History of the City of Milford
On February 7, 1807, the Delaware General Assembly approved the incorporation of the Town of Milford and the first board of commissioners was formed to govern the city. At that time, the incorporated area was only in Kent County, north of the Mispillion River.
Eighty years later, the town reincorporated with land on both sides of the river. The first town council was seated, six men from north Milford and six from south Milford. Notably, many years before the United States Constitution was amended in 1920 to give women the vote in national elections, women were voting in Milford.
An elected mayor and eight member council now govern the City of Milford. There are four wards in the city, each with two council positions. The mayor is elected for a two year term, as are the council members. One council position in each ward is open for election each year.
A city manager works in tandem with the mayor and council. The manager is responsible for carrying out city policies and supervising municipal employees.
Included under the umbrella of city government in Milford are the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Parks and Recreation Commission.
The Milford Parking Authority is an independent corporation with members appointed by the mayor. The Authority owns, operates and maintains public parking lots in the downtown district of Milford. Revenue for the Authority comes from a tax paid by owners of properties in the downtown district.
In 1990, the city adopted a Comprehensive Land Use Plan. The intention of the Plan is to guide land use decisions and is updated regularly for plans ten to fifteen years in the future. The Plan includes information on demographics, the economy, city infrastructure and natural features.
In greater Milford’s earliest days, more than 300 years ago, Native Americans harvested shell fish and small game and grew corn and melons. In Saw Mill Range, as Milford was then called, an active timber industry was underway. By the 1700’s a thriving shipbuilding industry supported the community’s economy.
Today, dozens of different enterprises in greater Milford represent a myriad of business and employment categories. Non-durable manufacturing in the greater Milford region includes food processing plants, textile, chemical, and rubber products. Durable manufacturing in the area includes fabricated metal products, millwork and electrical industrial apparatus. The service sector is a significant employment base in Milford as demonstrated by the hospital and general health care industry, educational system, job training and vocational rehabilitation centers. A varied and thriving retail sector includes such businesses as grocery, department, discount and variety stores, motor vehicle dealers and building materials sales. Tourism and related hospitality field are reflected by Milford’s many fine restaurants, bed and breakfast inns, taverns, and motels. Other business categories that provide jobs and community economic support are wholesale trade, construction, and agriculture. One third of the total population of Kent and Sussex counties lives within a 15-mile radius of downtown Milford giving the community a market base of more than 75,000 customers.