Newark Mayor Polly Sierer moved to the city 25 years ago for a job, but stayed because of a passion to lead. Upon election two years ago, she became the first woman mayor of Newark in more than 40 years. Now she is setting a precedent for others. Sierer, with the interim president of University of Delaware and many other women, are the driving forces of the town. “This is not something I went to school to do,” Sierer says. “This is something coming from within.”
She and women like acting UD president Nancy M. Targett, serve as role models. “We have to go out into the community and share our experiences so they can develop a passion to be leaders,” Sierer says. Education and engagement are the keys. “That’s what inspires women to have the desire and confidence to pursue this.”
With a population of 30,500, Newark is the third-largest city in the state. It is made up of two essential halves, the university and the city. Sierer and Targett are just two pieces of the team. They serve with others. Here are a few.
Margrit Lee Hadden
Now in her second term of representing District 4 on City Council, Hadden is serving with a newly minted Certificate in Local Government Leadership from the Institute for Public Administration at the University of Delaware. As a member of the legislative body vested with all powers of the city, Hadden is studying whether municipal broadband is viable for the city, looking to revise the nighttime noise ordinance in residential neighborhoods and working to maintain the integrity of residential neighborhoods. But she is passionate about finding solutions to homelessness in Newark, especially for military veterans, and improving opportunities and resources for low-income residents. “Everything I do is volunteer based,” Hadden says. “There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing something that you’ve been working on come to fruition.”
“Now more than ever before, local government is being held to higher expectations related to quality of life and environmental issues, as well as our delivery of traditional services,” Houck says, so her main focus for now is developing leaders and innovators in the city administration and increasing community engagement. She has a full plate, overseeing an operations budget of up to $43 million, a capital budget of up to $12 million, and all municipal operations, including police, planning and development, finance, Alderman’s Court and more. “City managers tend to be generalists that have the sense to focus on the right things at the right time while relying on having the right people with proper skills in key positions,” she says. Houck earned her job the old-fashioned way. After serving as assistant to the city manger for 15 years, she served as interim manager for seven months after her predecessor’s retirement, then came out on top of a national search in 2012.
Kathleen S. Matt
Dean, College of Health Sciences, University of Delaware
Executive Director, Delaware Health Sciences Alliance
Both of Matt’s positions involve facilitating biomedical research and educating the next generation of healthcare leaders in order to enhance the health and well-being of Delawareans. As dean of the Health Sciences, she oversees education, research and clinical programs. As executive director of DHSA, she cultivates biomedical partnerships across its institutions, UD, Christiana Care Health System and Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children. Matt returned to her hometown of Newark to lead the college six years ago. Biomedical partnerships she built while working in Phoenix, Ariz., resulted in development of a medical school and a strong partnership with the Mayo Clinic that will lead to another medical school. She is working to continue that work here, facilitating more partnerships and growing an academic health center on the university’s Science Technology and Advance Research (STAR) campus.
Maureen Feeney Roser
Director of Planning and Development
In her previous job as assistant director of planning and development, Roser worked as staff to the Downtown Newark Partnership, helping it to win the Great American Main Street Award from the National Trust. “It showed that the hard work and dedication put into the economic, aesthetic, cultural and social enhancement of downtown Newark was worth the effort,” Roser says, “and getting the national recognition was great for the city.” Roser has served as the director of her department since 2012. She and her team regulate all land use and development in the city and provide related services through its program divisions: economic development, parking, code enforcement and others. Among other honors bestowed her are the Exceptional Service Award for the Delaware Main Street Program of Delaware Economic Development Office and a Jefferson Award for Public Service.
“I had never been active in politics or aspired to an elected office,” Sierer says. But when people started encouraging her to run for mayor in 2012, she saw an opportunity to influence the future of the community. She now does all the things you would expect of any mayor: provide leadership and guidance to the community, preside over City Council as it sets policy and oversees finances, and act as the city’s ambassador. Yet she is also president of the Newark Area Welfare Committee and Newark Senior Center, among other volunteer activities. Three years into her term, “I will continue to spend a great deal of time developing relationships in our community, both at the individual and institutional level,” Sierer says. “I will continue to foster these relationships with our citizens, the University of Delaware, and our state and federal elected officials to create a community that is vibrant and engaging in its efforts with regards to economic development, education and community involvement.”
Nancy M. Targett
Acting President, UD
Targett joined the university as an assistant professor in 1984. Now she is the acting president. Targett’s trajectory was, in may ways, typical of academia, but also fortuitous. She became a full professor of marine bioscience in 1995, then was named dean of the College of Earth, Ocean & Environment and Director of Delaware Sea Grant 10 years later. In July, soon after Patrick Harker stepped down as president, the board of trustees chose Targett to keep the ship steady until a new leader is named. She now works with students, faculty, staff, board of trustees, alumni, friends and the public to advance the university’s missions of teaching, research and service. Her goal for now: “To maintain the momentum of our university initiatives and to prepare the university community to welcome and work effectively with the next president.”