OCEAN CITY – City Council candidate Brent Ashley is seeking to become a fixture at City Hall because he thinks the elected body needs “a conservative voice for the people.”
Ashley, currently the chairman of the town’s Noise Board, of which he has been a member for 20 years, last ran for the council in 1988. He was unsuccessful in that attempt, but Ashley, who is retired after having a career as a local motel and rental property owner, said he is motivated to run because the “taxpayers need a representative.”
“Ocean City has been very good to me and the people have been very good to me. My theory is if the community is good to you, you should give back,” said Ashley, a former president of the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce. “This is a more public way of giving back. A more public position to maybe help more people. To me, the taxpayer is the director and the boss of government and I think that’s often forgotten. The government works for the people.”
Ashley said he decided to launch a bid for a council seat after having concerning conversations with numerous residents and city employees over the years during his daily walks and bike rides along the Boardwalk and elsewhere in Ocean City.
“We have a community of so many talented, creative, smart people that are not being utilized. I see the frustration on their faces. Nobody is listening to them. They’re afraid to approach the government. I talk to them all the time. They have wonderful ideas. Even if they do present them, they are turned down,” Ashley said. “I know a man on the Boardwalk that has been in the business for 40 years who has tried to contact city officials many times about ideas, and they don’t respond. They don’t return emails, calls and he’s a well-known fixture on the Boardwalk.”
Ashley pledged to return each and every form of communication with the citizenry if he is elected. It’s disturbing to him that many elected officials in Ocean City do not answer phone calls or emails from citizens. There’s a sense of elitism among some officials, he said.
”Every phone call will be returned. Absolutely all of them, it may not be within the hour, but I will get back to them … 100 percent, all the time,” he said. “Thirty years of demonstrated service proves I can back up my talk. I am not a talker, I’m a doer. It’s demonstrated. It’s there. I am not new to the community.”
After this week’s disqualification of William Steiner as a candidate, Ashley is one of seven faces battling for four open seats on the council. The other candidates are incumbents Jay Hancock, Jim Hall and Mary Knight and challengers Doug Cymek, Joe Hall and Sean Rox.
Ashley said he deserves a seat on the council because he is the only candidate that is talking about the taxpayer.
“So many candidates don’t want to rock the boat,” Ashley said. “They want to go with the status quo, and I have yet to see any candidate so far come out and say it’s the taxpayers that really count. They are the people that count. … The government should be run as a personal finance or as a business. It’s the taxpayers’ money.”
Ashley pointed to his conservative approach to financial matters as another way to separate him from others.
“My basic theory is, as far as budgetary problems, to make money you must conservatively spend money and wisely save money. I think there has been some loose spending on the council, and I do not think there is a true conservative on the council and there has not been for a long time. I think the taxpayers money could be better spent in a more conservative matter,” he said. “With budget problems, hiring freezes, cutbacks and everything, obviously there’s a problem, and these problems should have been looked at years ago when things were plentiful.”
Along with spending concerns, Ashley said a disturbing trend has surfaced in City Hall. Over the years, Ashley has noticed voting blocks often form on the council, despite what candidates claim prior to being elected. He is pledging to remain independent and will not align with others. Ashley said he is not beholden to anyone.
“I do not ask for nor do I need anybody’s approval to represent the taxpayers. I am only interested in what the taxpayers want. I do not work for the mayor, the city manager,” he said. “There’s no clicks for me. What’s right for the taxpayers is the way I go.”
Ashley said he’s not a typical politician, backs up what he says with action and admits he can be brash at times, but he thinks these are signs of an independent mind.
“I think so often the power blocks form and they forget what they are there for. I’m not a good back scratcher or eye winker. I am there for the taxpayer. This is not a country club or social group. This is the taxpayers’ business. They forget that. I will have no trouble going up against the mayor, city manager, council member or whoever it is if I feel they are not representing the taxpayer,” he said. “I don’t owe anybody anything. I have been around many years and I know how it works. It’s not a game. That’s why we are having the problems we are now. Vote for the best candidate who is going to represent the taxpayer. We need people who are independent thinkers who can represent 7,000 very good people.”