Michael Purzycki starts campaign for Wilmington mayor (video)

Wilmington mayoral candidate Michael Purzycki kicked off his campaign Wednesday night for what he calls the city’s “most important election in half a century.”

The Democrat spoke inside a ballroom at the Chase Center on the Riverfront, decorated with his green and blue campaign colors—vowing to clean up the city, reduce violence and create opportunities for residents.

“I will make the tough decisions, and I will be a transformational mayor for you,” Purzycki said to about 400 attendants, including family, friends and supporters. “But I can’t do it without you. Together we can restore Wilmington.”

Purzycki is one of seven candidates—all Democrats—on the November ballot for Wilmington Mayor, including incumbent Mayor Dennis Williams.

He’s been the executive director of the Riverfront Development Corporation for the past 20 years, and is the former chairman of the Wilmington Hope Commission—an organization that helps men reintegrate into the community after release from prison.

Purzycki also is a former attorney, and served as New Castle County Councilman for three terms.

He has run a successful campaign so far, receiving $26,400 in contributions, mostly from individuals, according to online filing reports.

Purzycki said he has the background to be a successful mayor, pointing to his planning and development success on the riverfront, which has brought more than 6,000 jobs to Wilmington and $30 million of annual revenue to the state.

“I feel very strongly this city has not been doing well under this administration,” he said. “I really think it needs someone who is a proven leader who will help this city grow.”

Crime is one of the biggest issues in Wilmington, Purzycki said, and his first task as mayor would be to put two new police officers on the streets.

“Our crime impacts everything in our city. It impacts our economic develop strategies. It has people very nervous about their property values,” he said. “We’ve been a proud city and all of a sudden our self-image is rattled and we have to restore confidence on getting a grip on crime and expanding economic development.”

However, Purzycki said issues leading to crime, such as poor education and poverty, need to be addressed.

“Crime is a symptom of much deeper problems—failures in our neighborhoods, but also failures of our public policy,” he said.

“I think it’s the first time people are coming to grips with how serious our crime is and we need to convene a lot of different agencies and levels of government to work on this, and I think sound strategies are what we need.”

Former Governor Mike Castle was one of the many supporters in attendance Wednesday night. The Republican said his friend holds many accomplishments, starting with humble beginnings in New Jersey, to becoming a football star and eventually managing the riverfront.

“He’s done a very good job managing the riverfront, and he demonstrated leadership and ability to get things done, and that’s certainly the theme and what has to happen in this election and what we need in the mayor of Wilmington,” Castle said.

“I think more than most candidates running for anything Mike has that.”

Paul Ford, a life-long resident of Wilmington and former lieutenant with the Wilmington Fire Department, said he believes Purzycki has a vision to restore Wilmington to how it used to be. He said he believes Purzycki can improve economic development in the city.

“Economic development is very important, because it creates tax revenue to the city,” Ford said. “Just look around the riverfront and you can see he’s brought businesses in here, created about 7,000 jobs, which provides revenue to the city.”

Maria Matos, president and CEO of the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington, said the violence in Wilmington needs to be addressed and believes Purzycki can get a handle on the issue.

“We never had this violence that’s happening now, and it’s been going on for the past 10 years and nothing’s happening,” she said. “We need someone who’s able to think, put strategies in place, and literally take the bull by the horn and do what needs to be done. I think Mike has the will to be able to do it.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal