When Councilman Stu Markham announced he would retire from city council at the end of his seventh term, he remarked at how smoothly things were going for Newark.
“There’s no legal battles going on, no financial crises, upper management is stable, and all the roles are filled. I don’t think we have any current leadership issues, and the city isn’t going through an upheaval,” Markham said. “This is a situation where if I were a new council person, I would want to come in. It’s nice and calm and quiet. Having your feet to the fire when you first start is not a lot of fun.”
That was Jan. 13. Two months later, Newark was facing a global pandemic of historic proportions and a related financial crisis that could see the city losing nearly $14 million in revenue this year. And in a final irony, Markham saw his last term on council extended for four months after the governor postponed municipal elections.
Over the last few months, Markham has taken his fair share of razzing from his colleagues, who have accused him of “jinxing” the city with his comments. However, on Monday, they had nothing but praise for Markham and Councilwoman Jen Wallace, who were both attending their final council meeting.
“I’ve got to really say, from the heart, that this is a bittersweet moment for me because I’ve learned to appreciate both of you and I have the highest respect,” Mayor Jerry Clifton said. “Whether I’ve voted with or against, other council members have been some of the most decent, honorable, moral people I’ve ever worked with. I hope the city of Newark appreciates what we’ve had in the past, what we have now and certainly the work of Councilwoman Wallace and Councilman Markham. You exemplify what government should be. Now, if you could just take that message 120 miles south of here down I-95, it could be a big help.”
Councilman Chris Hamilton concurred.
“Holy cow, this has been a great experience working with you two. You’re both so calm, and that’s the opposite of where I come from usually, and I’ve appreciated your class and dignity,” Hamilton said. “I’ll have you both on speed dial because I think I’m going to need your help.”
A resident of The Hunt at Louviers, Markham was first elected in 2006, winning a three-way race for the District 6 seat. He went on to be re-elected six times, facing a challenger only once.
“My constituents have been great. They’ve supported me, they’ve provided me information and they’ve questioned, which is pretty good,” Markham said. “I’m not perfect, but I tried to make the best decisions with what I knew and who I talked to, and there my record shall stand.”
Serving Newark has been an honor, he added.
“We have a great city,” he said. “There is a lot of uniqueness to this city and the people who live here. The students who come and go contribute, and we’re always growing. People may say it’s not always for the best, but I like to say the city is alive. I’ve been in other cities at times throughout the years, and they just didn’t have that life in them that Newark has.”
A resident of West Chestnut Hill Road, Wallace rose to prominence locally as a leader of the grassroots group Newark Residents Against the Power Plant. She first ran for the District 3 council seat in 2016, winning by a large margin, and successfully ran for a second term in 2018.
“Believe it or not, I’m going to miss this,” Wallace said. “I also want to say to my constituents, it’s been a pleasure and an honor to serve you. It’s a hard job, more so than one would think not sitting on the dais. I’ve learned a lot and I hope I’ve given back even more.”
She said she hopes to stay involved in the city.
“At some point, I would like to come back to serving on council. I do think there’s a steep learning curve to this job and there is some benefit in staying on for some period of time. I don’t think we need council members to stay on for their entire lives, but I think there’s some value in having someone with some continuity. I just need to take a break right now.”
In the July 28 election, newcomers Jay Bancroft and Anthony Sinibaldi are running to replace Wallace. Markham will be replaced by Travis McDermott, a New Castle County police officer and Hunt at Louviers resident who is running unopposed.