Jack Markell has served as Governor of Delaware since 2009, after being elected in 2008 (67% of the vote) and re-elected in 2012 (69%). He is term-limited and will complete his time as Governor in January 2017.
During his tenure, according to Gallup, Delaware has gone “from one of the lowest-ranking states (in terms of job creation) in 2008 and 2009 to one of the top-ranking in 2013 and 2014. Delaware holds the distinction of being the only state anywhere along the Eastern seaboard to be in the top 10.”
This improvement reflects Governor Markell’s keen focus on improving an economy that was buffeted by the Great Recession. When he took office, he inherited rapidly rising unemployment and the loss of major employers. Since then, companies including JP Morgan Chase, Capital One, Baltimore Aircoil, Sallie Mae, Calpine and many others have re-located to or expanded significantly their operations in Delaware.
These and other employers have been attracted by Markell’s keen focus on improving Delaware’s schools and workforce development system. In 2010, Delaware won first place in President Obama’s “Race to the Top” competition. Since that time, Delaware has adopted higher learning standards, raised the bar for its teacher preparation programs , leveraged one of the nation’s best educational data systems in better identification of student needs, invested in early childhood education, created a statewide world language immersion program, built the nation’s best college access program for low-income youth and created a new “Pathways to Prosperity” plan in most of the state’s high schools, enabling juniors and seniors to earn industry-recognized credentials in fields ranging from manufacturing to computer science to hospitality.
The results are impressive: thousands more low-income students enrolled in the best early childhood centers , record-high graduation rates , more than doubling the number of students taking college-level courses in high school and increasing in the number of students taking and passing Advanced Placement tests.
Markell has focused on running state government efficiently and effectively, having reduced headcount by 4.5% since taking office without layoffs and by keeping average annual budget growth below zero when taking into account inflation and population. He has maintained the state’s AAA bond rating while reforming Delaware’s health and pension systems to make them more sustainable over time.
Under his leadership, Delaware has taken major steps to ease regulatory burdens on businesses, and to increase investment in repairing and improving the state’s roads and bridges while making transportation spending more effective and efficient. Markell has also led an effort, with the support of hospitals, health care professionals, institutions of higher education and other stakeholders to move Delaware’s health care system from a fee for service model to one focused on achieving high-quality and lower-cost.
Markell has promoted quality of life initiatives that include major investments in libraries and bicycle and walking paths. Delaware has moved from 31st to 3rd in the annual rankings of bicycle-friendly states by the League of American Bicyclists. Thanks to his statewide recycling initiative, Delaware has nearly doubled its recycling rate since 2006 . The state also reduced dirty air emissions faster than any other state, serving as a national model for improving the environmental through efforts that also boost the economy.
A leader on criminal justice reform, Markell, who was invited to testify before Congress about Delaware’s progress, has led efforts to make better use of state corrections resources and increase the likelihood that ex-offenders will contribute to society rather than reoffend. The Justice Reinvestment Act he championed helps help ensure those who who enter Delaware's criminal justice system are treated in the most effective way, and Markell launched I-ADAPT, a multi-agency re-entry program that includes employment support, health care and housing. Other initiatives have eliminated the loss of a driver's license for low-level offenders, established job training programs through the Department of Correction, and banned the box on state job applications so the more than two thousand ex-offenders who apply for state jobs have a better shot at employment.
Markell has been recognized by his fellow governors, having been elected to serve as Chair of both the Democratic Governors Association and the National Governors Association. In that latter role he chose as his Chair’s initiative A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities.
He has also served for three years as Chair of the National Board of Directors of Jobs for America’s Graduates, co-chair of the Common Core Standards Initiative and chair of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League.
Prior to being elected Governor, Markell was elected three times as Delaware’s State Treasurer, when he created the Delaware Financial Literacy Institute and its signature program, the Delaware Money School.
He began his career in the private sector helping lead the wireless technology revolution as the 13th employee at Nextel (a name he coined), where he served as Senior Vice President for Corporate Development, responsible for hundreds of merger and acquisition transactions, equity financings (including the company’s IPO) and strategic planning. His other business experience includes a senior management position at Comcast Corporation, work as an associate at McKinsey and Company and as a banker at First Chicago Corporation.
Markell was born and raised in Newark, Delaware and graduated from Newark High School with his wife, Carla. He went on to receive an undergraduate degree in economics and development studies from Brown University and an MBA from the University of Chicago. Markell is a Henry Crown Fellow and a Rodel Fellow at the Aspen Institute. He resides in Wilmington Delaware with his wife. Their two children, Molly and Michael are in their 20’s. The family has a mixed-breed dog, Rue.