HB239 – The Karen Hartley Nagle County Executive Succession Bill

Here is a rare Republican sponsored bill that passed with a majority of Democratic support. The bill would change the succession process in New Castle County government if the County Executive dies or resigns. Currently, the County Executive is succeeded by the County Council President. That is what happened back in 2010 when Chris Coons resigned after he was elected to the U.S. Senate. County Council President Paul Clark succeeded him as County Executive.

This bill changes the law so that if the County Executive resigns or dies in office, the vacancy will be temporarily filled by the person serving as the County Chief Administrative Officer. Then, a special election will be held to fill the position for the remainder of the term of office of the County Executive, under the same process as is applicable to vacancies in County Council districts.  UPDATE: There was an amendment to the bill that passed that changes it considerably.  The Amendment authorizes the Governor to appoint an acting County Executive instead of the County Chief Administrative Officer automatically becoming the acting County Executive.   A second amendment allows that appointee to run for County Executive if they should so choose.

One does not have to have an IQ greater than Steven Hawking to understand why this bill has been passed: Karen Hartley Nagle. No one wants to see her in the County Executive chair. No one wants to see her in her current position either. The bill passed 33-6, with all Republicans voting for it, as well as all but 6 Democrats. Those Democrats tend to be the more Progressive members of the Assembly in Sean Lynn, John Kowalko, and Sean Matthews. The other Democrats seem to have other, perhaps personal reasons. I can understand not voting for this bill as it does seem to be legislation that is focusing on one person. And I can see disagreeing with having the Chief Administration Officer be the successor since he or she would be un-elected. (This consideration is moot given the amendment above). As much as I loathe Karen Hartley Nagle, I think a compromise piece of legislation would allow her to succeed temporarily, but then call for a special election within 60 days.

HB239 – The Karen Hartley Nagle County Executive Succession Bill
SPONSORSRamone, Lavelle, Hudson
YESB.Short, Baumbach, Bentz, Brady, Briggs King, Carson, Collins, D.Short, Dukes, Gray, Heffernan, Hensley, Hudson, J.Johnson, K.Williams, Keeley, Kenton, Longhurst, Miro, Mitchell, Mulrooney, Osienski, Outten, Paradee, Postles, Q.Johnson, Ramone, Schwartzkopf, Smyk, Spiegelman, Viola, Wilson, Yearick
NOBolden, Jaques, Kowalko, Lynn, Matthews, Potter
ABSENTBennett, M.Smith
HISTORY – Passed
STATUS – Awaiting consideration in Senate.


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3 comments on “HB239 – The Karen Hartley Nagle County Executive Succession Bill

  1. It’s HB 239 not 237 and was first floated by Coons. I think there are two amendments you may have missed, one of which makes this a temporary gubernatorial appointment prior to special election.

    • KHN leases Sunday Comcast LAPA Channel 28 Teevee time even now from Potter and their friendship goes back a decade.

  2. HyperbolicDem

    Every piece of legislation has an impetus. This one happens to be a dead-eyed dolt with the need for “power” and status. That being said, it is a great first step. The people elected a County Executive to be an administrator. They elected the Council President to be a legislator. Being able to legislate does not mean you can manage. This should have been done a decade ago when first proposed.

    The CE skill set is one of a CEO. They are meant to manage the “business” of county government. The Council President is a part-time job that has the equivalent job duties of an at-large council member. While there may be some council president’s (and council members) that have that ability, it’s not been the rule. Coons managed both and Clark was (questionably) a much better manager than legislator. Those were the exceptions.

    The next step is to modify/eliminate the council president position. As I mentioned, it is no more than an at-large positon with ceremonial duties (e.g., run meetings, sign legislation, appoint chairs to committees). These duties are all still subject to a vote by council, so the council president has no real power. The City of Wilmington is not the model to emulate because the president has too much authority and sway over the body. The voters already elect one of executive, the election of leadership should be left to the body. Eliminating the president position altogether would give an even number, but in reality, a tie is always possible and there is not often someone absent than not. Eliminating the president and allowing for the pro tempore to be the “leader” of the body makes sense. Each district has adequate enough representation without a floater. If we are really going to make meaningful change, there should be a consideration to eliminate the County Executive position in favor of a County Manager. This could save nearly $2 million in administrative positions that have done little more in the past than be a cheerleading squad for he Executive, or a behind-the-scenes puppet master in the case of Sherry Frebery.

    Regardless, this legislation is far overdue and does nothing to “subvert the will of the people” as some of the No votes have been saying. If anything, it preserves their will by ensuring they make the choice as they do for a council vacancy. Any appointment is extremely short term until this will can be exercised.

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