Former Elected Officials Gather For Annual Open House

OCEAN CITY – It was an “old home week” of sorts at City Hall in Ocean City this week for the annual New Year’s Day open house as dozens of former elected and appointed officials of bygone eras joined their current counterparts for a celebration of the town’s history and the history of the venerable old building on 3rd Street.

The open house, hosted for 12 years by the mayor on New Year’s Day, typically has a theme associated with it and this year was no different. This year, the theme was “Ocean City’s Elected Officials: Past and Present,” and many of the town’s former elected officials showed up to join in the celebration.

The theme coincided with the unveiling of a series of brand-new exhibits chronicling the history of Ocean City, many of which will become part of a permanent display in City Hall. With the approval of the City Council, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan approached Sue Hurley, curator of the Ocean City Life-Saving Museum, last year with the idea to extend the museum’s collections and turn the hallways of City Hall into a pictorial history of the resort.

The first phase of the exhibit was unveiled during the annual open house on Tuesday. When the exhibit is completed, there will be a total of 12 pictorial panels chronicling the different eras in Ocean City’s history. Meehan said this week the reviews were good on the first phase as hundreds of guests streamed through City Hall on Tuesday for the open house.

“I think the unveiling of the pictorial plaques was a big hit,” he said. “Everybody I talked to found them fascinating. A lot of people really marveled at the different exhibits. It was a great success.”

Of course, no history of Ocean City would be complete without some representation of the cast of characters that have graced City Hall over the decades and several former mayors, councilmembers and appointed officials turned out for the open house on Tuesday. Dozens of former council members turned out for the celebration on Tuesday, and while they didn’t always get along while they were serving the town, for one day at least, everything was congenial.

“It was like Amnesty Day at City Hall,” said Meehan. “I think everybody was excited to be a part of this and it was so nice to see everybody back in the same rooms again.”

Another traditional part of the annual open house celebration are the storytellers and this year’s guests were treated to several generations of stories about the history of the resort delivered by those who helped shape it. From former Mayor Roland “Fish” Powell to retiring Court of Appeals Judge Dale Cathell, who served for a time as city solicitor, to former councilmen George Hurley and Hale Harrison, many of the former elected officials regaled the open house visitors with stories of different eras in the resort.

“That was one of the neatest parts of the day,” said Meehan. “It was standing room only in a lot of those storytelling sessions.”