Two candidates are vying to represent Delaware’s Second Ward on City Council for the next four years. Adam Haynes has served in the role since being appointed to fulfill the remaining term of Lisa Keller, who resigned last November. He is being opposed by Leslie Joiner, who is seeking election for the first time.
Both candidates spoke with The Gazette to discuss their campaigns and what they’d like to accomplish if elected.
As a government teacher in Delaware, Haynes said he encourages his students to be “active” and “informed” citizens. And while he didn’t anticipate running for an elected office prior to the end of his teaching career, Keller’s resignation sped up the timeline.
“After talking with some people, and the fact that I watched City Council meetings during my lunch break, a lot of people said this was a great opportunity for me and felt I would be a great representative,” Haynes told The Gazette.
Haynes said he’s “really glad” he decided to pursue the open seat because he believes he has much experience in his professional career as a representative for teachers in Delaware City Schools, being a teacher himself, and plenty of experiences in leadership within the district that share some common ground with being a council member.
“It’s been a great experience because as a graduate of the Citizens Academy in 2018, I was able to build upon the things I’ve learned and the experiences I had there to have a little more tailored talk during that time, from basically February and my orientation process ended in June, to understand what all the ends and outs are for the city government, what the responsibilities are to better understand the needs of the city in regards to what the residents want, expect, and deserve, and also to support our amazing city staff,” Haynes said.
Haynes noted he was able to conduct “listening tours” to get resident feedback in the Second Ward, which he said is “very diverse” with residential, commercial, and industrial elements.
“It was great to get feedback from people and see what they believe City Council should be doing for them and expect as far as services,” he said. “That was one piece I was able to learn, and then also to understand the role of a council person, to be a liaison between City Council between residents and the ward.”
Haynes said his experience as a councilman has been rewarding in that it’s made him appreciate “the people who are working hard every day to provide us services and things for which we take for granted.”
As for what he feels are the most important challenges facing Delaware, Haynes said capital improvements, attainable housing, safe neighborhoods, and employment opportunities are at the center of the “case” he has been making to continue serving on the council.
Speaking specifically on capital improvements, Haynes called them “a really important piece” considering more than 50% of the streets and roads in the Second Ward are in poor condition according to the 2023 Pavement Assessment Survey commissioned by the city.
“Many of the streets in the Second Ward, specifically if we’re talking about streets that are east of Curtis Street, north of London Road, south of Park Street, and west of Sandusky Street, that area around the Woodward Elementary area, are in red on the map meaning they’re in dire need of repair,” he said. “One of our streets —Noble Street, if I remember correctly — has gone over 22 years since it’s been resurfaced.”
Hayes noted the city has received a grant to address part of that issue, but the overall issues remain. “As we’re growing, the challenge is that we need to make sure that our services meet if not exceed resident expectations and what they deserve,” he said.
He later added that residents need to decide where they see the city heading in the immediate future in order to figure out a plan to get there.
“I believe we’re at this crossroads where we need to have conversations about what we want to see, what we expect, and what we deserve, and then let’s go after it because we need to double down on ourselves,” he said. “If we’re not in the driver’s seat in deciding what our future is, someone else is, and I don’t really like being in the passenger’s seat.”
A lifelong resident of Delaware, Joiner serves as a minister at Agape International Cathedral and volunteers at the Unity Community Center and Habitat for Humanity.
“Helping people is one of my passions,” Joiner told The Gazette. “I love to serve, so that is something I’ve been doing for quite some time.”
Joiner said she never considered running for office but has always been community service-oriented. Rather than talk about the issues she sees in the ward or complain about the lack of results, she said it was time to “go to the next level.”
“Being here in my particular area of town, seeing there are some things that need to be taken care of, I just thought I would love to be a part of trying to bring a little bit of progression and positivity back to our neighborhood,” Joiner said. “I feel like we have such a great city that we live in and are a part of, and with our ward, there’s such a big disparity. That is one of the things that is kind of heartbreaking, and I just really feel like if the whole ward is prospering, then it aids in the progress and prosperity of the city in general.”
Joiner said there are some things in the northern portion of the Second Ward that need to be addressed, but in the southern parts, there is a “laundry list” of issues. “I just don’t want anyone left behind,” she added.
Failing infrastructure is among Joiner’s biggest concerns, noting her street, in particular, hasn’t been touched for more than 20 years. She said the majority of residents in the Second Ward share those same concerns.
“I can go on another side of town, and those roads are getting repaved every year,” she said. “That’s a problem for me. That’s a concern. So, just out of frustration, that’s why I decided to run. … I just want our ward — our whole ward — to thrive like the rest of the city.”
Joiner noted other concerns she’s heard from residents pertain to the Delaware City Schools Board of Education as well as the rate of growth in the city. On the south side of the ward, Joiner said there is a large Hispanic community that wants programming that will benefit them. In general, she said residents on the south side simply want to be heard after years of feeling they’ve been neglected.
“The city might do something now and then to appease this side of town, but at the end of the day, those residents feel like the city thinks they don’t exist and that the city doesn’t care,” Joiner said. “They are really concerned with letting the city know that they are here and they are concerned, whether it be the crime or drug activity in the area, their safety, the relationship between the community and the police. These are things I desire to bring about a change to because we need our civil servicemen to help us, and we want to, as citizens, believe and be comfortable and confident to know they’re there to help us. If there’s no trust, that’s going to be a difficult thing.”
Joiner said some residents in the ward are upset about the proposed income tax increase, not because of the increase itself but because they don’t see those dollars currently working for them on their side of the town.
“They’re concerned the city wants to build a (parking) garage downtown, but our roads, DATA system, transportation, those things that are a necessity over here (aren’t up to par),” she said. “There’s no grocery store over here. We had one, but it’s now gone. These residents just can’t understand a lot of these things.”
Joiner went on to say the first thing voters can expect from her should she be elected is visibility, something she felt has long been missing from the Second Ward representative.
“I want them to know they can see me,” she said. “I’ll have an open-door policy and can be reached at any time. More importantly, I’m going to reach you. I have a plan in my mind of how I want to be able to make sure we are connected without division.
“They can count on and rely on me to be a voice for them. I can’t promise anyone things will change tomorrow because they won’t. I want them to be patient with me because this will be a learning process for all of us. But if they don’t know anything else, know that my passion for this city and for change for all of us is going to drive me to do whatever we need to do.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.