Mayor Learning While Juggling Multiple Duties

OCEAN CITY – This week The Dispatch caught up with Acting City Manager and Mayor Rick Meehan to discuss the multiple duties he is currently carrying out.

When former City Manager Dennis Dare was removed on Sept. 9, Meehan assumed his responsibilities. According to the City Charter, the mayor shall act as the city manager of the town during the prudency of any vacancy in the position of the city manager and during such time shall be the chief administration and financial officer of the town.

“It is a full-time position and it is not something you can address as a part-time issue … I have been spending my days during normal business hours at City Hall,” Meehan said as far as attending to the city manager position. “I am able to somehow fit it all in.”

The mayor’s daily routine begins early in the morning attending to his real estate business and he then makes his way to City Hall. There he is able to work as city manager and mayor while still attending to his real estate business via the Internet. Once he leaves City Hall later in the afternoon, he returns to his real estate office to catch up on anything he missed out on during the day.

“I am fortunate that I have a partner, Katy [Durham] … she has done a great job picking up a lot of the slack and filling in where I can’t be in our real estate business,” Meehan said.

When the mayor first stepped into the city manager position, he let city staff know that business would carry on as usual without skipping a beat.

“Our goal was to move forward and make sure that when I hand this position over, which I hope won’t be too far from now, to a new city manager that everything is in place for them to step in and take over immediately,” he said.

Meehan added that Dare has left behind the best management staff in place at City Hall with the best management practices. He said all department heads and city employees have been helpful in educating him on procedures he was not familiar with.

Once the majority of the City Council dismissed Dare, it was said that a piece of their reasoning was that Dare was not providing information to all of the council members in a timely manner or at the same time.

“I have made it my practice that if there is anything that I think is of interest to the council or is relevant to something that they have requested, that I have an email to all of them at the same time, and I try to keep them abreast of everything so that everybody is informed and we are all on the same page,” the mayor said.

According to the City Charter, Meehan is not being compensated for taking on the city manager position. In his time serving on City Council, including 14 years as council president, he has formed a pretty good idea of what the city manager position entailed.

“It is just an extra duty that is assigned to the mayor,” he said. “I knew that when I signed up for the position and you always hope that it’s not going to be something that happens, but it has.”

Between the number of department heads and almost 550 full-time city employees Meehan related the city manager position to running a major corporation but doesn’t mind because the duties interest him.

“It is what I was elected to do,” he said. “Somehow it is all working out and I have been able to fit everything in.”

During Monday evening’s Mayor and City Council meeting, Council President Jim Hall briefly announced that on Nov. 21 the council had selected a firm, Springsted Inc., to conduct a national search for a new city manager.

Meehan explained that Human Resources Director Wayne Evans last month sent out Request For Proposal (RFP) to any firms that would be interested in performing that search. Evans, Special Project Manager Wayne Pryor and the mayor reviewed the submitted bids to those RFP’s and narrowed it down to three firms.

Once receiving permission from the council, they then conducted phone interviews with the three firms before they made their final recommendation to the council, which they voted unanimously to select.

“We are probably looking at a four-month time frame,” the mayor said on selecting a city manager.

The initial interviews with the search firm will begin the week of Dec. 19. A representative from Springsted will work with the Mayor and City Council on selecting final candidates.

During that process, the representative will interview council members individually as well as community members to gather a consensus on what Ocean City looks for in a city manager.

Meehan added that the time period for holidays have to be factored in, as well as the chosen candidate to give their current employer a notice of leave and time to move into the area if need be.

Although he did not agree with the council majority’s decision to give Dare the resign or be terminated ultimatum, Meehan said the experience at City Hall has been fruitful for him.

“It has been a great experience and I know even more today about how our government operates at all levels than I did before,” Meehan concluded. “I think that knowledge will be valuable in me moving forward and serving in my capacity as mayor. Although it wasn’t an experience that I ever anticipated having and as documented I certainly don’t support why I am in this position today, but I certainly have tried to get the most out of it and give the most back to the community.”