Stevens will not seek third term on Kennett Township board01/23/2023 11:25AM ● By Richard Gaw
Photo by Richard L. Gaw Long-time Kennett Township Supervisor Scudder Stevens, second from right, said at a Jan. 18 meeting that he will not seek a third term on the board. Stevens is joined by his fellow supervisors Richard Leff and Geoffrey Gamble, and by township Manager Eden Ratliff.
By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer
In an announcement that concluded the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors meeting on Jan. 18, long-time supervisor Scudder Stevens announced that he would not seek a third term as a supervisor.
Stevens, who was first elected to the board in 2011, will end his second term on Dec. 31, 2023. His decision to make his announcement early this year, Stevens said, was to allow ample time for a candidate seeking to campaign for election to the three-person board in November, to join current board chairman Geoffrey Gamble and vice chairman Richard Leff.
“This path needs to be open for all,” he said.
Stevens’ comments provided a general sweep of Kennett Township over the past 12 years, one that has seen a once all-Republican board go all Democrat; experienced several new initiatives and setbacks; and gone through the most horrific chapter in the township’s history.
Stevens reflected on the township’s commitment to developing relationships with municipalities and agencies, citing its partnership with East Marlborough Township and PennDOT that put in traffic control measures at the intersection of Route 82 and Route 1.
He also spoke about the establishment of the Regional Fire and EMS Commission that partners Kennett Township with five other municipalities to consolidate regional fire and EMS efforts throughout southern Chester County.
Throughout a large portion of his tenure on the board, Stevens sought to preserve the historic Chandler Mill Bridge as well as have the township assume ownership of it, which he said “is an important anchor in our community public resources, available for all to enjoy and use.”
Stevens also complimented the township on its continuing commitment to preserve open space, and pointed to its acquisitions of the Spar Hill Farm, the Miller farm and the Lord Howe property as major steps to preserve open space that have happened during his time on the board.
He also lauded the township for the expansion of its police department from a one-person unit to one that works in collaboration with other departments
“The effectiveness and professionalism of our non-uniform staff in the township, from the manager through the ranks of the many individuals who provide support services, is exceeded nowhere and enjoys a high public reputation for professionalism, earned in the trenches,” he said.
‘My low point as your supervisor’
During his 2011 campaign to become the lone Democrat on the board, much of Stevens’ platform focused on his pledge to move the township to a more transparent municipality, all of which as exacerbated by his accusation that two of the township’s audits in years’ past were created by phantom auditors.
“When I was elected, in 2011, there was a community-wide concern regarding township financing,” he said. “After election, we put into effect a transparent and effective third-party auditing process, something that did not previously exist. Further, we directed a division of labor over financial matters so more ‘eyes’ were on transactions.”
Despite his intentions to legitimize the township’s system of accounting, Stevens, supervisors Leff and Whitney Hoffman and the 8,000 residents of Kennett Township became embroiled in a three-year odyssey that nearly broke the township and its government. From May of 2018 until she was convicted in 2021 on five counts and sentenced to a prison term of between three to ten years for embezzling over $3.2 million from the township, former manager Lisa Moore masterminded a complex scheme that left Stevens, Leff and Hoffman to rebuild a municipality whose trust in their local government had nearly eroded.
Stevens called the Moore scandal “my low point as your supervisor.”
“Fortunately, we finally discovered this criminal behavior, and we set it aright, including clawing back the bulk of the ascertained lost money,” he said.
Stevens acknowledged that while the developments and incidents that he mentioned in his address “have not been easy or inexpensive to attain,” he urged his fellow supervisors and township residents to see the township now – as a leading, sophisticated municipality servicing a diverse and sophisticated and demanding citizenship.
“Those of you who know me know that this will be an important year and I intend to be fully and actively engaged,” he said. “Thank you for allowing me to embrace this challenging and wonderful opportunity to give back over these 12 years to this community that I love so much.”
Gamble reflected on Stevens’ accomplishments as a supervisor, which he called “truly commendable.”
“I hope that it is an example to others in our community to step forward and ultimately succeed,” he said. “You are especially to be greatly commended for your work over the past ten years, when the going was very difficult. You stepped forward after the Lisa [Moore] theft and ran the township in a courageous and necessary way. You could have resigned, but that would have been the coward’s way out.
“Rich, Scudder and [former supervisor] Whitney [Hoffman] stepped in to run the township and put it back on an even keel, hiring [manager] Eden [Ratliff] and the staff we have, which gives us a comfort level that perhaps we didn’t have before, and that which the township deserves.”
Historic structure to be demolished at Spar Hill Farm
In other township business, the supervisors approved the demolition of the Tenant House at Spar Hill Farm – also called the Carriage House -- which has been classified as a Class II structure and currently has very little historic significance remaining to it. The demolition of the building, which is scheduled to take place by the end of January or in early February, was recommended for take down by the township’s Planning Commission, as part of a stabilization project to remove a total of 13 buildings, barns, silos and shed from the 103-acre property that the township owns. The only historic element remaining in the Tenant House is its foundation, which will be preserved.
In his report, Ratliff told the board that the township is continuing to make progress with the Kennett Greenway on Chandler Mill Road, and working with property owners to obtain easements and rights of way in the vicinity. He said that permits for the project have been submitted and are under review by the commonwealth. The township plans to put the project out to bid for an award on construction to begin in the 2023 construction season.
At the direction of the Board, Ratliff said that the township is evaluating options for a trail to connect the Kennett Flats to Anson Nixon Park, in order to give residents who reside at the Flats easier pedestrian access to the park, rather than cross Walnut Road on foot.
Ratliff also said that two grants the township applied from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources were not awarded – a $300,000 grant to offset the costs of a potential open space acquisition and a $570,000 application to offset the costs of the Kennett Greenway on Chandler Mill Road. He said that the township may re-apply for the two grants at a later date.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].