Alum wins council seat
Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 02:04
University alumnus and Newark resident Luke Chapman won the District 5 city council seat by more than 100 votes last week in a two-candidate election.
Chapman, a 28-year-old financial planner, defeated fellow District 5 resident Richard Celeste, a DuPont engineer, by a margin of 266-96 on April 10.
Chapman announced his bid for city councilman in February and will replace Ezra Temko, who became Newark’s youngest councilman in 2008 when he was 22 years old. Last month, Temko announced he would resign from the position to focus on teaching kindergarten and to apply for graduate school in the fall.
Chapman said he enjoyed speaking with residents who shared with him what they appreciate about Newark, as well as their frustrations.
“The last few weeks have been a lot of fun, very interesting, hard work,” Chapman said. “But we’re happy the results came in the way they did.”
He said his primary goal as councilman is continuing open communication between city officials and local stakeholders, such as residents and business owners. He said he is eager to participate in the selection of a replacement for city manager Kyle Sonnenberg, who announced his retirement in December. He said he is also interested in discussing proposed development ideas on the site of Newark Country Club on West Main Street.
“As this job is no more than a megaphone to represent the 5,000 voices of District 5, I’m holding that close to my heart and will lead my vote in issues and additional proposals that come in front of council as long as that remains to be the voice of District 5,” Chapman said.
Chapman said he wants to increase the city’s sustainability by efficiently using environmental and monetary resources.
Because the university and the city are geographically intertwined, Chapman said he wants to maintain relationships between university students and Newark residents and facilitate open dialogue between the two groups. Many students who live off-campus are zoned in District 5.
“The stronger the city of Newark, the stronger the University of Delaware, and vice versa,” he said. “And so if we work together to build two strong entities, we’re all in a better place.”
He said he would like to re-establish the Town and Gown committee, a forum between university students and city officials, after a possible redesign. The committee was terminated in October after councilmen determined it was underutilized by students and therefore unnecessary.
Temko said change is healthy, and thinks Chapman will be an effective councilman. He said he hopes council continues to develop leadership programs for residents and environmental initiatives and encourage community members to become involved in decision-making processes.
“I’m sure I’ll be in touch with Luke about ideas that I have, and we’ll see what comes up on the agenda,” Temko said.
District 4 Councilman David Athey said Chapman was well-informed about issues affecting city residents and believes his youth will add a new perspective to the group.
“He’s clearly got a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm,” Athey said. “I’m interested to see how he kind of finds his own place, if you will, and starts charting his own path.”
District 6 Councilman Stu Markham said Chapman’s background in business can benefit council.
Markham, a software consultant, said each of the seven councilmen have backgrounds in various fields such as law and civil engineering and believes Chapman’s business experience will strengthen the council.
“It’s nice when you look across council how you have a variety of people, a variety of backgrounds, who bring different views to the different issues,” Markham said.
Chris Locke, a longtime District 5 resident, said he thought Chapman was the most qualified candidate and understands the city’s issues.
“I think he’ll bring a view that’s unique in the sense that he has business experience as a financial planner,” Locke said.
Donna Means, 60, who volunteered with Chapman’s campaign, said the new councilman’s background as a longtime Newark resident and university graduate gives him experience covering students’ and homeowners’ perspectives. She said she is also pleased with his stance on environmental issues.
“He’s progressive-thinking as far as downtown and going green, you know being green, and the importance of the city working with the university to have a good, harmonious relationship,” Means said.
She said she was disappointed with the voter turnout, which was composed of 444 votes including 8 absentee ballot, a total that approximately 33 percent less than the amount collected during the 2008 election.
Sam Burns, president of the Newark Board of Elections, said he was pleased with voter turnout.
“The number of voters came out that warranted the problems of the city in that area,” Burns said.
Celeste, who was a first-time candidate, said he ran in the election to serve city residents and that, while he lost, he will support Chapman.
“He ran a very good race,” Celeste said. “It was a very clean race and the city should be proud of the way this race came out.”
He said will try to remain involved in city politics and his pleased that neither he nor Chapman attacked each other during the race.
“There was no mudslinging, just Luke’s a great candidate,” Celeste said.