OCEAN CITY – Matthew James rocked the local government scene this week as not only the youngest person to be elected to the City Council but the top vote-getter in Tuesday’s municipal election.
James, 21, received the most votes in the 2014 municipal election becoming the youngest person to ever serve on the Ocean City Mayor and City Council. James received 1,666 votes followed by Wayne Hartman, who received 1,345 votes, incumbent Council President Lloyd Martin, who received 1,342 votes, and Tony DeLuca, who received 1,287 votes. There were a total of 2,348 voters in this year’s election.
All the votes were in by 8 p.m. on Tuesday night and an hour later the public filed into the hall where the voting took place that day at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center. All candidates took stance with pen and paper in hand prepared to begin tallying the votes.
The number of votes each voting booth received per candidate was read aloud, and by the third machine attention started to gather toward James, who was surrounded by family and friends. In the end, James was announced as the winning candidate receiving the most votes as his supporters gathered around him.
“I am extremely excited, and just couldn’t be happier right now. I received a lot of support from my family and friends, and obviously the voters of Ocean City, so I am very appreciative of that,” James said on Wednesday morning.
The James clan had a long day on Tuesday greeting and speaking with voters, as many candidates do on Election Day.
“I was getting a lot of positive feedback from the voters, so I felt pretty good about the way things were going,” James said. “I never would have expected to be the top vote getter. I had a few people tell me right before we went in that they had heard a lot of positive feedback throughout the day, and they thought it was possible but this being my first time running for anything I was surprised to get the most votes. I thought he [Martin] was going to get the most votes. He has been very supportive, and I can’t thank him enough for all he has done for me.”
James was the most nervous the morning of Election Day but as he spoke with voters throughout the day his nerves began to calm. He said he walked into the announcement of the election results with confidence.
James attributes receiving the most votes to his extensive campaign that included thousands of dollars in advertising and old fashioned campaigning.
“I knocked on a lot of doors and met a lot of people. I had a lot of people ask about my age but I usually left the door feeling confident in the conversation that I had with the voter. Getting out and meeting people was the biggest thing, and leaving them with an experience for when they walked into the voter booth and saw my name they remembered I had to say,” James said.
James, who is son of Carousel Group Hotel Managing Partner Michael James and his wife, Marilyn, was raised in Ocean City’s tourism industry, as well as assisted in his father’s political campaigns for Maryland State Delegate in 2006 and Maryland State Senate in 2010.
“We are a pretty politically active family, and I think that could have helped. I did have people question why I was doing this or what made me run for City Council, and I think my political involvement on my dad’s two campaigns is what led to my interest in politics at such a young age,” he said.
James also attributed his votes to being able to relate to the younger Ocean City generation. However, he pointed out the majority of voters in Ocean City is an older population.
“I believe my age will be positive for council. Having a young person on council will be beneficial just to have a different outlook on things, and to have a different perspective on many of the things that come before the council,” he said. “I am open to hearing what everybody has to say. Even if I don’t agree with them … I will always listen to a person’s views and new ideas.”
As far as living a life of a 21-year-old while serving on council as well as being a college student, James believes he will be able to balance both.
“I don’t think I am cutting myself short at all. If anything I think I am helping myself. This will be great for me, and positively affect everybody,” he said.
After being sworn in during Thursday evening’s Mayor and City Council organizational meeting, James is looking forward to beginning the learning experience.
“At first I think I am going to listen to the council members, residents, and business owners, and hear what everybody has to say. It is going to be a learning experience. Obviously I have never done this before,” he said. “Coming into this as a new face in local government, at first I need to sit down and listen.”
During the organizational meeting, who will serve as council president and council secretary will be voted on, both of which James says he has no interest in at this time. However, it is possibility one day.
“I definitely see myself staying around the area. I love Ocean City and I plan on being here for a long time. I am not sure I am going to serve on council for the rest of my life but I plan to be involved in the community and an active participant in local politics,” he said.
Matt James: 1,666
Wayne Hartman: 1,345
Lloyd Martin: 1,342
Tony DeLuca: 1,287
Chris Rudolf: 1,075
Joseph Hall: 775
Joe Cryer: 464