BERLIN – With no opponent running against him, Berlin Councilman Elroy Brittingham will begin his sixth term on the town council this year.
Brittingham, who had considered leaving his District III town council seat if an opponent challenged him, filed to run on the last day possible.
“That was kind of a surprise to me,” Brittingham said of the lack of opposition. “I had heard three or four people were thinking of running, three or four months before the election.”
Brittingham usually waits until the end of the last day to file, so he knows who he is up against, Brittingham said. He has run unopposed in most elections.
“I just figured before the day was out, there would be two or three,” he said.
A little less than 20 years ago, Brittingham fell into politics nearly by accident, while serving on a committee attempting to find a replacement for outgoing council member John Dale Smack, the first black council member in Berlin.
“Every person we tried to get to run declined to run. They came up with all kinds of excuses,” Brittingham said. “Then the committee turned on me. I ended up giving in.”
Many constituents called and asked him to run again this term, Brittingham said.
“I said I hadn’t planned on running, if you can get anyone else to run,” he said. “Nobody did.”
Brittingham, who owns Absolute Sports in Bethany Beach, Del., has considered opening a second location for the store, which prompted him to consider not running for re-election.
Over the years, Brittingham has fought to improve conditions in his district, the minority district established around the Flower St. neighborhood on the east side of town.
“We had terrible streets when I came on the council,” he said. “A lot of things were being overlooked.”
The town was using tar and chip on the east side roads instead of changing over to the new and more expensive hot mix, he said.
Now, the town council is treating all neighborhoods fairly, Brittingham said, and has instituted long-range planning for street repairs.
The town has also improved the power plant over his years in office and created new advisory boards like the Berlin Utility Committee.
The downtown revitalization is another highlight of Brittingham’s service. He once worked along Main Street so he knows first-hand what was happening.
“It was dying downtown,” said Brittingham, a 30-year employee of a downtown shop, Style Guide, owned by long-time Mayor John Burbage. “I actually saw the retail slide away.”
Downtown still can improve, he said, especially by adding more retail stores.
Brittingham pointed out the higher attendance at town council meetings over the years as an improvement as well.
Over the next four years, Brittingham’s number one priority will be youth and recreation.
“I would like to see us have a recreation department,” Brittingham said, acknowledging that the tight economic situation would hamper that effort over the next few years.
The youth of the town need something to do, he said, and Worcester County’s promise to build a recreation center in every town has not come to fruition.
Brittingham also wants to see stormwater improvements carried out in town.
Despite his last minute candidacy, Brittingham does not regret running for office once again.
“I think I’ll stick it out for four more years,” Brittingham said.