Jermaine Hatton was sworn into office as Townsend's mayor for the coming year on June 5.
Finding new sources of revenue. Approving a balanced budget. Attracting more businesses. And modernizing the town’s charter.
Those are just a few of the items Jermaine Hatton would like Townsend’s town council to tackle in the coming year.
But the new mayor says his first priority after being sworn in last week will be to reach out to the town’s 2,500 residents.
“I don’t want this to be about the mayor’s vision or council’s vision,” the 41-year-old branch manager at Wells Fargo in Middletown said this week. “I want this to be about the town’s vision and that requires community input and getting more people involved in what’s happening in town.”
A Millsboro native who moved to Townsend with his wife, Kimberly, and their son, Jamison, in 2008, Hatton won a two-year term on Townsend’s town council last year.
In Townsend, the five-member council elects a new mayor from among its members every year. Last week, Hatton was unanimously chosen to serve a 12-month term by a council that includes only one member, John Ness, who has served more than a single year in office.
“One of my mantras is you can either be a part of the problem or you a part of the solution, so after we moved here I started going to council meetings, listening to what was going on and asking questions,” Hatton said. “After a while, I felt like I could make a difference so I ran for a seat.”
In his first year in office, Hatton took over responsibility for authoring the town’s nearly $614,000 budget, turning what had been a $266,000 deficit the year before into a $16,400 deficit for the coming year by introducing generally accepting accounting practices into the budget process.
“In the past, everything had been included in a single overall budget that had revenue projections based on numbers the town had just always used,” he said. “I broke the numbers out into an operating budget, a streets budget and a capital improvement budget, and based our projections on historical data, such as what had this fee generated last year or how much did we actually spend on that item.”
Hatton said he’s confident Townsend will close the remaining deficit this year, and he anticipates proposing town council’s first balanced budget in years by next spring.
“I’m a little upset I wasn’t able to do it this year, but we’re closer than we’ve been in a long, long time,” he said. “I’m certain we can get there next year, without question.”
To help achieve that, Hatton says one of his goals this year will be to find additional sources of revenue for Townsend, which currently relies on realty transfer taxes and fees related to new housing for more than half of its annual income, excluding trash service.
“At this point, everything is open and on the table, short of something that turns us into a big town like Middletown to our north or Smyrna to our south,” he said. “And the last thing we want to do is raise taxes on our residents.”
Attracting new businesses to town would help shore up the town’s finances, while also improving the quality of life for residents, Hatton said.
“One of the best things Townsend has going for it is that it’s a nice, small, family-oriented town, and we don’t want to lose that, but we do want to brand ourselves that way and make it attractive so we can take advantage of the next boom,” he said.
In the meantime, the new mayor and council are expected to soon begin the process of reviewing Townsend’s charter and ordinances, which could affect everything from the town’s mandatory trash service rules to the way the mayor is elected.
“That’s one the areas where we’re going to need input from residents the most,” Hatton said. “We’re already in the process of adding online bill pay, but we want to know what other ideas they have for bringing Townsend into the 21st century.”