Nepotism not always a bad word in Delaware

    John Watson is a long time Wilmington radio host.  He shares his thoughts on the makeup of the new Williams administration in Wilmington.


    Once again we find Mayor Dennis P. Williams in the spotlight, being criticized in a News Journal piece of nepotism being used to place family and friends in government positions they aren’t qualified for.

    That’s an unfair assumption I would say, because nepotism is not, in and of it’s self, a BAD WORD. And it doesn’t always indicate unfair use of a powerful position.

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    Nepotism has had a bad reputation in the past. There is more than one definition.

    Wikipedia free encyclopedia defines nepotism in several ways; one says it means “favoritism granted to relatives regardless of merit”. (Many do just that). But, it also defines Nepotism as “favoritism shown to relatives and close friends, by those in power or influence”. I pick the second definition, and find nothing wrong with appointing qualified family and friends to positions of authority. Nepotism is not a bad word, but should only be used for those who are qualified.

    History shows it’s not always done that way. The Middle Ages were filled with Catholic Popes and Bishops, who had no children, and would give their nephews positions of preference that often lead to the position of Pope. All of this with no thoughts about qualifications. And let’s not forget President Ulysses S. Grants’ family members who prospered financially because of his miss use of nepotism.

    Was it different with President John F. Kennedy? He made his brother the U.S.Attorney General and his brother-in-law the first director of the Peace Corp. Now that’s what I call good nepotism.

    There’s nothing bad about this use of nepotism as far as I can see. What about you?

    But getting back closer to home we read in The News Journal reports, some members of the government and watchdogs are wondering if nepotism has infiltrated and ninth floor of Wilmington’s City Council Building where the Mayors office is located. Well from where I sit, Mayor Dennis P. Williams’ form of nepotism is a positive, not a negative, for the city.

    The Mayor is appointing people like one of Delaware most intelligent and well qualified women. Velda Jones-Potter is now his chief strategy advisor. She is the wife of the Mayor’s cousin, newly elected State Representative Charles Potter. He was elected to Williams’ previously held job in the state legislature.

    Potters’ son Brandon was appointed to the newly created marketing job. Wilmington architect Leonard Sophrin is now director of policy and his son, David has an administrative position. The two sons worked on the Mayors transition team, with no salary, and no interview was conducted for their new positions. So what? The Mayor had ample opportunity to test them as they worked on the transition team.

    But Cassandra Marshall, President of The Quaker Hill Neighborhood Association, is quoted as saying “it doesn’t look to me (her) as though we’re running a government for the interest of the people who pay taxes in the city”. She adds, “maybe we’ll be running the government for the interest of the people who are in the government.”

    On the other hand, University of Delaware Associate Professor, Jonathan Justice agrees with me. He is quoted in the News Journal piece as saying “it’s certainly possible that there are lots of cases where we say “gee it really looks suspicious that they hired somebody’s nephew”. But Justice went on to say, that “somebody’s nephew might well be as fully qualified for the position as someone who is not a nephew”.

    And that’s what happened in Mayor Williams’ nepotism. He picked those family and friends who are equally qualified with those who are not family and friends. And you can be sure; if they let him down he will let them go.

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