Chesapeake City to elect mayor, council Monday
— Town residents will either support Mayor Dean Geracimos or elect change in Councilman Frank Vari at the top of Monday’s ballot.
They will also have choices on town council, as incumbent councilmen Harry Sampson and Tom Morris are being challenged by Joe MacDonald and Bill Staker.
Polls will open be open from 1 to 7:30 p.m. Monday at town hall on the south side and the fire hall on the north side.
Mayor Dean Geracimos is running on his record as he seeks a third term with opposition from colleague Councilman Frank Vari.
“We have proven our leadership, integrity, progress and results over the past six years – two on council and four as mayor,” he said. “I don’t care to be the face of Chesapeake City; the town and the residents are the real face of Chesapeake City.”
Geracimos has highlighted the more than $19 million that his administration has been able to obtain in federal, state and county grants that have supported the implementation of the his multi-pronged revitalization plan. Under his tenure, the town has finished efforts to connect to Artesian Water, opened the Ben Cardin Recreational Trail along the C&D Canal and worked to beautify the historic downtown.
Despite his opponent’s positions, Geracimos said that he will continue his businessman-like style of running the town.
“It’s 2016, times have changed and this is the way to run a town today,” he said, noting that his cellphone number is widely disseminated amongst resi- dents and many reach out to him. “You cannot be everything to everyone, but I always put the town as a whole first.
“I will never be the “face” of Chesapeake City. I will not be the guy who sits on the lead parade float. I will be the guy at the end thanking everyone for coming.”
Geracimos said that he’s proven the ability to make a vision a reality and hopes voters validate his work over the past four years by electing him to a third term. If so, he would tackle quality of life issues, like parking and noise, in a new term.
“The quality of life here is the most important thing,” he said. “If you cannot park near your house or cannot sleep at night because of the noise, then those are the things that need to be addressed.”
Councilman Frank Vari is once again challenging Dean Geracimos for the mayor’s seat after falling just a few votes short four years ago.
At the top of his grassroots campaign is his motto: Accessible, visible and present.
“I will be a visible and accessible mayor, just as I have been on council and on the planning and zoning commission,” he said. “As a mayor, I’m going to be responsive to the needs and wants of the residents, because they pay the bulk of the taxes and utility rates. I will also keep regular blocks of hours in town hall, which will be published for the residents to know.”
Vari points to his experience, which started years ago when he helped write the town’s comprehensive plan and its new architectural standards. While he believes Geracimos takes much of the credit for the town’s recent success, Vari said efforts for those chang- es began in the years before the mayor’s current tenure.
“We’ve worked hard through the years to get the water and sewer where they are today,” he said. “Dean and I were councilmen together when we started six years ago, and people are just starting to see the results now.”
Vari also highlights his leadership through the creation of the town’s salvageable metals program and popular 5K races, which pay for the town’s residential single-stream recycling program. Recycling costs the town $9,200 a year, but the two races more than pay for it.
“I saw a need to help offset the cost of the recycling program and I created the races to do that,” he said. “People may sometimes say that that’s old news, but is it if the town would have to raise rates without the races?”
Joe MacDonald, who is making his first run at elected office, describes himself as the “reluctant candidate.”
The retired south-side resident said he wasn’t sure whether to file for office, but his family, friends and neighbors encouraged him to do so.
“I am running for council because so many of you asked me to serve,” he said. “I’m advocating for the voice of Chesapeake City.”
MacDonald said he was tired of seeing residents left without choices in some recent elections, and believed that voters should have a choice in their elected officials. Declining to be photographed for the Whig, MacDonald said that he had visited nearly every resident in town and personally spoken with them about their concerns.
“The voters of Chesapeake City already know who I am and what I represent,” he said.
MacDonald said that he promised to embody “accountability, availability, empathy, respect and service” if elected to council.
Tom Morris, a 26-year town resident, is seeking his second term on town council in order to continue to be a liaison for the public.
As the current Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 of Chesapeake City fire chief, Morris already has a lot of contact with town residents, but he wants to be a voice for residents.
“I’ve learned a lot and I’m still learning,” he said. “I’m seeking re-election because I was raised to believe that public service is a noble service, but I believe that it should be done for the right reasons.”
Morris said that despite Chesapeake City being divided by the C&D Canal, he wants to continue to support efforts that join all residents together.
“I believe we need to be one town, despite the uniqueness of our two sides,” he said.
As the council’s representative responsible for safety and sidewalks, Morris said he also wants to continue efforts to improve those areas.
“I strive for the safety of our residents and I like to keep an open dialogue with the residents,” he sad. “I’m also in charge of sidewalks and that’s a big undertaking. I’d like to oversee a comprehensive review of our sidewalks and how they can be beautified.”
Harry Sampson fell in love with Chesapeake City after visiting by boat from his original New Jersey home more than 20 years ago.
“I used to boat down here and sleep on my 19-footer,” he said. “It’s a very different town now and I’ve seen a lot of really positive change through the years. It’s a great place today, and I’m proud to say I live in Chesapeake City.”
Sampson has been an active member of the town’s government for 19 years, serving 10 years on the town council and nine years on the Planning and Zoning Commission. He now seeks a sixth term on council, where he currently serves as the councilman in charge of water and sewer service, roads and the historic district.
“I like what I do and I like representing the people of Chesapeake City,” he said.
The retired PSE&G civil engineer is already looking at ways that the town could save more money into the future.
“I plan on instituting manhole inspections to correct any problems that are found in the town’s existing infrastructure,” he said. “I also want to focus on preventative projects, such as lining existing water mains with a slip liner inside the pipe much like we’ve done with sewer pipes. That liner adheres to the pipe and prevents cracks from becoming larger breaks.”
During his tenure on council, Sampson has also sought to transfer excess funding from the water and sewer investment funds into the general fund to help balance the budget and preventing potential tax increases.
“I want to continue to be a servant for the town,” he said.
Bill Staker, a lifelong resident of Chesapeake City, is making his second bid at town council because he wants to ensure that the progress under the Geracimos administration continues.
“You’ve got a train moving full steam ahead and now there is the threat of derailing that progress,” he said, noting that he believes Councilman Frank Vari is properly suited for his current role. “Mayor Geracimos has all the right connections to keep us moving forward and I want to support him.”
Another cause that is close to Staker’s heart is the goal of turning Bank Street on the north side to a one-way street, an issue that he believes is paramount to public safety.
“Right now, pedestrians cannot even walk from the new canal trail to Schaefer’s safely due to two-way traffic,” he said. “Just the other day, I witnessed two young mothers with strollers barely able to squeeze past cars in either direction.”
While the decision to block traffic one way on Bank Street may not be popular to all, Staker said those are the types of decisions that elected officials should make.
“Serving in elected office shouldn’t be a popularity contest, it should be about making the hard, sometimes unpopular, decisions that are for the betterment of the town,” he said.
As a retired law enforcement officer and previous town code enforcement, Staker said he also wants to help oversee the review of the town’s ordinances, many of which he said are woefully out of date. He said he also wants to help support established businesses in town and foster the development of new ones.