Stu Markham, who served on city council from 2006 to 2020, is running for mayor of Newark, he confirmed this week.

Markham is the first person to announce his candidacy after Mayor Jerry Clifton announced Monday that he won’t seek re-election in the April 12 race.

“I care about the city,” Markham said Thursday. “And I think we need somebody who has experience to lead the city right now.”

With Clifton’s retirement, Newark will have the least experienced council in recent memory. Jason Lawhorn, with just four years in elected office, will be the longest-serving council member.

Markham, who served several years as deputy mayor and ran meetings in the mayor’s absence, said he has the experience and institutional knowledge to navigate the issues facing Newark.

“I think I've got a pretty good resume for this,” he said. “But I'm not looking to add this to my resume. I'm looking to do it because I think it's the best thing for the city, and I think I can do a really good job and help all my friends and neighbors.”

A native of Towson, Md., Markham first came to Newark to attend the University of Delaware, where he majored in political science. He met his wife, Kathy, here and after living in Maryland for a few years, they returned to Newark in 1990 to be closer to her family.

They have lived in the Hunt at Louviers ever since. Markham, who has a master’s degree in computer science, most recently worked as a vice president for JPMorgan Chase, running project management for a team of developers. Prior to that he worked as a technologist for the Delaware Department of Education.

Markham’s first foray into local politics came in 2006, when he won a three-way race for the District 6 council seat, replacing the departing Kevin Vonck.

The first councilman to live north of White Clay Creek, he ran with the goal of giving a voice to residents of northern Newark, who are further away from the core of the city and often feel forgotten.

He went on to be re-elected six times, facing a challenger only once.

During his time on council, Markham was instrumental in establishing Curtis Mill Park on the site of the old Curtis Paper Mill and was a strong proponent of renewable energy. He spearheaded the creation of the McKees Solar Park and had long advocated installing solar panels atop buildings in the city, an idea that has since been approved and will be completed later this year

Markham used his background in information technology to help modernize the city’s IT department, and he developed a reputation for scrutinizing the city’s monthly financial reports, frequently peppering the finance director with questions.

He announced his retirement from council in 2020, explaining that he needed to “recharge” before embarking on any new challenges.

He has since retired from his day job and said serving as chairman of Newark’s reapportionment committee last fall “re-whet my appetite” for government service.

At this stage of his life, running for mayor makes sense, he said.

“I really felt like when I was on council that between my regular job and my family and other interests, I was more than busy enough, so it never really made sense to me,” he said. “This time, it just seems like all the pieces kind of fit together.”

He said that, if elected, one of his priorities would be taking a close look at the city’s finances.

“I think it's important for everybody to feel like they've got value for their money,” he said.

He noted that with the county’s reassessment process, the city will need to decide how to adjust tax rates for the updated property values. City council also needs to decide how to spend the remainder of Newark’s share of the American Rescue Plan Act.

He said he is concerned about the businesses struggling due to the pandemic and would like to find ways the city can help them, possibly using some of the ARPA money.

“Having lots of businesses empty on Main Street, or anywhere in the city, is not good,” he said.

Another focus will be on the upcoming zoning review for the downtown district. In response to concerns about development, the city will hold public workshops in the coming months to solicit feedback on what changes residents would like to see.

“We’ve got to talk about where do we want the city to go in the future, but I think we also have to realize we're not going to be here the whole time. So what do we want to leave to the next generation and what works for the city?” Markham said.

One major point of discussion will be the height of buildings on Main Street. Markham said a limit of five stories would be reasonable, though he added there are other factors to consider as well.

“It's all going to be a balance, because the city staff will tell you that it's cheaper to deliver utilities to a more dense building,” he said. “We should look at, are there places where we would rather have the higher buildings and draw students and other people to those locations?”

Once the pandemic subsides, he wants to see more community events, especially at the neighborhood level.

“I’d like to see us do more to connect the city together,” he said.

Markham said he can help city council work as a team and find compromises even when members disagree.

“With my background from my other jobs, I’m able to get things done and get people to compromise. Project management is about putting all the pieces together and being able to ask the right questions,” he said.

Candidates have until Feb. 7 to file to run in the April 12 election. Those interested must be a qualified voter of the city, have lived in the city for at least one year, not be convicted of a felony within the last 15 years and submit a nominating petition with 10 signatures of qualified voters.

Also on the ballot this year are the District 3, District 5 and District 6 council seats, which are currently held by Jay Bancroft, Jason Lawhorn and Travis McDermott.

All three incumbent council members have said they plan to seek re-election, but as of Thursday night, no one besides Markham has officially filed their candidate paperwork.

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