Dear Mr. Mayor: Convince me to move to Wilmington

Susan and Michael Sauter meet Mayor Purzycki for the first time at the Jasper Crane Rose Garden Party – June, 2018

New empty nesters, Susan and Michael Sauter were looking to relocate from their suburban Philadelphia home to a more buzzy, urban environment for their planned retirement.

Like so many of their generation, the Sauters wanted to downsize into a walkable community with lots of cultural amenities – shopping, dining, arts, all with a neighborhood feel.

But prices were lofty in fashionable Philadelphia neighborhoods, so the Sauters cast their gaze to other nearby cities, and Wilmington naturally fell into the target zone for their search.  However, although living most of their lives just up the road from Wilmington, like not a few other Philadelphia-area locals, the Sauters didn’t know much about the city founded by Swedes nearly 400 years ago.

So Susan Sauter did what most people would: she wrote the city’s mayor asking him to sell them on the move to Wilmington.

“Dear Mayor Purzycki,” her email began.

“My husband and I are considering relocating from the Philadelphia suburbs to Trolley Square.  I have read a lot of blogs and online statistics about the crime rates in and around the Wilmington area.  I’m looking to get a sense from you about how you and your team are working to make Wilmington safe, and any insight you can provide around your goals to continue to revitalize the city.

Is moving to Trolley Square a good investment?  If I become a community member what opportunities will there be for me to help to strengthen the community to make it the best it can be?

This is the last time I will move in my lifetime – our kids are grown and we are not too many years away from retirement.  That said, we want to live in a vibrant community that offers culture, a sense of fun and community. Does Trolley Square, and the Wilmington area offer that?”

Sauter’s note concluded, “Thank you in advance for taking the time to read and respond to my email.”

Sauter was hopeful she might hear something back but did not expect much more than a form letter from City Hall.  But she was leaving no stone unturned in the search for a new place to start the rest of her life.

“This was a huge decision,” said Sauter.  “We have lived in ‘PA’ all of our lives. When we started to get more serious about looking here, I was reading a lot of negative things about Wilmington. And I was thinking, how do I find out the real story here. I guess I decided to go straight to the top. I found the mayor’s email address online.”

A few days after sending the email, into her inbox popped a response – personal, detailed, and from hizzoner himself (tapped out via iPhone no less). 

“I just was amazed that he would reach out and be so thorough in his answer and so welcoming. It showed me that this is a town that has a person who cares, to respond to a complete stranger.”

Purzycki’s response sung the praises of the dynamism and diversity of Trolley Square, addressed Sauter’s concerns about crime and touted ongoing development projects underway. (He provided permission – “by all means use it” – to TSD to share his email exchange with Sauter.)

“It is important to note that crime has been reduced significantly across almost the entire city,” said Purzycki, citing the hiring of a new police chief and the introduction of new, effective crime reduction methods. “We have a deployment plan that has more police on the streets than ever before. But most important is the culture of engagement with our citizens that has yielded the positive results we have seen in our neighborhoods. And we post online all of our crime data by neighborhood weekly so residents stay informed.”

“Developers are currently planning to build about 1,000 apartments throughout the city demonstrating that the market strongly believes in Wilmington,” the mayor went on. “We are opening three new hotels soon. We expect four new restaurants to be built downtown and several more on the Riverfront. We continue to build up our neighborhoods especially those which have been neglected for too long.”

Sauter says Instagram is a great way for people to learn about a city. Since moving to Delaware, she has posted several of her favorite experiences on the social media site.

Purzycki made the sale. 

Just months after the email exchange, the Sauters now live in the Forty Acres neighborhood and Susan has become one of Wilmington’s biggest boosters, cataloging her visits to prime Delaware attractions and community festivals alike through active posting on Instagram. “My Instagram is my diary of places I’ve been. I went to the Hagley festival, to Longwood, I’ve been to Nemours. I took a trip down to the Conowingo Dam, which was really cool.”

“Instagram is how I learned about Delaware,” said Sauter.  “It’s a great way to learn about the community … That’s how I started following the Mayor. The Mayor has a good Instagram game.”

Sauter couldn’t be more pleased with her new hometown, referencing both Wilmington and northern Delaware’s amenities but also its prime location.  “The suburbs were the right place for us when we raised our family,” she said.  “But now I work from home and I just want to be able to walk anywhere from my home – an art museum and shops. And I also wanted to be closer to the airport and to a train station. I am now 24 minutes to the airport as opposed to 45 minutes from where we were.”

“We could not believe the beauty. The water, the bridges, and how close the city is to very bucolic areas. It’s easy to manage and get around. We had an amazing realtor who listened to us and found a great place for us to live,” Sauter told TSD.

“It turns out that the Mayor is very representative of the people we have met here,” Sauter went on. “People are warm, welcoming and open. It does have a small-town feel. We’re really happy here in Wilmington.”

In closing her exchange with Purzycki, Sauter added a new title to her signature, one sure to bring a warm glow to the mayor’s heart … “Susan Sauter, Future Purzycki Supporter.”

Sauter snapped this photo of Hagley with beautiful Wisteria in bloom around the windows

*A full transcript of the email communications between Susan Sauter and Mayor Purzycki follows below. Editor’s note: the story was brought to our attention by Susan Sauter — not the Mayor or his staff.

