If anything can be taken from this week’s municipal election, it can be said many of those who actually voted in Ocean City on Tuesday generally want to see the town head in a new direction.
Tuesday was a compelling day, one that ended with Council President Joe Mitrecic losing his seat after two terms, incumbents Lloyd Martin and Margaret Pillas securing additional four-year terms and Brent Ashley finally landing a seat in the council chambers.
The significance of this election is huge. Whether it was necessary or not, change is here. The council dynamics will be altogether different in the coming months. Whether that’s beneficial or detrimental will be determined over the long term.
In the short term, a new council president was elected last night and that person will steer the future direction of the city in many ways by setting the agenda, running the meetings and essentially deciding much of the content of those gatherings. This change alone will represent a significant shift in the matter in which the city is run. In this case, Mitrecic’s departure is that momentous.
What exists now after this election is a new voting block. Positions of power have been reversed. The majority and the minority have been flopped.
Prior to the election, it was Mitrecic, Martin and Council members Mary Knight and Doug Cymek on one side of many issues, particularly those of the financial nature, and Councilmen Jim Hall and Joe Hall and Pillas on the minority.
It’s evident today that Jim Hall, Joe Hall, Pillas and Ashley will represent one side of many matters regarding the philosophical direction of the city, while Cymek, Knight and Martin will be in the minority. Additionally, Mayor Rick Meehan, possibly for the first time in his elected career, could be on the outside looking in on some key council matters.
This election is a major turning point. The proof may not turn up immediately, but make no mistake change will be taking place at City Hall. There will be a new tenor to the meetings and some key decisions loom.
Immediately after the election results were announced, some dramatic comments were overheard at the convention center on Tuesday. “This is people’s livelihoods” and “I guess I can expect my pay to be cut next year” were noteworthy comments.
With change comes tremendous apprehension, and yes some of the officials now on the majority side have expressed concerns about the city’s current pay structure. However, almost every elected official in Ocean City at some point has acknowledged there’s a need to alter the way some staff members are paid.
The devil will be in the details. Should all new city staff positions have salaries reduced by 20 percent and all top-paid employee pay be significantly scaled back? That’s a debate that previously has taken place, but now it’s going to be heard by a new body with a new council president and a new majority.
Government operations will change as a result of this week’s election. Just how much and how fast it will be transformed will be interesting to observe. That uncertainty has left many employees and officials uneasy, and it’s understandable.
The new council would be wise to make it clear the direction it intends to chart in the future. That way, some of the current drama and emotion can at least be addressed, and maybe even allayed, in a formal and official capacity.