Resort Council Field Swells To Five

Steve Green

Editor

OCEAN CITY – Some
familiar faces, including two incumbents, have joined the race for the four
City Council seats up for grabs in next month’s election.

Councilman Jim Hall and
Doug Cymek filed for office within the last week, joining Councilman Jay
Hancock, Councilwoman Mary Knight and resident Sean Rox as the candidates thus
far. The filing deadline is Tuesday, Sept. 23. The election will be held
Tuesday, Oct. 21.

The
Dispatch
spoke this week with Hall and Cymek as well as Hancock, who
filed for his second term on Aug. 29.

Here’s a recap of those
conversations.

(BULLET)Hall, who has
been on the council since 1987, said he is “enjoying being on the council” more
now than ever before. Contrary to the way it was in the past with previous
elected officials, Hall said there is little to no friction among the council
members currently and the working relationships are sound. He said matters are
handled professionally these days, rather than with personal agendas and
motivations, as was the case in the past.

“I enjoy going to City
Hall now. There were times when it was difficult and there was a lot of
wrangling going on,” Hall said. “That has just disappeared and I attribute it
to us growing up and it’s been much more pleasurable.”

When asked why he wants
to continue to serve Ocean City after 21 years as a councilman, Hall said when
he steps down from politics he wants to be able to hand the decision making
over to a group of capable leaders. He said the next generation’s best and
brightest have not come forward yet to take over. Therefore, he thinks his
experience in government is needed.

“I pride myself in
trying to be out front. At the meetings, I try to be the worker bee. I’m making
the motions and paying attention and staying involved,” Hall said.

Hall said the major
issue over the next four years would be finances. He said the city is going to
feel the pinch of decreasing property values in the next budget cycle and
adjustments will have to be made.
“It’s all going to be about money,” Hall said. “Ocean
City is too expensive to live and we
want people to live in Ocean
City. It’s just too
expensive and we’re going to have to get a handle on payroll, expenses, new

projects… We just can’t bite off big bond money. While the Homestead keeps the taxes for residents very

low, they’re still struggling. We are all struggling. Watching the money is
going to be key. It’s the same way in our personal lives. People are suffering,
especially retired folks. It hurts.”

Despite his long
political career and finishing a strong second place in 2004, garnering more
than 1,500 votes, Hall said he will be campaigning hard in the weeks leading up
to next month’s election by going “door-to-door.”

“The people have changed
in Ocean City and are changing. We used to know
everybody. We don’t know so many people anymore. So many have bought condos
here and retired here. It is a get-to-know those who have just moved here,”
Hall said.

Over his last term, Hall
said he is particularly pleased with the combination of the fire and EMS
divisions in Ocean
City. After his election
in 2004, he said this was among his top priorities.

“I’m very happy with it.
It’s been unbelievably quiet and perfect so far. It seems to be meshing
together very well. All sides seem to say that,” Hall said. “There were really
rough feelings for a while, but I think it’s going great. The entire scenario
was mishandled. Maybe it was miscommunication, hard feelings, … the whole
thing was mishandled. I was offended by the way the volunteer firefighters were
treated, but we learned a lot and I think we got it worked out and everything’s
been going smooth.”

(BULLET)Hancock, a
retired Ocean City police officer with 30-plus years
of service to the department, said this week he is looking forward to serving
the town for another four years.

“I have enjoyed the
first term and I think the council over the last four years has been effective
in getting things done,” Hancock.

Hancock’s approach to
government revolves around a few basic political science terms, “pragmatism,
compromise and consensus.”

“As I’ve gotten into
this, I find those keys are applicable to being on the council and I think of
them often,” said Hancock, who placed third out of 14 candidates in the 2004
election, earning more than 1,200 votes. “I went in with what I thought was a
good background in local government, but I’ve learned a lot more since then in
terms of the detailed operation and also the people who perform the services
for the people of Ocean
City. I learned more
about water, wastewater, sewer, trash collection and all those things that make
up the city. It’s been a learning experience as well as a fulfilling
experience.”

