New Ocean City Council Talks ‘Common Ground’

OCEAN CITY – All “what ifs” were put aside at last Thursday’s Mayor and City Council organizational meeting as the new council were sworn in and took their seats, including a new council president and council secretary.

Council Secretary Lloyd Martin sat in Council President Jim Hall’s chair to conduct the meeting in his absence.

“[Jim Hall] asked me to express his thanks to all of the citizens and let them know that he is still an Ocean City resident … he will see you in Ocean City out and about,” Mayor Rick Meehan said on Jim Hall’s behalf.

The mayor took the opportunity to thank Jim Hall for serving Ocean City for over 25 years in different capacities on the City Council, including a long stint as the chairman of the police commission.

“He was part of an awful lot of decisions that were made here in the Town of Ocean City and certainly played a big part and a role in the town that we all enjoy here today,” he said.

Worcester County Acting Chair of the Board of Elections Barbara Schmitt read into the record the results of this year’s election. There were 2,730 voters in the election machines and 334 absentee ballots returned for a total turn of 3,064, marking the largest turnout in the last three decades. In 2004, which saw a contested mayoral election, 3,034 voters turned out.

In this year’s election, Meehan was re-elected with 2,238 votes, and the winning council candidates were Dennis Dare with 1,952 votes, Mary Knight with 1,853 votes,  Joe Mitrecic with 1,778 votes and Doug Cymek with 1,680 votes. Jim Hall came in fifth with 929 votes, followed by Bob Baker with 842 votes, and next came Councilman Joe Hall with 806 votes. The final three candidates were Sean Rox with 533 votes, John Adkins with 314 votes, and Philip Sayan with 304 votes.

At last Thursday’s organizational meeting, Joe Hall made a motion to accept the election results from the Nov, 6 election and the council accepted in a 6-0 vote with Jim Hall absent.

“I would like to say thank you to the citizens, my colleagues, the mayor and everyone involved,” Joe Hall said before he stepped off the dais. “Sixteen years ago was when I filed for my first election for council, and I have had an up-and-down ride since then but the 10 years I had the honor to serve the Town of Ocean City has been truly a pleasure and a honor and I thank you for that. I believe that all of the issues were put out on the table in this election and the citizens have voiced their confidence in the elected body tonight, and I am very pleased that we will be in good hands, and I thank you all.”

Before the council nominated a council president and secretary, the Clerk of Circuit Court for Worcester County Stephen Hales swore in the mayor and each of the four winning council members as they came before the room surrounded by their family.

Cymek started off by nominating Council Secretary Lloyd Martin for council president and Mitrecic seconded the motion.

Next, Councilwoman Margaret Pillas nominated Councilman Dennis Dare to be council president and Councilman Brent Ashley made the second. Pillas and Ashley voted to remove Dare as city manager in September of 2011.

“My reason is because he got the majority vote,” Pillas explained. “The citizens who went to vote said he has the experience and I believe that, and I think he would make an excellent president of the council because he comes with over 20 years of service as city manager. The citizens have the faith in him that he can set the agendas and send us in the right direction, and to help us sustain a future and also to break down some debts.”

Dare respectfully declined the nomination and Pillas withdraw the nomination. At that time, the new council made its first unanimous vote to have Martin become the new council president.

“Thank you for the confidence in me,” Martin said.

Martin took over the gavel to take nominations for the new council secretary. Mitrecic nominated Knight to be council secretary and Cymek second the motion. With no other nominations, the Mayor and City Council voted unanimously to approve Knight as secretary.

The meeting came to a close as each council members and mayor said their thanks, starting with Dare.

“For 29 years, it has been a privilege to be both city engineer and city manager. Tonight is quite an honor to be a city council person for the Town of Ocean City. It has been a year of change and for those who know me I haven’t been a big change artist but when there has been change it has always been for the better, and it has worked out once again,” he said.

Ashley personally welcomed the new members to the council and congratulated Council President Martin and Council Secretary Knight on their new leadership roles.

“I look forward to working with you in the future,” he said. “I hope we can find some common ground and move Ocean City forward.”

Cymek thanked the voters for the confidence in returning him to the council.

“I think you all spoke loudly on Tuesday for the need for change, and I hope the new council can find some common ground and work to be a cohesive body that can work well together again,” he said.

Knight thanked the voters from the “bottom of her heart” for also returning her to council.

“The good news is that I have no bottom to my heart,” she said. “It is quite an honor and I am privileged to be sitting here.”

Pillas also congratulated the winning council members in this year’s election.

“I intend to work with everyone and I just happen to know that the common ground is the taxpayers. I know that links us all together. I am sure my next two years that we will try very diligently to save money and find a way to make sure that this body has needs met, so I will work very hard towards that goal,” she said.

Mitrecic, who lost his bid for re-election in 2010, thanked the voters for the confidence in returning him to the City Council for what will be his third term.

“I promise to work for you as hard as I worked to get elected … thank you all very much, thank you to my family, and I look forward to moving the town forward,” he said.

Martin thanked the voters for choosing a legislative body that will work together in moving Ocean City forward.

“We are going to make this town better than what it ever has been and I think the team you have here cares about you and we care about each other,” he said. “We are going to work together, we are not going to be Washington D.C, we are not going to be on both sides of the fence, we are all going to come together, and you are going to see us out there working for you, planning and doing the right thing.”

Finally, Meehan thanked the citizens of Ocean City for turning out in record numbers to vote.

“I think that they really understood the issues. I think they had concerns, and I think that they voted to make positive changes for the Town of Ocean City,” he said.

The mayor furthered that a weight has been lifted in town and in City Hall.

“Wednesday morning when I walked into City Hall everybody was smiling. When I walked into City Hall there was a new sense of energy, it was a different feeling. While I have been out in the community the past couple of days I see it everywhere. There is a lot of optimism and there is good reason for optimism. This council is going to work very hard and I think everybody up here knows that we are here to work for you,” he said.

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