Flying Under Radar Just Fine For OC Grants Guru

OCEAN CITY — Wayne Pryor is admittedly not a person who seeks the spotlight, but that doesn’t mean his work has gone unnoticed, despite his efforts to stay under the proverbial radar.

Ocean City Grants Coordinator Wayne Pryor is the consummate team player, according to those who know him well, and has been receiving huge accolades in recent days as his seven-month tenure as the town’s interim convention center director came to a close last Friday.

After spearheading a nationwide search along with City Manager Dennis Dare and Human Resources Director Roger Weseman for a new convention center director, which led to the recent hiring of 30-year veteran Rick Hamilton, formerly of Daytona Beach, Fla., Pryor has quietly left 41st Street and reassumed his quiet and understated position as the town’s grants coordinator at City Hall.

However, Pryor received huge accolades from his colleagues at last week’s Tourism Commission meeting, including a humbling round of applause and several notable compliments thrown his way, to which Pryor, was rendered speechless.

“Wayne is just a good manager, and he made sure that we had a smooth transition between directors and I think he brought a renewed energy that was very much needed in the convention center,” said Mayor Rick Meehan.

City Manager Dennis Dare, who handpicked Pryor to leave his post at City Hall and take the reigns at the convention center after former director Mike Noah resigned in April, said that he was confident from day one that Pryor was the man for the job.

“[Wayne] is certainly not a guy that seeks out glory in any way, but he has many years as a manager, both public and private, so I knew he could manage the convention center easily for a short time and still do his job as grantsman,” said Dare. “Besides, the experience he gained in the building he was invaluable as we sifted through the many resumes and applications for the ‘just right’ replacement.  He knew what to look for and what questions to ask.  He made it work out well.”

Pryor, a sixth generation local of the Eastern Shore, got his start in the public sector just out of college [Salisbury University] as the museum curator at the Purnell Museum in Snow Hill.  From there, he worked as a conference coordinator for a governmental think-tank where he met celebrities, Supreme Court Justices, heads of state and corporate moguls.  Later, he was an integral part in helping set the governmental foundation for Ocean Pines as it grew from a small retirement community into what it is today.

Pryor says that once he hit age 30, however, he felt compelled to “round out his resume” with a little private sector experience and took a job managing the inner workings of a manufacturing company.

His so-called rounding out of his resume took a bit longer than expected, as he held that post for 18 years.

Finally, Pryor felt a tug back to the public sector, hoping to make a difference in the community and perhaps enjoy an easement from the grueling 60-hour workweeks.  Fatefully, he found a newspaper advertisement for the Ocean City grants coordinator position that he now holds.

“When Dennis came in my office back in April and told me that he wanted me to go up to the convention center and steer the ship straight, I told him I would be happy to do it,” said Pryor. “From day one up there, I knew it was going to be a good fit as the staff is extremely talented, and the building is beautiful.”

Last Friday, the entire staff of the convention center throwing him a bit of a farewell party surprised Pryor.

“It was truly touching, and I totally broke down, as I was just moved by the fact that these folks would take time out of their day and thought so much of me to just say thanks and goodbye,” said Pryor. “It’s one thing if I was there for 18 years, but I was only there for seven months, so it was truly moving, and it was probably one of the only times in my life I was rendered speechless.”

Pryor’s day to day now is mostly spent in his humble office across from the mayor at City Hall, rummaging through countless grant programs and trying to find ways for the town to get money for programs both large and small.

“With the economy and the cuts to the budget, I think the only real capital projects that you’ll see the town getting done in the near future will be through projects funded by grants, so I’m doing my best to get the town the best of what is out there,” said Pryor.

As Hamilton takes the wheel, the convention center is just one step away from receiving a large change of it’s own: the looming $10 million renovation and installation of a 1200 seat performing arts center.

Pryor says that he knows the center is in good hands, and that the right man for the job is sitting at his old desk.

“It’s an exciting time up there at the convention center and I think it’s very exciting that we are going to improve on the excellent building we already have,” said Pryor. “When I left there on Friday, I knew that I was leaving it in some great hands with Rick [Hamilton]. He was at the top of the list at every single step throughout the hiring process, so I’m fully confident that the town has found the right man for the job to take that building into the future.”