OCEAN CITY – Robert Baker is a new face to the list of candidates running for the City Council this year, but he feels his experience in bringing enemies closer together to benefit each other will reflect positively on the operation of the town.
“I am not running with anyone or against anyone. I am just running for the town of Ocean City,” Baker said. “I am a big believer in moving forward. Here’s where we are, let’s look to the future.”
Before moving to Ocean City, Baker was living and working in Connecticut. He is originally from the Sykesville area.
Baker retired in 2007 and moved to Ocean City permanently where he joined his wife, Vonnie, who is a CPA, to establish Baker & Associates, LLC, a local accounting/management firm.
Baker said he has followed Ocean City’s government in phases. When he moved here is when he started to pay more attention and beginning a couple of years ago he began watching Mayor and Council meetings online.
“I started to realize that I have the skills and experience to contribute to the town,” Baker said. “Rather than complaining, I should try to contribute in a more substantial way to the town, which is where I chose to live the rest of my life.”
Baker said there was not a particular decision made by the council that made him decide to run, although he does not appreciate the fact that the council has become divided.
“I dislike partisanship and that is what is happening here,” he said. “You see it on the national level and now it’s even on the local level and I feel we become so polarized as a country … I think I bring a fresh approach and I have what I think are major items that are important to the town to move it forward.”
Baker feels that Ocean City needs to repair its image with family-oriented visitors starting with car and motorcycle events in town that are growing in size every year.
“I’m not saying we shouldn’t have them. I am saying we need to do a better job to make sure that the people who come here and disrespect our town with drag racing, littering, and those type of actions, we need to get that under control because that small group of people who do that will ruin it for the other participants in these events, for other visitors who happen to stumble into town or come into town to get away for a weekend that have never been to Ocean City. It will ruin it for the residents, it will ruin it for everyone,” he said. “So I think we just have to get control of the behavior so we can have these types of events without destroying other things about the town that everybody loves.”
Baker also wants to work on attracting and retaining full- and part-time Ocean City residents.
“The numbers have declined and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be able to grow that base. An increase in the number of residents means more community involvement and more off-season spending for our businesses,” he said. “We can market and provide an environment that makes people want to live here and that can be done through getting more plans together on the types of shopping we need, or the shows at the convention center, whatever plans, just like we have plans to grow tourism we should have plans to get people to live here, and I think that can’t be anything but beneficial for the town.”
Baker believes Ocean City’s budgeting process should include an in-depth marketing plan, not just advertising.
“Before advertising even happens, we need research, we need to understand why people come here, and more importantly why they don’t, why they go somewhere else. The same point can be made for the residents,” he said. “We need to understand that and understand who were targeting and then the advertising plan should be put in place to go after that understanding what our goals are and then have data that supports how good the advertising plan is doing.”
Baker’s opinion is that conservatism is the key and that taxpayer money needs to be spent wisely as the cost of living increases and property values continue to struggle.
“I truly believe that we should manage it like people manage their budgets. They separate the nice to haves from the need to haves. They start to save for things they know they will need down the road,” he said. “We should make sure we build our reserve fund to prepare for the road and the sidewalks and the infrastructure that I know were going to need.”
The Dispatch asked Baker what his thoughts were on the city’s general employees’ efforts to gain the right to collective bargaining and he responded that the question has been left to the voters as the referendum will be placed on ballot and if he is elected he will work with the result.
“… I believe we can work directly with the employees without a union and have a more productive and efficient relationship, and I think it is better for the taxpayers not to have a union,” he said. “If I were given the choice personally to join or not join a union, I would choose not to join. That ties into working with the employees and understanding … you’re not always going to agree but hopefully you can build a relationship and at least respect each other.”
Baker plans to attend the OC Rally on Tuesday, Sept. 18, at Seacrets from 5-8 p.m. For more information on Baker, visit www.Baker4Council.com.
“Let’s move forward and get things done,” Baker said.