OCEAN CITY – This week’s municipal election was a remarkably close one, as voters returned incumbents Margaret Pillas and Lloyd Martin and welcomed Brent Ashley to office.
The atmosphere at the convention center on Tuesday was a dramatic one as the results were read aloud. The silence was broken by an eruption of cheering as Councilman Joe Hall held Ashley’s hand in the air for victory.
“I’m feeling very good,” Ashley said. “I think the message was heard by the taxpayers of Ocean City. The town has to be more fiscally responsible and conservative, and I think the results speak for themselves.”
Pillas responded in tears of joy after the results were announced.
“I’m a little dazed,” Pillas said. “It was a lot of hard work … I think it paid off. And I think the taxpayers will benefit from all our hard work. We’re a conservative group and times are tough, and we’re going to try to join together with the other three and get the town through these hard times. … This is my fifth run. I have spent all that time building connections and bonding with taxpayers. The voters started trusting me after so many years and they saw me work on the council and now they know…I have built up this network of people that say, ‘She walks her talk.’”
Martin’s enthusiasm was tempered by his disappointment that colleague Joe Mitrecic would not be returning to the council with him. Both Martin and Mitrecic were elected to the council in 2002.
“It’s going to be different. When you take all the different personalities out of it and work for the common good of the town, we all have the same interest. It’s about bringing people here and keeping it a clean and safe place,” Martin said. “I think that Ocean City is going in the right direction. We are right sizing the government and I think some people understand that it doesn’t happen over night. All in all Ocean City’s doing the right thing and they have the confidence in me.”
Although Martin is sure the council will unite eventually for the common good of the town, he is still skeptical in how the different points of view are going to mesh.
“When I ran the meeting a few weeks ago when Joe [Mitrecic] was absent … I saw a divide. I don’t want the Washington D.C divide to come to the town of Ocean City. I would like to see the town continue to prosper. We all need to work together,” Martin said.
Pillas said that Ocean City could look forward to a united council. She believes the seven council members will get Ocean City through the hard times.
“It’s going to be hard, as the assessments go down and tourism doesn’t go where it needs to go, and we’re going to have to pay the bills and provide essential services. I think the seven of us are ready for it,” she said.
Pillas admitted that she sounds like “apple pie” but she believes that the differences between the council will resolve.
“We are all in a competition…we will install everybody, and everybody will settle down. It’s bigger then us, the world goes on,” she said.
Mayor Rick Meehan seemed a bit dazed himself on election night by the results, but he’s confident the council will work together.
“Everybody has differences of opinions,” Mayor Meehan said. “I think in the past we have always been able to talk through an issue and come to a consensus, and most of the time move forward. I think we’re going to see the same thing continue on the council.”
“This whole issue is about the taxpayers, and we all need to be conservative here,” Pillas said. “They want us to be and that’s it.”
According to the mayor, the taxpayers have always been a top priority during the council meetings.
“Even before the election the council was continuing to re-evaluate how we do things, our pay scales, and the different functions of our government,” Meehan said. “We will continue to do that and I don’t think the town will be lost. I think we are moving in the right direction.”
Ashley believes the taxpayers have realized that spending has led to the problems that Ocean City faces today. He thinks the taxpayers are looking for a more conservative approach and a smaller, more efficient government.
“I definitely feel that the spending is going to be more conservative and the budget is going to be scrutinized more,” he said. “I think we are going to have to go through some more meat items and not so much the low hanging fruit.”
Ashley is not sure of what to expect from the other council members until he begins working with them.
“My approach is going to be to work with everybody. There’s definitely different points of view on the council,” Ashley said. “From my perspective, I’m going to try to work with everybody to be more responsive to the community and more responsive to budget issues.”
Ashley feels honored in gaining the opportunity to represent Ocean City.
“I would like to thank the people of Ocean City,” Ashley said. “I am a straight talker and whatever the situation is the taxpayer will know it. There will be nothing hidden. I am a big advocate of transparency, so if it’s good or bad news the taxpayers will know it and they’ll know the reason behind it. No more guessing for the taxpayers. … I can promise the taxpayers that the big spending days are over.”
For his part, Meehan looks forward to working with the new council.
“As mayor, I’m here to represent the people of Ocean City the very best way I can,” he said. “I am going to continue to work with the City Council and city manager to support the voters and the confidence the people have given us.”