From: Susan Sauter  
Date: February 18, 2018 at 8:19:44 PM EST 
To: “Michael S. Purzycki”
Subject:  Re: Your city 

Dear Mayor Purzycki,

Thank you for the personal and detailed response!  It means more than you know that you took the time to allay my concerns. It now makes sense why people like our realtor, Mia Burch, and Dale Southam, from Moore Brothers (who we met today, during a fun walkabout) spoke of you in such glowing terms. They said that you are a man of action, and detailed all that you have done/planned for the city – and mentioned they both campaigned for you. You sound like a leader who inspires people.

We’ve really been enjoying the friendly vibe and openness of the people we’ve encountered in and around Trolley Square, and are excited about our plan to put an offer in on a property.  

Thank you again!  Here’s to hoping I’ll bump into you at De La Coeur or Brew Ha Ha one day to be able to thank you in person. 

Kind regards,
Susan Sauter
Future Purzycki Supporter

On Sun, Feb 18, 2018 at 9:39 AM, Michael S. Purzycki wrote:

Susan

Thank you for contacting me about your prospective move to Wilmington. I think your consideration of the area around Trolley Square is an excellent one. I have friends from every demographic who love living there – twenty somethings attracted to nightlife to retirees who love the walkability – and all attracted to charming housing stock. As to community involvement the neighborhood meetings often have fifty or more residents attending- our members are highly committed and engaged. 

The neighborhood is among the very safest in the city. But it is important to note that crime has been reduced significantly across almost the entire city. My new chief, Robert Tracy has instituted crime reducing methods that have proven to work effectively in New York and Chicago where he spent his career before coming to Wilmington. We have a deployment plan that has more police on the streets than ever before. But most important is the culture of engagement with our citizens that has yielded the positive results we have seen in our neighborhoods. And we post online all of our crime data by neighborhood weekly so residents stay informed. Our chief attends most neighborhood meetings as do I when I can. And I would like to think that in most cities the Mayor would not be answering your communications personally ( this is not the Mayor’s assistant) on a Sunday morning.

Developers are currently planning to build about 1,000 apartments throughout the city demonstrating that the market strongly believes in Wilmington. We are opening three new hotels soon. We expect four new restaurants to be built downtown and several more on the Riverfront. We continue to build up our neighborhoods especially those which have been neglected for too long and I am instituting a strong home ownership program as well for those who have been unable historically to purchase a home. Our cultural institutions are outstanding for a city our size and our public places are simply beautiful.

Wilmington is a wonderful place to live. If you are not yet convinced contact my office and let us know when you are planning to visit. I will do my best to meet with you and try to convince you personally.

Again, thanks for your interest in our city. 

Best
Mike Purzycki

Sent from my iPhone

On Feb 13, 2018, at 10:07 PM, Susan Sauter wrote: 

Dear Mayor Purzycki,

My husband and I are considering relocating from the Philadelphia suburbs to Trolley Square.  

I have read a lot of blogs and online statistics about the crime rates in and around the Wilmington area.  I’m looking to get a sense from you about how you and your team are working to make Wilmington safe, and any insight you can provide around your goals to continue to revitalize the city.

Is moving to Trolley Square a good investment?  If I become a community member what opportunities will there be for me to help to strengthen  the community to make it the best it can be?

This is the last time I will move in my lifetime – our kids are grown and we are not too many years away from retirement.  That said, we want to live in a vibrant community that offers culture, a sense of fun and community. Does Trolley Square, and the Wilmington area offer that?

Thank you in advance for taking the time to read and respond to my email.

Kindest personal regards,
Susan Sauter


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About the Contributor

Christy Fleming

Christy Fleming

The managing editor of TownSquareDelaware.com, Christy Fleming also supports a variety of non-profit initiatives in Delaware. Her background includes positions in public relations, advertising and journalism.

4 Comments

  • Love this article. Mayor Purzycki is just what Wilmington needed, and the Sauters are terrific. I hope more people like them follow their lead! Thank you TSD for sharing this story with the community!

  • Agree – great article and great to have a Mayor who cares and is making a difference ……Christy – I am not sure how or why I started receiving TSD, however I look forward to reading it, certainly more informative and inspiring than the regular online newspaper…nice job…..RTaylor

  • We left Delaware three years ago due to high crime and horrible public schools. There is nothing the mayor or anyone else could do to bring us back. Our quality of life has been so much better in PA. The one thing Delaware had going for it (for those without children anyway) was that is cheap to live there. Now they are raising taxes (their only solution to anything) to eliminate that advantage.

  • Great article! My husband and I sold our house in Delaware County, Pa and moved to Wilmington in December after many years of having one foot in both DE/PA. We finally took the leap. I am so proud of the great work happening in the city to help with revitalization by both non-profit and private industries, and by committed residents who are taking steps to improve their communities. For Mayor Mike Purzycki to take the time to respond so thoughtfully shows his commitment to these efforts, and I’ve seen him “do as he says” in his professional and personal life. Thanks to you for covering a story like this one, and your work in raising awareness of all the good things happening here in Delaware.