OCEAN CITY – Along with the election of newcomer Brent Ashley to the City Council, the big news out of Tuesday’s municipal election was the defeat of two-term incumbent Joe Mitrecic.
Elected on Tuesday were Mayor Rick Meehan, who ran unopposed and received 954 votes; incumbent council members Lloyd Martin, who received 863 votes, and Margaret Pillas, receiving 855; Ashley, who scored 775 votes after a string of unsuccessful runs at office. Mitrecic finished in fourth place, receiving 734 votes, just 41 shy of Ashley’s tally.
“I think all the votes were relatively close,” Meehan said yesterday. “The first four were pretty much bunched together. There were only a very small number of votes separating everybody. So I don’t think they’re viewed differently that much.”
At the convention center on Tuesday night, Mitrecic was visibly taken by surprise once the results had been revealed.
“Believe me when I say it is not a good feeling,” Mitrecic said on Wednesday. “I am certainly disappointed. You never get into a situation of wanting to lose.”
Mitrecic added, “You go in, run your campaign, do the best you can once you’re in there, and try to do the best things for Ocean City. Sometimes people disagree with what you’re doing and decide they don’t want you there anymore.”
Meehan, who had worked hard for incumbents Mitrecic and Lloyd Martin to return to the City Council after it was made evident Councilman Joe Hall was actively and publicly supporting Pillas and Ashley, was dissatisfied in Mitrecic’s loss.
“I think it is unfortunate,” Meehan said. “I think Joe served this community very well, he’s a man of high integrity, and I am disappointed that he is not going to be there.”
After previous unsuccessful runs, Martin and Mitrecic both broke through and won election in 2002. Martin recalls when he first Mitrecic in 1996 at his former pizza shop.
“He was more of a downtown person, he was about the Boardwalk and his business, and I was an uptown guy,” Martin said. “So it was one of those things where we could bring uptown and downtown together. We’re one town and that’s what I have pushed for, for years.”
Martin and Mitrecic partnered up during this year’s election campaign, and Martin is disappointed as well that Mitrecic will not be returning to council with him.
“I have gotten to know Joe. He is a stand up guy,” Martin said. “When he tells you he is going to do something, he works hard at it. It is going to be different.”
Meehan feels there may have been some outside influence in this year’s election.
“Unfortunately, I think in some ways people looked at their dissatisfactions with the federal government and state governments, and that carried over to the municipal government,” he said. “In our case, people have really responded to difficult economic times very well. I think Ocean City is in a very good state of economic condition and I think that will continue.”
Although he was disappointed to see Mitrecic ousted from office, Councilman Doug Cymek seemed to agree with Meehan on the outside political influences angle. He said the council election results could provide a preview of what could be looming ahead in less than two weeks.
“I think what we saw last night could be the first glimpse of what’s going to happen on Nov. 2,” Cymek said. “The timing is ripe for change. I don’t think the council I have sat on has done anything wrong. We have all worked hard in challenging times … I am cautiously optimistic the new council is going to be able to work well together. It’s very clear Brent only has the best interests of the town of Ocean City at heart and he would like to see some of his ideas move ahead at a greater pace than they have been. Maybe a fresh face is a good thing.”
Mitrecic feels that in the last couple of years he and the Mayor and City Council have made many positive movements for Ocean City.
“I hope it [Ocean City] doesn’t change at all. We had a good year this year and I hope that that continues for the business people,” Mitrecic said. “I don’t foresee any major changes coming in the future. I think the council overall has done a good job with both the budget and with handling the town. I would hope the new council would continue in that direction.”
Mitrecic said he was grateful for the support he has received during his two terms in office.
“I appreciate everybody’s support for the past eight years,” Mitrecic said. “Ocean City will always be my home, and I hope it does well in the future.”
Meehan believes Mitrecic will remain supportive of Ocean City.
“I am sorry to lose Councilman Mitrecic, but I know Joe is going to remain active in our community,” he said. “His family’s here, his heart is here, and I’m sure he will continue to participate any where he can.”
When asked what he plans on doing next, Mitrecic responded, “I’m going fishing…Well, you never say never, but I have no plans to run anytime in the near future.”
Other candidates receiving votes after Martin, Pillas, Ashley and Mitrecic were Sean Rox, 311 votes, Warren James Disbrow, 173 votes, and Charles Paul Borchini, Jr., 124 votes.