New Castle County Executive. Today we decide.

I first heard of Bill Shahan from Nancy. Woo-hoo, I thought. Someone beside Clark. Bill filed early. He really wants to do this.

But alas in the meetings I attended, Bill Shahan appeared amateurish compared to Clark. Paul Clark, without Pam, presented a good case. He trimmed the budget, he kept the A+++ rating during the Republican Depression from 2008 on. He increased the amount of police being trained. He raised the target level, even though it would make him look bad politically, because he then had more openings on his police force.

Paul effectively explained and I doubt that Nancy could hear it, that sites like Barley Mill, could be developed if they met all parts of the code. The County cannot say to you who own the property, “you can’t build here”. It has no authority under code to do so. What it can do, and does, is say “Ok, if you are building you have to meet these requirements: traffic, environmental, run-off, density, historical, sewar.” As long as the property owner meets those requirements (or gets a variance) he is free to build……

In the beginning meetings back in March, Shahan sounded like a good guy, but, was outclassed by Clark. Clark had all the answers; Shahan had opinions yet untested….. Remember…. this was Pre-Gordon….

Then Tom Gordon enters the race. My first thought was, really? But then he makes a film for the Muslim audience of New Castle County, and that was impressive. No one in recent memory had ever reached out to them. Perhaps this was someone contrite, humbled, possessing a firm quietness…..

The first public meeting with Clark, Shahan, and Gordon, brought back all the memories. Gordon was a thug… Not in a bad way, and if you needed a forceful enterprising person, that personality might be advantageous, say, in tackling the murder rate of Wilmington, “Die, Sucker, Die”… But the congenial atmosphere of going to debates changed. Instead of hearing a college lecture, one needed to prepare his stomach as one does before a episode of “Breaking Bad.” They were combative.

It was like watching a dog fight… with everyone standing around… Your natural urge was to wonder, shouldn’t somebody do something to stop it?

Under the onslaught of Gordon’s thuggishness, Clark responded in kind. Debates were very visceral. It became about who was the toughest, about who could throw punches and who could dodge them, not what could be done for New Castle Citizens.

Having written off Shahan very early on, I believe all attention was focused on these two to see who would be the better for us. This is not completely accurate, but.. one could say the Unions back Gordon, and the Building Industry backs Clark.

It was Allan Loudell of WDEL News who first brought it to my attention. “Both challengers to Gordon & Clark – Jon Husband (a manager in the county’s Special Services department) and Bill Shahan (an employee in the county’s Land Use Department) – tried to stay above the fray. Shahan tried to direct the discussion to the future. He showed great polish and poise for someone who hasn’t held elective office before. Both lesser-known challengers suggested they’d be in a unique position to cut waste and inefficiencies in county government, because they’ve long labored within the innards of county government.”

“Bill Shahan tried to stay above the fray. Shahan tried to direct the discussion to the future. he showed great polish and poise for someone who hasn’t held elective office before……

That moment made me think there was something in Bill I had missed. He’d grown in 6 months.

Then I happened to catch his editorial in the News Journal. It was good, priorities were right. But in that opinion piece was a surprise I really liked. The question was what would you do to bring jobs to New Castle County. The others candidates said tax cuts, improve education… everything that sounds good but is impossible  to implement… Bill said, “our port is under utilized. If we bring in more cargo, we have people working full time, not part time. We have money spent in the economy. ” I said wow. Here is an idea from someone who really does have a breadth of knowledge. We already have it here, It sits right off the artery of eastern America, it is cheaper than further upriver, it has a great potential to steal business away from both Philly and Baltimore… Sure as the others stated, you could pay someone to try to coax a small business hiring one or two people to abandon every other county in the nation and choose ours, but really, what would be your rate of success? But to build up the port, where you already have trained labor under utilized, where you actually get tax money instead of giving it away, what a great idea. I wouldn’t have thought of that…

i began to see Bill as different. Bill was around before the UDC. Bill built the UDC. Bill has been around to see its successes and its failures. Bill really knows the UDC in and out. Now I don’t know about you, but often in ones workplace you have two jerks who are always vying with each other for the next big promotion. They form two camps of supporters, and neither one talks to the other… When each side talks to you, most of what they say, is telling you how bad the others are…

When both are on the same shift, the tension is thick. When only one is there, there is no love or happiness, but you can tolerate it. But when both are gone, everyone feels happy, like a load’s been lifted off, and everyone likes working those days because everyone does their job, doesn’t have to waste time looking over their shoulders, and enjoys the work thoroughly.

I was listening to Al Mascitti yesterday morning, and the was explaining the history of Tom Gordon, and Gordon supporters were calling up and bashing Clark. “You can’t talk about Gordon because Clark is corrupt!  He did this; he did that. He’s a terrible person… ” and I thought really? ….You are trying to make me like you, by demeaning someone else? And it was just disgusting… like the dogfight I alluded to above. Sure it was good radio, but somewhere in that discussion, I had to ask why… Why are we dealing with this?  If either one, Clark or Gordon gets elected, the other side won’t let up, and this will continue ad infinitum. ….

What would break the cycle?

“if you stay out of the headlines for bad things, and start making headlines for good things”…. Bill Shahan.e/o WHYY

That finally decided it for me. “Damn, we deserve better than what we have.”

What was originally a diamond in the rough, has now been polished.. and is now ready to lead the first county in the Diamond State.

When a good person is put in charge, everyone steps up to carry him forward. If (and I stress if because I’m beginning to think the guy on the inside all these years maybe does have all the answers),  there is any experience factor missing in Bill Shahan’s portfolio, someone already and expert in it, can support him.

The difference is, we can now all be” proud” of who our County Chief executive is, instead of carefully watching our elected officials  and tolerating their disgustingly negative spontaneous outbursts.