Some thoughts on this week’s Ocean City municipal election:
— This week’s victory was a long time coming for Ocean City resident Doug Cymek, who finished in third place in the council race. After it was official he had enough votes to get the coveted seat, he was handed a hat by his campaign chair, Harry How, that read, “Councilman Cymek.” How had apparently been hanging on to the hat since 1996, the first time Cymek ran for office and was unsuccessful, in the hopes the day would come that he won a seat at City Hall. Cymek said he never knew of the hat until How gave it to him the night of the election.
— With Cymek’s election, there are now three Dulaney High School graduates on the Mayor and Council. Cymek and Mayor Rick Meehan graduated in the same class from the Towson area school, while Council President Joe Mitrecic would earn his diploma years later. Records are not kept on this sort of thing, but indications are this is a first.
— Resident Frank Knight, husband of Councilwoman Mary Knight, confirmed on election night how personal and sensitive small-town politics can be. Rather than being content with his wife’s impressive second-place finish and re-election to her first, four-year term, Knight confronted me immediately after the results were announced, saying, “you lost,” referring to the fact this newspaper did not endorse his wife’s candidacy last Friday. I reminded Knight our endorsements are intentionally not predictions, and he proceeded to explain how the paper had been unfair to his wife. It’s worth noting earlier on his way into election hall after the polls closed, Frank Knight aggressively bumped me from behind. I initially gave him the benefit of the doubt as most people would, figuring it was a mistake, despite the fact the expansive room was largely empty, but County Commissioner Bud Church witnessed it and assured me repeatedly it was unmistakably intentional and significant because the councilwoman’s husband went out of his way to ensure contact. In predictable fashion, Knight later adamantly denied it was deliberate, saying he did not know whom he bumped and that it was an accident. It was simply a result of having a couple beers at Coins Pub after the polls closed, he said. Whatever the case, it’s this kind of bizarre and dramatic sensitivity that reminds me why I just love small-town politics.
— Speaking of endorsements, this year marks the first time ever the two newspapers of significance in the area, The Dispatch and Ocean City Today, endorsed the same slate of candidates for City Council. The candidates endorsed were Brent Ashley, Doug Cymek, Jim Hall and Joe Hall. History shows newspaper endorsements do not matter much as far as election results, but this year Ashley was the only endorsee not elected, finishing in fifth place, 52 votes shy of a council seat in his second attempt at office.
— Jay Hancock should be recognized for handling his defeat with class. He answered the phone on Wednesday when staff writer Bryan Russo called him and respectfully addressed why he thought he was not re-elected. Some would lash out against the newspaper, while others would have chosen to ignore the phone call or at a minimum not wish to speak to a reporter the day after a loss. Hancock had to be disappointed with his surprising sixth place finish and 598 votes. Surely, his approach to the Ocean City Police Department, specifically his public disapproval of Police Chief Bernadette DiPino, played a part in his outcome. Nonetheless, he was graceful in defeat at the polls on Tuesday and that deserves acknowledgement, especially considering how others handled the election results.
— Councilwoman Nancy Howard wrapped up her three terms in office this week. During her time at City Hall, Howard and I had a couple unfortunate conversations and disagreements, but that’s inevitable whenever someone serves for 12 years. Disagree or not on certain issues, Howard deserves respect for serving the community. She proved to be an independent and respectable representative during her tenure. I was interested by the fact she did not want to do an “exit interview” of sorts with the media. These are typical when long-time elected or appointed officials step down. Howard, who was not present on election night, seems to prefer not rehashing the last 12 years and the issues she dealt with in the past. She wants to look ahead rather than behind. That’s appropriate in her case because my guess is her contributions to government will pale in comparison to those made through her volunteer work with a number of local organizations, including the Art League of Ocean City.
— With this election in the books, it’s not too early to start looking ahead to 2010. It’s suspected Commissioner Louise Gulyas, who represents Ocean City and has since 1998, will call it a career after her third term expires in two years. There have been lots of talks privately about who will seek to be her replacement. One name mentioned early on has been Council President Joe Mitrecic, who addressed that with me this week. “You know, I am as comfortable in my life now as I ever have been. I have a wonderful family and am blessed all the way around,” he said. “There’s talk out there about me running for County Commissioner and I truly don’t want it. Some have asked when I would run for mayor. I don’t want to run for mayor, either. Even if Rick said ‘I am not running next time,’ I still would not run for mayor. I wouldn’t. I am truly satisfied where I am in my life right now, and I don’t want to do anything different.”