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Eight candidates compete for four Kennett Square Borough Council seats

10/31/2017 03:25PM ● Published by Steven Hoffman

At a meet-the-candidates forum at Victory Brewing in Kennett Square on Oct. 25, there were nine men and women there to share their vision for the borough—but only eight are now seeking support from voters on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Matthew McGill, who earned a Republican nomination for a seat on council in the Primary Election, explained that he had decided not to campaign this time. He graciously encouraged borough residents to support the “United for KSQ” team of Republicans Dan Maffei, Gregory Deveney, and Lori Caldwell and Democrat Peter Waterkotte.

That leaves the “United for KSQ” group of four candidates to compete with the team of four Democrats—incumbents Ethan Cramer and LaToya Myers and Brenda Mercomes and Steve Ciprani for the four seats that are up for grabs in the election next week.

During the 90-minute forum, the candidates shared details about their backgrounds and briefly explained their visions for Kennett Square to the residents in attendance. There was also a short question-and-answer session. If one theme emerged during the event, it was that Kennett Square is on a very good path, and the goal of the next council should be to continue that course. As Maffei succinctly explained, “Kennett Square is the envy of every other small town in Pennsylvania.”

Myers talked about how she grew up in Kennett Square and she wasn’t allowed to walk alone to her bus stop just a short distance away because of safety concerns in the borough at that time. Now, the town is so safe that she doesn’t have those same concerns for her own child, which illustrates the progress the town has made.

Myers explained that many people move to the borough because of its diversity, and she wants to maintain that. She also wants to work to make sure that no group is marginalized or isolated. She pointed out that the four members of the Democratic team happen to live in different parts of town, which is helpful in the effort to make sure that all residents feel represented.

Waterkotte said that he’s very proud to be living in a town where nine people run for four seats on council because it illustrates how much people care about the community. He said that council members need to represent each resident of the borough. Waterkotte explained that he has attended council meetings for more than a year, and has made a point to listen and watch so that he can learn as much as possible. The only time that he felt a need to speak out during a meeting is when the demolition of three buildings was being considered to make way for a boutique hotel.

Ciprani, a teacher, is a write-in candidate. “I’ve been devoted to public service my whole life,” he said. “I’m an independent thinker and I would be an independent thinker on council. I want to bring all people together.”

Caldwell said that she has always been a community-minded volunteer.

“One of my goals,” Caldwell said, “is to keep the community working together.” She explained that the borough collaborates well with Historic Kennett Square for the betterment of the business district, and Kennett Square also collaborates with other municipalities, which is important, too.

Deveney said that he would work to ensure that Kennett Square has “wise, responsible growth that benefits the whole community” to protect the charm and character of the town.

“I want to keep the small town that we have,” he said.

Cramer talked about the importance of having an inclusive government where people talk to each other in order to share ideas and solve problems.

“In a democracy, you get things done when you talk to people,” he said. “We can solve almost any problem if we talk to each other.”

Cramer, a member of council for the last tow years, said that he’s very proud of the anti-discrimination ordinance that was approved. He has also worked hard on an agreement where six different municipalities in the region are working together to make decisions on fire and ambulance services. He supports regional collaboration, and said that the Democratic team favors working together with neighboring municipalities to do the things that the various municipalities can't do on their own.

Maffei, an eight-year borough council veteran who is currently council president, said that credit for Kennett Square’s success belongs not to a past council or the present council, but rather with the business owners and residents who worked to make Kennett Square what it is today. He noted that Kennett Square currently has the lowest tax rate of any borough in the area that has a full-time police department.

Mercomes talked about her work on the Kennett Library’s Board of Trustees, and how exciting it is for library officials to be working on plans for a new library that will be a centerpiece of the community.

Kennett Square Mayor Matthew Fetick, who is seeking a third term in that position, also took part in the meet-the-candidates forum even though he didn’t have to—he’s unopposed in the upcoming election.

“I’m running unopposed, but I don’t take that for granted,” Fetick told the audience. He talked about some of his duties as mayor, and about how much he enjoys serving the residents of Kennett Square.

“This town is on a great path,” he said.

During the question-and-answer session, the candidates were able to talk more about some of their priorities and some of their concerns.

Caldwell said that truck traffic is one of her concerns that she would like to work on if elected to council.

Cramer expanded on his comments about regional collaboration, explaining that the borough needs to take on a leadership role.

“Kennett Square’s role in the region has to be strong,” he said.

Maffei talked about the need for more parking in town—the borough recently received grant funding to help do just that—and he also said that he would like to see Kennett Square become even more walkable with the addition of sidewalks in areas that would connect one part of the borough with another. He also talked about how he worked on an update to the Historic Preservation Ordinance that provided additional protections for the historic district.

“It’s absolutely necessary to preserve that small-town character,” Maffei said.

By the end of the forum, it was clear that both teams of candidates are optimistic about Kennett Square’s future. There is no one, all-important issue that divides the two teams. Instead, they have differing views on governing.

Maffei explained that each member of the “United for KSQ” team started out running their own campaigns back in the Spring, and they eventually linked their campaigns because they shared some similar viewpoints. What they don’t share is a party affiliation—three of the “United for KSQ” members are Republicans, but one is a Democrat. Maffei said that Kennett Square residents have always emphasized the qualifications of the candidate over the political party affiliation.

Cramer said that the team of Democratic candidates share some ideas for how the local government might be improved to better represent constituents. He said that the other team of candidates will continue the political tradition in Kennett Square where only small groups of council members should meet with influential individuals out of the public eye to make important decisions before the rest of borough council is even aware that such discussions are even taking place, while the Decmocratic team would find a more inclusive way of governing.

“We are intent on structuring a government that is open, accessible, and efficient,” Cramer said.

To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email editor@chestercounty.com.

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