Hancock currently serves
on the town’s Noise Board and is a member of the Police Commission and Coastal
Resources Legislative committee. Hancock specifically feels he is an important
member of the Police Commission.

“I think I have insights
that are particularly valuable given my experience. Ocean City
has changed greatly in terms of its size, but a lot hasn’t changed as far as
the department is concerned. It’s the same crime so to speak and minimal
serious crime. We still deal with much the same things we did with in the 70s,
only there’s more of them, reflecting the larger size of it,” Hancock said. “We
are unionized now, but I think the city is handling that well.”

After he was elected in
2004, Hancock said managing growth would be a priority. He said this week the
marketplace has done a way of curtailing growth by itself, but he said the
council through the comprehensive plan is also addressing it.

“I think we have
addressed some of the issues, but we haven’t passed all the legislation
necessary to implement all of the comprehensive plan. It’s an ongoing process
and I there’s more to be done,” he said. “Right now, the real estate market is
taking care of some of the problems, but I would like to see us take this
opportunity to get this legislation in place via the comprehensive plan’s
outline, which will address the concerns I had back in 2004 so that when the
next growth spurt comes we will have better tools to regulate the growth that’s
coming.”

Other issues Hancock
hopes to see addressed by the city in the future are increased energy
efficiency, the pursuit of hybrid city vehicles, the continual revitalization
of the downtown core and an offshore wind farm.

Hancock said he looks
forward to hearing more about the possible wind turbines off Ocean City.

“I think it’s something
that’s time has come,” he said. “The visual impact on a perfectly clear day in
the winter is a line of tooth picks on the horizon. I just don’t see it as a
visual detraction and it’s certainly not going to bring down the real estate
economy as some of the naysayers have alleged.”

(BULLET)Cymek is hoping
his third shot at a council term is the charm. In his most recent attempt in
2006, an election that set a record for lowest voter turnout ever at 24
percent, Cymek finished sixth, garnering 493 votes. The fourth-place finisher
in that election, Mary Knight, received 774 votes.

Having learned from that
experience, Cymek is optimistic about this year’s election. After his
unsuccessful run in 2006, he said in an interview he would be back in two
years. He kept that promise by filing last Friday at City Hall.

“I have chosen to pursue
a council seat again because I have always felt, and still do, that I would
truly be an asset to the citizens of the town as well as the Mayor and
Council.  Even though I have been
unsuccessful in the past, my desire to serve those of our great town has never
diminished in the slightest,” Cymek said.

Cymek thinks his private
sector experience of running successful businesses will be an asset on the
council.

“I truly believe my 33
years as a self employed business owner, licensed private investigator and
property and casualty insurance agent, combined with my 13 years as a
member of the Noise Control Board provides me with unparalleled knowledge and
experience over new inexperienced candidates,” he said. “My business experience
and awareness of local issues will be helpful in analyzing complex matters and
undoubtedly aid in making tough decisions when called upon.”

In 2006, Cymek waited
until the day of the filing deadline to announce his intentions. He said he
filed early this year to allow time to get out and meet more voters.

“I am going to spend
more time getting to know as many residents and voters as possible on a
one-to-one basis and become familiar with their thoughts and concerns about our
town,” Cymek said.

Cymek hopes to apply his
knowledge of the ongoing issues facing the town and rational leadership
abilities to his position as a councilman. When asked what he viewed as the key
issues facing the town in the coming years, Cymek was quick to rattle off a
few.

“Tourism and our local
economy, rising cost of goods and services to the town, and the projected
reduction of tax revenues over the coming years are all issues the new council
will be called upon to address,” he said.

In recent years, Cymek
said he has observed a better working relationship among the council members
and he hopes to continue that if elected.

“I truly look forward to
continuing the positive direction the current Mayor and Council has taken us,
with the added thought of making Ocean
City an even greater
place to live, vacation and work,” he said.

 

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