Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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In a rare split vote, and perhaps a sign of things to come with this new group of elected officials, the Ocean City Council re-appointed Joe Mitrecic to the president’s chair last week. Voting for Mitrecic, who has served as president of the body since 2006 after he was re-elected, were Council members Doug Cymek, Mary Knight and Lloyd Martin. Voting against the motion to keep Mitrecic as the man who sets the meeting agendas and leads the meetings at City Hall were Joe Hall, Jim Hall and Margaret Pillas. With Mitrecic’s obvious vote for himself, he was able to keep his seat in a 4-3 vote. Martin was appointed council secretary in an unanimous vote.

This was the first time I can remember any vote for the president not being unanimous. It’s been standard practice for the council to decide privately who will be president, hash out the differences and then appear united when it’s officially voted in public. It’s silly, but it’s been that way for years and most other governments do the same thing. Reached this week, Joe Hall explained why he voted against Mitrecic for president. It’s worth noting in the days after the election Jim Hall was heavily lobbying to regain the presidency that he lost to Mitrecic in 2006.

Joe Hall, who acknowledged Mitrecic helped him on the campaign trail leading up to the Oct. 21 election, made it clear his vote was not a result of robust support for anyone else or even extreme opposition for Mitrecic. “The main reason was I talked to Joe over some agenda items and my desire to aggressively control spending, and I didn’t get the feeling of commitment to lowering taxes,” Hall said. “It was just not the level of commitment I was looking for in controlling the spending and I did not feel there was the willingness there to pursue big changes the way I want to see with the town.”

A little further south in Snow Hill, word is out that County Commissioner Louise Gulyas wants to be president of that group.

Currently, Commissioner Virgil Shockley is president, taking over earlier this year from Commissioner Jim Purnell. Gulyas has informed all of her colleagues, including Shockley, of her intent to seek the post, and it appears she may have the votes if it were to be decided today. I spoke last Friday with Commissioner Bud Church, who was part of the unanimous vote for Shockley to be president after Purnell stepped down, and he said he would support Gulyas, who has been vice president for years. He thinks it’s time for a change and that Gulyas deserves a shot at leading the group because of her 10 years on the board and her experience as vice president. Church seemed to believe Gulyas has the votes to bump Shockley out of the position. Decisions on the president and vice president, which Church is suspected to have the inside track to secure, are typically made in December.

For his part, Shockley said Tuesday he would not fight to retain his presidency seat. “I know she wants to go after it and it’s hers to go after. I am not going to get into a bloodbath with the commissioners. We have more important things to address than to completely divide the commissioners. If she’s got the votes, that’s fine. I will back away,” Shockley said.

If Gulyas secures the presidency as expected, Shockley said he will happily return to the commissioner role enjoys. “There are just too many things you can’t fight for as president because as president you speak for a majority of the board, at least that’s how I see it,” he said. “Basically as president, I do not get to shoot my guns as I used to for nine years. The upside of me being out of the president’s chair is I get to say what I want to say, and nobody’s going to stop me. I have been around long enough. They may think they can crush me a little bit, but it’s not going to happen. I will be a lot more vocal and pushing things I want to achieve over the next two years. It’s going to be a heated discussion at budget time, I can assure you of that, and it’s going to be a difficult budget.”

Staying with politics, Senator Lowell Stoltzfus, who represents much of the lower shore including Ocean City, has told local Republican Party officials he does not plan to seek his seat again in 2010. Consequently, some lines are being drawn in the sand with Church and Shockley discussing the vacancy with me this week.

Church, a Republican whose district includes West Ocean City and parts of Berlin, remains committed to the county. He said he is “99 percent sure he will seek re-election in 2010. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I will be in the [commissioner] race.” Church said representing the area in Annapolis is no longer a personal goal of his. “Fifteen years ago, I would have probably jumped off the top of your building to get to Annapolis, but that’s not even on the radar screen for me right now. My ego is not what it used to be and my goals and ambitions are different. I like being at home and I enjoy being with my grandkids almost more than anything else in my life right now,” he said.

Shockley, a Democrat, acknowledged several folks within his party and elsewhere have inquired whether he would seek the seat. He said he preferred to wait until after Tuesday’s election before speculating on his political future. “We are going to get one election over with before we start the process for another. I don’t know. I am going to take a look at it and make a decision fairly early, probably by the summer and start to get serious by early next fall,” Shockley said. “Right now, I am very happy and content where I am. I am very content down here. I make a difference down here.”

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