Townsend Mayor 'Rudy' Sutton
Sep 07, 2017 12:08PM ● Published by Steven Hoffman
Just about five minutes south of the traffic backups and commercial explosion in Middletown is the little town of Townsend, measuring just a bit over one square mile. Its Main Street has 216 Victorian-era homes and other buildings that earned the town a listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
At the heart of town is the railroad, which sparked Townsend into existence in the 1800s. Shipping agricultural products from the fertile Delaware farmlands was the lifeblood for the surrounding farms. These days, Townsend is the kind of place where kids can play on the side streets, there's silence at night, and the rush of nearby highways seems like another world.
Rudolph Sutton, known by all as Rudy, is in his second term as Mayor of Townsend, a job that pays only a token amount and consumes a lot of hours, but he's proud of the little town's history, diversity and laid-back atmosphere. During a recent interview at the town's offices – a renovated Victorian home on Main Street – Sutton talked about what it takes to preside over the estimated 3,500 people who call Townsend home.
Q.: How did you come to live in Townsend?
A.: I grew up in New Castle. My wife started working at Townsend Elementary in about 2004. We realized the school district was great and the area was very nice, so that's what led us to move here in 2006. I'm a carpenter and went to vo-tech school at Delcastle. Once we moved here, my neighbor was running for town council. I had always wondered what it would be like to be involved in government. My wife told me it would be a great opportunity to run the next time a council seat came open in Townsend, and I thought it would be a good thing. My passion has always been to help people. I ran for council in 2013 against about five people for three open seats. Residents vote you into the council, and the council appoints the Mayor. The Mayor's term is one year, and he can be reappointed, so I'm now in my second term. I'm grateful for the council that I'm fortunate to work with.
After the housing slump in the early 2000s, developments around Townsend were stalled. Now, with new homes built on the east and west ends of town, are things looking up?
The homes in Townsend have been moving pretty quickly, that's for sure. People want to be here. It's a small-town feeling, and people feel they're away from the hustle and bustle. I believe the lack of congestion here is appealing. Now, some people who have lived here for a long time might say it's becoming a bit congested. We have the possibility of another large subdivision going in within the next few years. The growth here is promising. The other thing is that the cost of housing. From Middletown to Townsend, there can be a significant savings.
What do you think Townsend needs?
One thing that I would like, and council agrees, is more commercial growth to service the people who are here. I would like a place in town to buy coffee, for one thing. A nice, medium-priced restaurant, maybe. And a few services – maybe a pet groomer, or other small, home businesses. And the residents also seem to want the same things – a coffee shop, some place to have breakfast. I know some of the local landowners have been having talks to bring in those types of businesses as well. That's a possibility. I think that would be great out on Route 71. That would help the tax base and the growth of the town.
What are some of your worries as Mayor?
One thing is financial growth here in town. We don't have services, as far as utilities, that are based locally. That all comes from Delmarva or Artesian. I'd like increased streams of income that stay here. That's one of the reasons we would like a little more commercial growth, because of the tax revenue. Townsend is doing just fine financially, but I would like some growth. We don't really have enough crime to mention. It's just a little vandalism in the park, small things that can be a nuisance. State Police do a great job of handling things here.
In a town this size, are you ever off-duty? Do people stop you on the street to talk about issues?
I can say that happens pretty rarely. I walk through the town and I'm able to do that without doing town business. Every once in a while, someone may stop me to talk about an issue, but for the most part, I don't have to hide, that's for sure [laughing].
What's your daily schedule like?
It would be nice to have a scheduled start and stop time, but it's all intermingled. I'm the owner of Contracting Plus, so with my job as a contractor, there's always new things that pop up, so I can't avoid that. It's the same thing as being the Mayor. There's not always a need for me, but sporadically, I may have to get involved in a situation, attend the meetings, or possibly help with a resolution. I'm just grateful for the flexibility that I have.
So you can say you're happy here?
It's a great town. I agree, it's a quiet place, but it's a great place to raise my two sons and my daughter. You just can't ask for a better place to live.
For more information, visit www.townsend.delaware.gov.