Richter who served as Dover's mayor from 1987 through 1992, died Sept. 25.
Former Dover Mayor John E. Richter died Tuesday, Sept. 25 at the age of 83.
Richter, most popularly known by his nickname, Jack, was born Oct. 2, 1934, in the former Kent General Hospital, son of Glenn A. and Margaret C. Richter.
A civil engineer by trade, Richter was a 1956 graduate of the University of Delaware, where he was a member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity. It was there he met his wife, Mary Jane Wiley of Red Bank, N.J., also a student at the school; they were married in August 1956 in New Jersey.
Mrs. Richter, who died in February 2015 following a 58-year marriage, also made a name for herself in Dover, first as a teacher and eventually as the owner of The Little School.
The couple lived for a short time in Elmira, N.Y., but soon settled in Dover where Mr. Richter worked in several positions with the state highway department, including chief of surface transportation and director of the Delaware Transportation Authority.
Richter began his political career at the age of 45, beating out two other contestants in a June 1980 special city council election. Richter garnered 1,071 votes, almost twice as many as the other two candidates combined. The election was held to fill the seat of councilman Joseph McDonough, who had been elected mayor in April of that year.
His June 23 swearing-in was held up almost until the end of the meeting when Superior Court Judge William G. Bush III failed to make it to the session due to a scheduling mix-up. After a legal determination by the city solicitor, Richter was sworn in by City Clerk William Willis.
He ran successfully for re-election until 1988, when he won the uncontested mayoral race to replace the retiring Crawford C. Carroll. Richter easily won re-election in 1990, defeating William S. Hart, 1,930 to 692.
During his terms, he fought for an expanded police station and a fire station in West Dover.
Businessman and political newcomer Aaron O. Knopf narrowly won the April 1991 mayoral election, defeating Richter by 79 votes. Richter pinned his loss on a $7.1 million bond referendum, voted down by city residents just five months earlier.
Current Friends of Old Dover President Larry Josefowski remembers Richter fondly.
“Jack and I met while taking a masters course about 20 years ago,” Josefowski said. “He definitely was an inspiration to me and he got me involved in historical issues and the Friends of Old Dover. He was a real mentor to me.”
In January 1993 he joined with a group of architects and engineers to open the Becker Morgan Moore Olds and Richter firm, citing 30 years experience at DelDOT and five years at Newark’s Tetra Tech engineering firm. He also served as a member and president of the Friends of Old Dover, vice president of the Consulting Engineer Council of Delaware and in 1996 was appointed to a two-year term on the Dover Kent County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Public Advisory Committee.
He also served as a member of the Dover Rotary Club, was a board member of the Delaware Association of Professional Engineers and served as chairman of the Delaware Transportation Center at his alma mater, the University of Delaware.
Former Mayor James L. Hutchison Sr. worked for Richter as the city’s chief of police.
“First and foremost, Jack was a friend,” Hutchison said. “He later became my boss when he appointed me as police chief. He played a major role in supporting changes that were needed to advance the police department at a time when the city was growing and changing.
“Jack loved the city of Dover.”
Current Mayor Robin Christiansen ordered city flags to half-staff after learning of Richter’s death.
In a message to the city council, the mayor called Richter a great friend and public servant.
As an elected mayor and longtime councilman, he served his fellow citizens tirelessly,” Christiansen said. “As a resident and private citizen, he worked on many projects to benefit his community.
“As president and a longtime member of the Friends of Old Dover, Jack worked diligently to preserve the rapidly disappearing history of our hometown,” Christiansen said.
“He will be sorely missed and I am sure each of us extends our sympathies to his family and friends.”
Under Christiansen's order, city flags will remain lowered until Wednesday, Oct. 3, and will be lowered again Oct. 22, the day scheduled for Richter’s services.