Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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With the expected departure of Police Chief Bernadette DiPino within the next year, the next Mayor and Council will be tasked with appointing the next chief, reinforcing the importance of the fall election.

No matter what happens with her aspirations to be the next chief of Sarasota, Fla., DiPino’s successor will be named by the next Mayor and Council. Although she is one of five finalists for the coastal Florida community’s chief of police post, the outcome of that search process does not change the fact DiPino will be retiring from the resort force next October either way.

As far as Ocean City is concerned it’s not too early to begin speculating on who could be the next chief.

History indicates DiPino’s replacement will likely come from within, as there’s a long line of examples of the town’s chief vacancies being filled by existing department leaders. Using recent precedent as a guide, Captains Michael Colbert and Kevin Kirstein have to be considered the in-house favorites, but the wildcard is always what an outside search will bring in as far as candidates if the city goes that route.

It’s also unknown whether either of the current captains, who each have long careers with the department, have an interest in the chief’s job, but I’m sure it’s crossed at least one of their minds, if not both.

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It would be an understatement to say the political scene is getting quite stressed in Ocean City, and the official countdown to the great cleanse that’s so desperately needed on Nov. 6 is officially on.

No matter what happens in six weeks, this election will end one of the most contentious periods in Ocean City’s political history. Some folks often say the current strife at City Hall pales in comparison to the theatrics of the mid-80s, but I am not so sure.

I was a school kid at that time so my perspective is perhaps misguided, but I have researched those times through back issues of this newspaper. Clearly, there was a major division and lots of unique personalities at play. There are many differences, though, as the issues and fights were quite contrasting.

However, the commonality between now and then is the pure fact some council members did not then and simply do not know like each other. They make that clear at every meeting it seems with snide comments about who is conservative and who is not and who said what when and who did not. Their body language also tells a lot and some council members make it clear they are disgusted by those on the opposite side of their beliefs.

Citizens For Ocean City spokesman Joe Groves got a taste of this animosity this week when council allies Joe Hall and Brent Ashley went after his group, questioning its intentions and stating its recent efforts have contradicted its initial mission of bringing together and educating voters. Ashley even questioned the lack of respect the group has shown toward Joe Hall, an elected official, and specifically referenced a caricature by a lower shore blogger that appeared on the Citizens’ Facebook page. It’s worth noting Joe Hall also shared the image on his page.

Groves did not like that too much, and I think he made a valid point when he wondered since when has respect for others been a priority at City Hall in recent years.

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Although assumptions are always dangerous, it’s largely figured former City Manager Dennis Dare is a lock for a council seat. Some have even gone so far as to maintain it’s now a three-seat race after Dare’s filing. I think that’s a correct prediction.

While his experience — 21 years as city manager and eight previous as city engineer — make him a solid candidate under any circumstances, Dare has also benefited from the manner in which he was ousted from office last fall. Dare was essentially victimized by the City Council majority. Whether that’s fair is debatable, but it’s the truth in this case by virtue of the council majority’s perceived blindside of him and his forced retirement.

The recent threats that once Dare becomes a candidate for elected office that all his dirty laundry will be aired by the council majority only plays further into that perception and will further boost his allies’ cause in the upcoming election.

What’s happening in Ocean City is quite interesting. A quasi “take back the town” coalition has been formed. It may or may not be an official group that publicly campaigns together, but make no mistake this group is alive and well. It consists of Mayor Rick Meehan, Dare, incumbents Doug Cymek and Mary Knight and former Council President Joe Mitrecic, whose loss in 2010 essentially doomed Dare’s tenure as city manager.

Councilman Joe Hall was right this week when he posted online voters will have two clear choices — the status quo with the council majority steering the ship that he called “sustainable governence (sic)” or reverting back to the former council power of Dare-Meehan and the so-called “big spending ways”. He is right about the choice factor, but many would debate who falls on what side of that dividing line.

Nonetheless, early indications are the “take back the town” ideology is resonating more at the moment, but it’s going to be the quiet block of voters who are not computer savvy, do not attend council meetings or voter rallies and are not as outspoken and knowledgeable about city affairs that will decide the future direction of the city.

That’s actually always been the case, but there’s no question the anti-majority segment of the community is much more high-profile at this point.

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