Meet the candidates for Greenwood Town Council

Meet the candidates for Greenwood Town Council
Photo by Element5 Digital / Unsplash

Greenwood’s town election is coming up Saturday, Jan. 15, so we reached out to all the candidates to ask them why they are running and let them make their case to the voters.

Running for the three open seats are current council members Donald Torbert, Norman Reed, and Vice Mayor Willard Russell. Challenging them are Anthony Massey, Michael Phillips, Lisa Workman and Lavonn Johnson. Read more on the election and how to vote here.

I reached out to all those running. Russell declined an interview. Reed and Torbert also declined interviews but sent written statements, which are included. I also tried to get in touch with Lavonn Johnson but did not have good contact information.

The interviews with the candidates have been lightly edited for length and clarity. They are presented in alphabetical order by last name.  

Anthony Massey

Massey is a local truck driver who lives with his family on Beaver Street.  

Why are you running for town council?

I am running for town council because when I first moved to Greenwood, I had an issue with the water bill, and my fiancee had an issue with the water bill, and it was like pulling teeth to figure out what the issue was. And when you ask questions, you get, “Well, we’ll have to let you know,” or “Well, it’s always been that way,” or “Well, and then some other “insert excuse here.”

It has gotten better since we’ve moved to town. I started attending town council meetings, started pushing, asking questions, trying to get to know the current councilmen, trying to see things from their angle. I just knew that with the problems I’ve seen on the national level, the problems I’ve seen on the state level, (seeing) something similar on the local level and I wasn’t all about that. There’s nothing I can do as one person to change national and state level, but I can run for town council if I don’t like what’s going on, and try to effect the change that way.

I would like to see more transparency in the way that the council makes its decisions. I know that they make these decisions based on us, their constituency, but I would like to know, what’s your basis? There was a big uproar about the sewer issue when the county took over the sewer, and (the response was) “Well, we told you guys.” Well, you didn’t remind them. If that meeting happened three years ago, then people are going to forget, people are busy. You should probably send out reminders.

It’s gotten better, like I said, but there are still things that need to be fixed and I think without a change of staffing, then you’re still looking at it with the same reasoning that  you had 10, 15 years ago. A fresh set of eyes is not a bad thing.

For instance, the sidewalks in town, those fall on the residents to fix. Don’t you think we could try to get a committee together to figure out how to raise the money for some people who can’t afford to fix the sidewalks? Town events like they used to have, I believe it was called Greenwood Day or Greenwood Days, stuff like that would boost the morale of the town. It didn’t seem like they had much interest in it for a while there.

There are whole sections of that town that don’t even know who the town council is. That’s not right.

It was like pulling teeth to get ‘em to do the Zoom thing (for Town Council meetings). Mr. (Michael) Phillips puts it on Facebook live, my fiancee Kelli (Nuwer), she posts notes and stuff because we attend the meetings, and that’s how most of this information has gotten out. I would like to see better notes posted on the town’s website. I would like the councilmen to actually be more involved in the community and say, “Hey, this is why we did this, this is our reasoning behind it.”

It’s one thing to have a meeting where you make decisions and delegate. Yes, that is your job, that is what that meeting’s for, but again, don’t you think that you should explain yourself at some point as to why you made those decisions? Did you talk to anybody? Did you hear any concerns from any citizens of the town? The town’s not huge at all, but it’s starting to grow … the apartments (Seachase Apartments on the north side of town), they had no idea who was on the Council. When I door knocked last year, they were like, “We got a town council?”  

What do you hope to accomplish if you’re elected?

I’m hoping to … get more people involved and address some of the concerns they have. The sidewalks were a big concern, the speed bumps in that housing development we were talking about up on the highway, there is a traffic issue cutting through there and some of the people have made suggestions about putting speed bumps, even if it’s just temporary. More community events, because the morale has taken a hit. After that bar burned down in town, everything kind of slumped for a little bit, and it’s starting to come back. That parade that they threw together was really nice. The town council did an excellent job with that … they deserve credit.

Like I said they’re not bad, they’re not doing a horrible job. I’m not going to talk bad about these gentlemen, they’re doing the best job they are capable of doing, but I feel like a fresh set of eyes that hasn’t grown up in that area, that isn’t stuck in that cliquish type thing that you get going on after you’ve lived somewhere for awhile, that will be a good thing.

I moved into Greenwood two years ago. Kelli and I bought the house there because it was a safe little town. We always took our kids trick-or-treating there, everybody seemed respectful, the streets were nice … it was a nice town. And it’s a great location, and the school district is awesome. I just want to see Greenwood continue to be great.

What’s your pitch to voters?

A fresh set of eyes on old issues. I think a little differently … I feel like getting a fresh set of eyes on some of these old issues would really, really help.

I really want to get out there and talk to people, and get the town morale back up, and get people invested back in Greenwood, that is my main thing. I want to be those fresh eyes and I want the citizens to be invested in their town again instead of saying, “Well that’s just how it’s always been.” Because with a mindset like that, your town’s going to die.

Michael Phillips

Phillips moved to town in 2001. He works as a general contractor, primarily in property management.

Why are you running for town council?

