OCEAN CITY – Former City Manager Dennis Dare filed to run for City Council on Monday morning, taking the opportunity to look back on the improvements he has helped make in Ocean City over the last 30 years and what he intends to accomplish into the future as a councilman.
As Dare walked out of the front entrance of City Hall after filling out the council paperwork, Dare was overwhelmed by the amount of supporters who greeted him, including council members Doug Cymek and Mary Knight, who are both up for re-election; Councilman Lloyd Martin; former Council President and candidate Joe Mitrecic; and Mayor Rick Meehan.
Dare said it will be 30 years on Oct. 11 since he walked up to City Hall to report as City Engineer. Eight years later, Dare was appointed city manager after Tony Barrett’s replacement abruptly resigned after a short stint on the job.
Dare said at that time the recreation department was located in City Hall with a gymnasium where what is now council chambers. The Ocean City Police Department was crammed into three buildings on Dorchester Street and the Public Works Department was operating out of the former Ocean Playland amusement park on the bay at 65th Street.
“When you walked in the gate, there was a clown painted on the wall that said ‘have a nice day’ and you go back into the complex and there is an abandoned roller coaster, the Loud Mouse, as some of you might remember,” Dare said of the former Public Works headquarters.
Dare went onto remember when the Roland E. Powell Convention Center had a ramp as an entrance with one large ballroom and two breakout rooms. Coastal Highway was comprised of 115 feet of asphalt from sidewalk to sidewalk with parking in the east lane and a “suicide lane” or turning lane in the center.
Also at that time Dare recalled walking on the Boardwalk at high tide when the ocean would wash in underneath and when sea foam would wash as far up as the highway during a tropical storm.
“Well a lot has changed during that time,” Dare recalled of the improvements that had been in Ocean City while he served as a city employee.
Dare also recalled what was once a dump site on 125th Street is now a premier park, Northside Park.
“You know what, we need to look across the street here at 3rd Street and at Bayside Park and go ahead and improve that and expand the skate bowl,” he said.
Dare furthered that now the police department works out of state-of-the-art Public Safety Building on 65th Street. That property was once a parking lot for Playland.
“That’s not good enough,” he said. “We have to maintain the police department with adequate staffing. We have gone through two years with lowered authorized staffing and we need that protection.”
The Public Works Department also now operates out of state-of-the-art facilities throughout Ocean City.
“That is not good enough,” he said. “We have to maintain our infrastructure. We have to dedicate the resources necessary for them to maintain the buildings, the streets, the sewer, the water. If we are going to maintain roads in Ocean City, it starts with that infrastructure.”
Dare moved onto to the convention center that has currently undergone its second expansion in the last 30 years and will soon be home to a new auditorium to serve as a performing arts center.
“We can’t stop with that,” he said. “We have to continue to maintain our tourism that is the life of this town whether it’s the convention center or advertising, we need to maintain that.”
Coastal Highway has also changed to have controlled movement with a median and landscaping.
“That’s not good enough,” he said. “We have had pedestrians killed and bicyclists killed, and I think there is a lot of work to be done there, whether it’s the physical changes that may be required or different approaches to what we do.”
At Monday’s press conference, Dare recognized former Councilwoman Nancy Howard who worked to receive easements from oceanfront property owners for beach replenishment.
“We need to continue the partnership with the fellow governments, the state, the county to maintain the beach replenishment and also address the other environmental issues that we have in the town,” he said.
Dare said his 29 years of experience working as city engineer and city manager make him uniquely qualified to serve as a councilman.
When the recession hit a few years back, Dare and the council worked to right size and in doing so the operating budget was reduced $5 million every year.
“What the town needs is leadership moving forward. Now is the time to turn the divisiveness into inclusiveness. We need to turn the arrogance into respect. We need to turn the employee mistrust into team work, and we need to turn fiscal folly into fiscal responsibility. We need to turn the misdirection of the new direction into the right direction,” Dare said. “So here 30 years later I am back on the steps of City Hall and I am going to ask the voters of Ocean City to return me to work for them for the next four years.”
Dare’s election bid makes him the seventh official candidate to seek one of the four open council seats. Incumbents Cymek and Knight have filed and are actively campaigning, as are hopefuls John Frank Adkins, Bob Baker, Joe Mitrecic and Sean Rox.
Councilmen Jim Hall and Joe Hall, who along with fellow council majority members Brent Ashley and Margaret Pillas forced Dare out of office last September, have not filed for re-election yet, but are expected to prior to the Oct. 8 filing deadline.
Joe Hall said last week he plans to fill out his paperwork the week after Sunfest and has been busy on Facebook gearing up his campaign. Joe Hall said after Dare’s announcement that the city voters will have a “clear choice” on Nov. 6.
“Current sustainable governence (sic) or go back to the past of Big Spending ways! Easy one for me,” said Joe Hall, referring to a city chart he recently distributed that reports the town’s operating budget swelled from $76 million in 1998 to $121 million in 2008. The 2012 operating budget came in at $114 million.
For his part, Jim Hall this summer vowed to air out the long list of reasons the council majority forced Dare into retirement if the former city manager decided to run for office, despite the fact his severance agreement states his resignation was demanded due to the council majority’s “desire to change management direction and not as a result of any allegation or suggestion of wrong-doing …”
Dare has said in previous interviews there was no insubordination, which has been alleged by the council majority privately, on his part during the year he worked with the new council majority, which was formed in the fall of 2010 after Ashley unseated Mitrecic and aligned with Jim Hall, Joe Hall and Pillas.