Type to search

Government New Castle County News

Jones-Potter is motivated in Wilmington in mayor’s race

Katie Tabeling
Share

Former Wilmington Treasurer Velda Jones-Potter said she’s undaunted by the contest shaping up in the race to become Wilmington’s next mayor. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

WILMINGTON — Velda Jones-Potter is running for mayor of Wilmington to represent the city she grew up in, building off what she says is a strong foundation of experience.

The former Wilmington Treasurer has had many career changes over the years. From working as engineer at Standard Oil to serving as an executive with DuPont and MBNA, Jones-Potter also has a long history in consulting services with finance and housing, as well as doing some work with venture capital firms to support technology businesses.

But when considering her race to become the next Mayor of Wilmington, she also reflects on her deep roots in the city.

“I was two years old when my family first moved here from West Virginia and my parents were just looking for a better opportunity,” she said. “We were a working family, my dad worked at the port as a forklift operator and my mom was a clerk. Throughout my childhood, I understood the support of the people in the city, from my teachers to volunteers. I’m really motivated to do what I can do for the city.”

Jones-Potter said that first interest was sparked when Mayor James Sills, Wilmington’s first Black mayor, asked her to assist the city finance department during his first term in the 1990s. Wilmington had faced four years of straight deficits, she said. Through an agreement with DuPont, Jones-Potter took a leave from the company for 18 months to serve as finance director. 

In that time, Jones-Potter and the finance department were able to recoup millions and ended the financial year with a $1.3 million surplus.

“We were able to hire police officers, settle outstanding contracts with unions and give pay increases to workers. It really made a difference to the people who work for the city and the community,” she said. “It was also life-changing for me.”

While Jones-Potter went back to the corporate world and also joined a venture capital firm, her work did not go unnoticed. Gov. Jack Markell tapped her to serve as his replacement as state treasurer in 2008. Delaware maintained a AAA bond rating, the highest it could achieve in order to reach lower interest costs on borrowed funds. After losing in the primary race, she turned back to Wilmington and successfully won in a three-way contest for city treasurer in 2016.

“We had tremendous success in those years, bringing $20 million back to the city mostly in restructuring the city debt, as well as working on other inefficiencies,” she said. “What motivates me to run for mayor, however, is the lack of fiscal responsibility I’ve seen.”

Jones Potter pointed specifically to a $3.4 million loan the city took out from JPMorgan Chase on behalf of the Wilmington Housing Partnership for a project that was never completed. Outgoing Mayor Mike Purzycki and she were locked in a legal battle over authority on city funds as early as 2019.

“That’s not acceptable to me,” she said. “I do think it also really stresses the inequity of how resources were allocated across the city.”

Wilmington is currently struggling to maintain workers in offices, as well as a high unemployment rate. As of April, the city’s unemployment rate was 5.1%, higher than the national average of 3.9%. As mayor, Jones-Potter hopes to be innovative in drawing businesses back to the city, namely in spurring a cultural renaissance. 

“There’s been a shift with remote work that’s been exacerbated by COVID and we need to think about it as an opportunity to bring more space for incubators. It’s extremely important to bring young artists into the conversation and we are a city of festivals,” she said. “I’m pulling together a team to consider how we build a commerce around it. There’s a tremendous opportunity for a cultural renaissance.”

However, Jones-Potter is also open to the current trend of office-to-apartment conversions, especially when it’s a possible solution to the affordable housing crisis. 

A recent report commissioned by the Delaware State Housing Authority found that to keep up with the growth, the state would need to add 2,400 units per year until 2030. More than half of all renters are cost burdened, or 30% of their gross income on utilities, rent and more.

“It’s definitely a chance to repurpose that space,” Jones Potter said. “We need to invest in our neighborhoods to spur business activity outside downtown, and the way to do that is to beautify our areas and create a system that supports small businesses, like streamlining the permitting process as well as safe neighborhoods.”

When it comes to addressing gun violence, she said she would focus on working on getting more social assistance to Wilmingtonians in need and strengthening partnerships with organizations like Downtown Visions. But Jones-Potter believes that the city could provide more jobs through amping up local contracts and apprenticeship programs, when applicable. 

She also sees education playing a key role in working to solve the issue of gun violence. The low reading proficiency rate, with  40% of students between third to eighth grade considered proficient in the whole state, was proof of that. 

“It’s unacceptable, so when we take that with all the other factors for gun violence, it’s just another sign of the dysfunction in our communities. That’s why we have try an attack it on different levels,” she said. “It’s not an overnight change.”

With several open positions in city government, she would work to network with the Howard High School of Technology and other institutions to hire students back into the community. Jones-Potter also raised the idea of other incentives to draw young residents back to work for their hometown.

With the election days away, Jones Potter knows she’s in a unique position to face against a seated governor in the polls. But she’s not intimidated by the prospect.

“I think it’s very clear there’s a desire to continue the policies from the previous administration and to maintain the status quo. I’ve demonstrated my care for this city, and I think that’s the key ingredient.”

Get the free DBT email newsletter  

Follow the people, companies and issues that matter most to business in Delaware.

Tags:

You Might also Like

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Premier Digital Partners

© 2024 Delaware Business Times

Flash Sale! Subscribe to Delaware Business Times and save 50%.

Limited time offer. New subscribers only.

Limited time offer. New subscribers only.

SUMMER FLASH SALE!

Subscribe to Delaware Business Times and save 50%