Some Wilmington City Council members asked Monday for the residency requirement for workers to remain in place.

Wilm. City Council members plead for residency requirement

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Government

Some Wilmington City Council members asked Monday for the residency requirement for workers to remain in place.

Some Wilmington City Council members asked Monday for the residency requirement for workers to remain in place.

Three members of the Wilmington City Council – including the president –  on Monday protested Mayor Mike Purzycki’s decision to no longer require city residency for current and newly hired employees. 

“We have the power to make sure that the residents get to make that decision and that we don’t go from a five-year residency commitment to none,” said District 2 Councilwoman Shané Darby, “That is extreme and unacceptable, and it’s disrespectful and a slap in the face to our constituents.”

District 1 Councilman Vincent White noted that Purzycki’s decision came within the same hour he announced he would not be seeking re-election in the 2024 mayoral election. 

A member of the crowd said it was wrong for the mayor to make residency requirement decisions that affect the future of Wilmington when he’s on his way out. 

Efforts were unsuccessful to reach At Large Council member James Spadola, the council’s only Republican, for comment.

White said that having a residency requirement fosters a strong sense of community, provides employees with a vested interest in the city’s success and ensures taxpayer dollars benefit the local economy. 

“It promotes accountability and responsiveness by enabling employees to understand the residents’ needs and concerns, which better facilitates effective communication and decision making,” he said.

Darby read a prepared statement from District 4 Councilwoman Michelle Harlee, who also opposes dropping the residency requirement. 

“I firmly believe that maintaining the integrity of our city’s residency policy is essential for preserving the character and quality of life that our community values,” the letter read. “While it’s important to adapt and evolve with changing times, we must also prioritize the long interests of our residents.”

Darby said the mayor’s decision gives the impression that there is a lack of talent within the city’s borders. 

“But we do, we do have a lot of talent here in the city,” she said. “The city needs to invest in finding that talent, instead of saying we’re going to get outside people to come here to work.”

The mayor’s decision was made about two weeks ago, White said. 

Purzycki said the residency requirement was undermining the efficiency of city government and sometimes caused delays in filling vacancies of important jobs.

“There are critical government positions open such as engineers, planners, attorneys, sanitation drivers and collectors, a water lab supervisor, 911 emergency dispatchers and police officers among others,” Purzycki said in a statement. “We are hopeful that there will now be applicants for these positions where there were none before now that residency is not a factor.”

Council President Ernest “Trippi” Congo called Purzycki’s decision “dangerous and irresponsible.”

“We’re not putting those same Wilmingtonians who elected us and who pay our salaries first,” he said. “We’re saying that it’s okay to open the floodgates to different counties, and even to surrounding states, to be employees who work for the city…I don’t think that’s fair.”

Congo said it’s important that Wilmington residents fill the 80-100 vacant positions the city currently has. 

He also noted there’s about a half dozen council members who are supportive of eliminating the residency requirement.

The council members urged residents to attend the council’s meeting Thursday at 6:30 and share their thoughts. 

The meeting can be watched here, or the public can attend at the council’s chambers at 800 North French Street in Wilmington. 

During the meeting, the council will vote whether or not to relax or completely abolish the city residency requirements for current and newly hired employees. 

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