OCEAN CITY – Councilman Joe Mitrecic has cleared the first hurdle in running unopposed for Worcester County Commission, but he said this week he will campaign hard one way or the other.
Tuesday at 9 p.m. marked the official filing deadline for state and local elections, and when the deadline came and went Mitrecic did not have a single candidate file to run against him to represent District 7, which encompasses Ocean City, on the Worcester County Commission. Current seat holder Louise Gulyas will not be seeking re-election.
There was not a celebration on Tuesday night for Mitrecic, he said on Wednesday, as he pointed out Monday, March 3 is the deadline for central committees, such as the Democratic Central Committee of Worcester County, to fill a vacancy for an office.
There is another Aug. 4 deadline for non-principal party candidates, such as Libertarian or Green candidates, along with petition candidates and write-in candidates, for example.
“As far as I am concerned, the filing deadline was the 25th [February] at 9 p.m., and if somebody was interested in running then they should have in fact filed by that deadline but the laws are laws and we all have to abide by them,” Mitrecic said.
Mitrecic pointed out that while he and one other candidate, incumbent Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw of District 1, are the only candidates to be running unopposed for county commission thus far there can’t be too much apathy as the remainder of the commission seats, and even the Democratic Central Committee and the Board of Education have a number candidates that have filed to run.
“Hopefully, it is people feel I will do a good job and didn’t feel the need to run against me,” Mitrecic said. “There is another thought that maybe they just wanted me off of the council enough not to run against me. I guess it depends on how you look at it.”
When asked if running unopposed would change his campaign tactics, Mitrecic responded he is ready to work at the same pace whether unopposed or not.
“When you are unopposed, you still have to work hard. You want the public to assure you that you belong in that position, but there is a fine line between being obnoxious and just running hard in an unopposed position,” he said. “I am certainly ready to work whether I have opposition or not. I am ready to work to get my seat on the county commission.”
Mitrecic is currently in his second year of his four-year serving on the Ocean City Council, and if elected to serve on Worcester County Commission he will be giving up his council seat with another two years to go. Mitrecic served two terms as a city councilman before losing his seat in the 2010 municipal election. He regained his seat in November of 2012.
If Mitrecic moves on to commissioner, his council seat vacancy would require Ocean City to hold a special election to fill Mitrecic’s council seat following Ocean City’s and Worcester County’s election in November, which fall on the same day. A special election would cost the city a minimum of $5,000, unless Mitrecic chose to resign from the council and allow a candidate fill his seat in the November Municipal Election.
“I had always planned on resigning my council seat at some point in time whether I was opposed or unopposed. I would not be interested in forcing a special election. That was my right to if I wanted but in my heart of hearts I didn’t think that was the right thing to do. The right thing to do is go all in whether you win or lose,” Mitrecic said.
Mitrecic will remain on the council as close to the municipal election as he can before resigning.
“I have an obligation to the voters who voted for me in the election last time that wanted me to be there, so I would fulfill all of my obligations before I would become county commissioner as a city councilman,” he said. “I am ready to work to win a spot on the county commission whether I am unopposed or opposed. I am going to work hard because nothing worth having is not worth working for.”
If or when Mitrecic joins the Worcester County Commission, he will be replacing Gulyas, who is leaving her seat after 16 years.
Mitrecic announced his run for county commission mid-January outlining several reasons why, starting with he has been displeased with the rapport between Ocean City and the county for a number of years and he looks to better the relationship.
As a commissioner, Mitrecic said he will also be looking to achieve a tax differential from the county for Ocean City. A tax differential has been an ongoing request of the city’s that the county has deliberated on in the past but has never fallen through.
He will work to have a 911 first response within Ocean City limits. Currently, 911 calls from Ocean City come into Snow Hill and then they are transferred back to Ocean City’s Public Safety Building on 66th Street. The delay has been a hot topic in the past but has been dormant for 10 years.
Mitrecic also wants to open the commission meetings to the public through a video feed and eventually have the meetings aired on TV, and if elected Mitrecic plans to appear before the Ocean City Mayor and Council on a quarterly basis to report the actions of the county.