with people who can get a resolution for people for most any problem they may have," he said.
And it doesn't hurt that Banta said the county has great public safety officials, paramedics, and public works employees on top of a great team of commissioners and county administrator for him to work with. All of this combined led Banta to his decision to run for a fifth term.
When talking about Kent County, Banta is sure to mention Levy Court's ability to save money in a tight economy, which the commissioners did by reducing a budget of about $26 million in 2005-2006 to roughly $20 million in 2008-2009. The budget has increased the last few years as the economy strengthened, but Banta previously said this year's $22 million budget is $500,000 less than last year's.
To save money, Levy Court has reduced the number of employees — mainly through early retirement, required county vehicles to be returned at night, every other light in the building is kept off to conserve energy, and employees have been cross-trained.
Working towards the future
While finding ways to cut back, Banta has several items to continue working on in the future. His goals include the proposed county sports complex in Frederica, funds for volunteer fire companies, approval to handle more wastewater, keeping expenses in check, and the Air Cargo Ramp near the Dover Air Force Base.
Funds for volunteer fire companies is particularly important to Banta as he feels residents, especially new people in the area, don't fully understand that the fire departments are volunteer-run. Banta said new residents assume the fire companies are paid for through their $145 tax bill, which they are not.
Jump-starting the economy
As a way to improve the economy in Kent County, Levy Court hired a full-time economic director — James Waddington — last year.
Banta said having this position is two-fold for the county, as it helps to bring businesses to Kent County and works to keep the businesses that are already here.
"One of the goals is to retain the current business that we do have," Banta said. "It's great to have new business, but it's great for retention of the businesses that we do have."
To do this, Banta said Waddington is working diligently to do just that by providing incentives when possible.
Just because no one is running against Banta doesn't mean he hasn't hit the campaign trail. He's put up signs throughout the county and has been knocking on doors to talk with residents about their concerns.
"I think it's important to do that because people need to know that I really care," Banta said. "If I didn't put up the signs, if I didn't knock on the doors and make phone calls, they'd say 'This guy must just take it for granted.' And I don't. I appreciate the fact that people respect the job I do."
Email Jennifer Dailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.