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Wilmington Mayor Purzycki will not run in ’24, but Gov. Carney may

Katie Tabeling
Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki announced that he will not seek a third term in office come 2024. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki announced Wednesday that he will not seek a third term in office come 2024, but Gov. John Carney expressed interest in the job.

Purzycki made the announcement in an open letter to Wilmington residents and business leaders, noting his ambivalence at the prospect and his desire to spend time with his family rather than in city hall. Delaware’s largest city has a three-term limit for the chief office.

“I finish this term with gratitude to the people of the city who have entrusted me with this enormous responsibility. In the meantime, let’s not forget that we still have 15 months left to serve. We can do so much good in that time and leave to our residents a government they can continue to be proud of,” he wrote.

John Carney Mike Purzycki

Gov. John Carney, left, said that he was weighing a run for Wilmington mayor after Mike Purzycki announced that he will not seek re-election in 2024. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

Shortly after the mayor’s announcement, Gov. John Carney confirmed that he was considering an unprecedented run to succeed his friend. Carney is term-limited as governor, as he finishes his second term next year.

“Tracey and I have lived in Wilmington for 30 years, and I care deeply about our city. While I am focused on serving as Delaware’s governor, it’s something I’m seriously considering,” Carney said in a statement.

Purzycki had faced stiff competition in the previous Democratic primaries, including a crowded race in 2016 where he captured 28% of the vote. In the 2020 election, he secured the nomination by just over 1,000 votes over two candidates, including former city treasurer Velda Jones-Potter. He easily won in both general elections.

The Wilmington Mayor had apparently teased running again for re-election as late as July, per some press reports. But he also wrote that he was coming to terms with his age; as he had emergency bypass surgery in December 2020.

“My difficulty in committing to another term that would begin 15 months from now is in continuing to undertake such a demanding job at the age of 78,” Purzycki wrote. “I am, for the first time in my life, aware of my age. True, I can take some time away from the job—but people should understand that the job of mayor never lets you go. And Bette and I now have four small grandchildren who occupy a large part of our lives and our hearts. Selfishly, I want them to remember me.”

A New Jersey native, Purzycki arrived in Delaware as a University of Delaware student on a football scholarship. A pro-player hopeful, his dreams were cut short after he injured his knee at the New York Giants training camp and he wasn’t able to play again. From there he spent years at IBM and stock investment firms, later earning a law degree.

He has served northern Delaware for decades, starting with the New Castle County Council. During his tenure, he spent nine years as the chairman of the council’s finance committee and wrote a law that became the state’s first ethics law.

In 1996, he was named the first executive director of the Riverfront Development Corp., which aims to reimagine a desolate shore of the Christina River in Wilmington. For two decades he led the organization in making the bustling area of activity that it is today.

When Purzycki ran for office again, 20 years later, he did so hoping to continue the progress at the Riverfront. He celebrated successes over the past six years such as unparalleled economic development throughout the city, and millions of dollars in investments in parks and infrastructure investment. Other accomplishments he listed included investments in repaving 46 miles of streets, financial stability, and a Historically Black College and University College Fair that opened the door for thousands of students to obtain $35 million in scholarships.

“I am hopeful, of course, that the right candidate will step forward to run,” the mayor said. “The city deserves and needs a qualified and effective chief executive who will remove disabling politics and self-dealing from the role of governance. I want to be able to support that candidate, not only one who can win but one who can govern and continue to bring the city together. Someone with a positive vision for the city and mostly the demonstrated ability to execute that vision. While many seek to be mayor, few seem to appreciate the skills and experience needed to do the job.”

Right now, Jones-Potter is the only candidate for the mayoral race.

Moments after Purzycki made his announcement, Carney thanked Purzycki for his years of service that made Wilmington a better place.

“He managed our city through some of the most challenging times in recent history, guided by compassion, fairness, and a commitment to doing the right thing,” the governor said in a statement. “When his term ends next year, he’ll be leaving city government better than he found it, with a professional, efficient city workforce focused on improving the quality of life for Wilmington residents. We’re fortunate to have had Mike Purzycki leading our largest city for the past seven years, and Wilmington is better off because of his service.”

New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer pointed out that while the county executive and Wilmington’s mayor typically have a contentious relationship, he was proud of the “historic partnership” the two formed. Last year, the two finalized an agreement that gave the city use of a county sewer plan. The 25-year-long dispute cost the county $3 million in legal fees.

“Together, we have created additional affordable housing opportunities by eliminating red tape and combining our Section 8 housing voucher programs,” Meyer said. “We have addressed homelessness by collaborating to create and sustain the Hope Center… I thank the mayor for his partnership – his prior service as a county councilman and as the founding leader of the Riverfront. And I look forward to another 15 months of partnership for the people.”

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