There seems to be a disconnect between the way the town functions and our councilmen, and the actual people of this town. You can’t call and speak with your representative. I happen to be able to talk with Norm (Reed) because he’s been my neighbor for almost 20 years and I have his phone number. I don’t have a phone number or a real voicemail box or anything for any of the other council members. I’ve asked in meetings, and this is part of being available to your constituents, to open access of records and meeting notes and all the goings on of a town that for years have been behind closed doors and next to impossible to really get any information back and forth. And I don’t think that’s part of an open and fair government.

I’m not running for any personal reason. I don’t particularly want to be on town council, I mean, I do, but it’s not on the top of my priority list. I have a business to run. But it’s happened over and over and over again, where we just get told, “Well that’s the way it’s always been,” or “We can’t give you a copy of that” … and it happens all the time. I don’t know any other town that restricts access to their budget information until the meeting. There’s no chance for the public to review these things before a meeting. (Agendas are released upon request at some point on the day of meetings.)

There’s some other issues. The meetings don’t function in a standard operating procedure, they don’t follow Robert’s Rules. They don’t tell us what their rules are, it’s not published anywhere. There’s a lot of this stuff that we don’t have and we should.

What do you hope to accomplish if you’re elected?

I think the primary order right off the bat is to establish a parliamentary set of rules that is published so that the public knows how to behave and Council behaves in a fixed manner. Like I said, there are no parliamentary rules. It’s in the charter that the council can make their own rules, and it’s not published anywhere. And I think by getting to a set of procedures, and a standard operating procedure like every other town, city, county, state, federal uses, I think that will make things a little bit more accessible. I believe, and I’ve asked (the town manager) about this and it’s something they’re going to talk about, that there should be voicemail boxes for the town’s phone number for each council member, just like the county and state. You call up to Dover and you call your representative’s office, and you get their voicemail box. And that’s part of public access, and same thing again, all the meeting notes or documentation for a meeting are available at the same time that a meeting’s agenda is posted. And I think this town has worked, I don’t like the word, but backroom deal, where outside of council meetings things are handled and there is no records, there’s nothing for the people who are paying taxes to run this town to see. Or it’s not available.

What’s your pitch to voters?

First and foremost, eliminating the dual voter registration (the Council voted to begin this process at the last meeting). That casts a lot of people out that are unfamiliar. We’ve met people that have lived here for a decade or more, and they had no idea that there’s a separate voter registration; they don’t even know that there’s voting for town council. It’s taken me well over a year to make that happen (urging the Council to take that step). It was right after elections last year that I approached the county department of elections and got the information, which I have presented now twice. And it also stems back to getting on the council’s agenda. I think the other thing that we have pitched to people is this open access. Being available to answer constituents’ questions. Or say, “OK, I hear what you’re saying, let me take that before the Council.” Or, “Would you like to come in and put that before Council.” That open dialogue, it’s just not here.

Norman Reed

I have been a resident of the Town of Greenwood since 1974 and a member of the council for four years. I currently also hold the position of Police Commissioner. The job of a council member is to represent the citizens and the town government and make decisions that are in the best interest of both. The job of Police Commissioner is to be a liaison with the Police Department and address any safety issues. These two positions are ones that I take very seriously and will continue to do so if re-elected.

Donald Torbert

Torbert has served on Council since 2014 and was nominated to the position of secretary in 2019.

If elected I will continue to put the needs of the residents and town of Greenwood a priority.

Lisa Workman

Workman has been living in town since 2004. She works for Davis, Bowen and Friedel engineering.

Why are you running for town council?

Well, I have lived in Greenwood for a little bit over 17 years. I believe that the majority of the other residents are like me, living their own lives, working, raising families and don’t particularly pay attention to what’s going on in their little town. People tend to hear what’s going on on the national news, ‘cause it’s (always on), and I think you can make the biggest impact on a local level. So I’m looking for there to be more interaction and feedback from residents of the town, so that everyone has the opportunity to get involved, and if they have voices that need to be heard they can, so that we can all work together as a whole to make Greenwood the best that it can be. I’ve lived here so long, and I feel like I’ve stayed in my own little bubble, by my own fault, and maybe on the town level too.

What do you hope to accomplish if you are elected?

I don’t really have a big plan as far as “We’re going to do A, B and C,” because like I said I’ve stayed in my own lane so to speak. I’ve worked at a surveying company for the same amount of time that I’ve lived in town, so I’ve seen the tremendous impact that the growth in eastern Sussex County – how much that affects all the way over here … the traffic from April to November. I’d like to find some alternatives and maybe some creative ways utilizing that traffic and those people that are coming through our little town to maybe fund some of our budget. They’re right on our main street, which I tend to avoid Friday through Monday on those just crazy months, but I want to try to figure out how to fund the town budget without having to expand our town limits or dramatically increase the population. Part of the reason that I bought a house here so young was the small town feel. It drew me in and probably a lot of the other residents to come here in the first place. So I want to figure out creative ways instead of just booming Greenwood into Milford, so to speak.

What’s your pitch to voters?

I realize that 17 years to live here isn’t probably as long as some of the other people that I’ve come in contact with, you know, 50, 60 years, but this is a place that I plan to stay forever because I love how it is. I love where I am, I’m part of the community. I want to help grow the sense of community while preserving what is so great about Greenwood.

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