Patricia Worrell says nobody wants to see the city of Chester lose its charter and dissolved over its fiscal woes. But, she argues, the best way to ensure it doesn’t happen is to elect a mayor with the skills to stop it.
Worrell, 63, is one of three Democrats vying in the May 16 primary for the chance to serve as mayor of the troubled city. Worrell, a longtime member of the city zoning board, and Chester Councilman Stefan Roots, 62, are challenging incumbent Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, who is 68.
Worrell spoke to DVJournal about her assessment of the city’s current state and where she hopes to take it if she’s sworn in next January.
“On every level, we have major, major issues, the most major issue being our finances,” she tells DVJournal.
Worrell’s background in human resources, business management, and real estate brokerage fields makes her uniquely qualified to head up the government of Chester after years of the city’s decline into potential dissolution.
City receiver Michael Doweary said last month that “everything is on the table” regarding the city’s dire straits. “If a comprehensive solution is not found by the end of the year, there may be no alternative for Chester but disincorporation,” Receiver Chief of Staff Vijay Kapoor said.
Worrell expressed confidence that the situation would not come to that.
“I don’t believe the city will be dissolved,” she said. “I believe that [Doweary] put that out there because that’s the natural next step after bankruptcy if it doesn’t work. But I don’t think the state, county, or even local officials want that to happen.”
“Nobody wants that to happen,” she continued. “I believe that even through their disagreements they will work to ensure that doesn’t happen.”
Worrell said her plans for steering Chester out of its dire financial straits and into more prosperous waters include hiring “qualified staff” to oversee the city’s management. She also said she will use her experience as a real estate broker to help drive a homeownership renaissance.
“I’d like to see homeownership reversed to 60 percent or more homeownership instead of renters,” she said. “That would be one of my first areas of focus.”
She said the city “needs to be a part of the entire community and get involved,” she said. “We need street cleaners and other workers helping to make our community inviting for others to come in and live.”
The candidate said she hopes for a “historic turnout” during the primary this month.
“These local elections are just as important, if not more important, than presidential and state elections,” she said. “I would be happy to see more people get involved in the process.”
Worrell offered qualified praise of Kirkland, though she argued that he is not the person to lead Chester into a more successful chapter of its history.
“He’s been a good asset to the city at the state level,” she said. “But when it comes to the politics, local government means hands-on. You have to have in-depth experience. It’s like running a business. And he does not have the experience of running a business.”
“I just don’t think he realized the particular experiences that it takes to run a local government,” she continued. “At the local level, it’s really hands-on. He just did not have those qualifications.”
Roots did not respond to queries about his own campaign. Kirkland’s press secretary Amanda Johnson told DVJournal the mayor is not currently giving interviews.