OCEAN CITY — Ocean City’s newest city manager, the self-proclaimed “happiest person in the room,” was formally introduced on Wednesday morning, ending a roughly five-month search to replace his predecessor.
After a national search yielded dozens of applicants, the Mayor and Council on Wednesday morning officially introduced Doug Miller, an experienced municipal administrator, as the resort’s newest city manager. Miller, currently the city manager in Aberdeen, Md., has held the same position in various communities across Maryland, including a stint as town manager for Snow Hill. He is set to hit the ground running as Ocean City’s newest city manager on Feb. 8.
Miller was named city manager after an extensive five-month-plus search that began in July. The process began when former City Manager David Recor reached a “mutual decision” with the Mayor and Council to step down after a rocky three-year stint in the position.
While Recor came to Ocean City from Florida, Miller has deep roots in Maryland. He currently serves as city manager in Aberdeen, a position he has held since 2006. Before that, Miller served as town manager in La Plata in southern Maryland and previously served as town manager in Snow Hill.
Miller grew up in central Maryland, spending his childhood in Howard County and his high school years in Anne Arundel County. He is a graduate of Roanoke College, as well as the University of Baltimore, where he received a Master’s degree in public administration. Miller is also a credentialed member of the International City and County Management Association and has served as the president, vice president and secretary treasurer for the Maryland City and County Management Association, as well as several committees of the Maryland Municipal League (MML).
When he was formally introduced on Wednesday, Miller suggested his new position as city manager of Ocean City represented a homecoming of sorts after a highly successful career in public administration around the state.
“I can say with great confidence I’m the happiest person in this room right now,” he said. “My wife and I are very much looking forward to moving back to Worcester County.”
Miller said he is looking forward to hitting the ground running after getting his start in the area decades ago.
“I somewhat began my career in Ocean City as then-City Manager Tony Barrett and Kathy Mathias helped me break into the business,” he said. “I have had the pleasure of working with many people from Ocean City in different capacities over the years and have always been impressed by their professional capability and attitude toward public service. I’ve always had a special kinship to Ocean City and I am thrilled to accept the unique opportunity to manage the needs of our residents and visitors.”
Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, who served as acting city manager during the extensive selection process, had one early dispute with Miller during an interview after the announcement.
“There could be some debate about who is the happiest person in the room right now, but I’m at least the second happiest,” he said. “We went through this extensive process for about six months and we’re certain we hired the right person for the job.”
Meehan said the national search process began with dozens of potential candidates and the list was winnowed down during the extensive interview process. The mayor said there were internal candidates for the position, but as the process moved forward, the choice became obvious.
“It was absolutely unanimous,” he said. “We had many qualified candidates, including internal candidates, and the council made the decision early on to go with someone with managerial experience. We set certain benchmarks for our ideal candidate and Doug met all of those benchmarks.”
Meehan said the Mayor and Council were drawn to Miller’s vast experience in municipal leadership and his connection to Ocean City through his former positions.
“As we went through the process, everything fell into place and it always came back to Doug Miller,” he said. “He’s a Maryland guy and he understands Maryland government and the MML and he walks in here with that ability. It’s not like he is walking in here from Idaho or Michigan or somewhere, he’s from here and he has a strong background and that’s going to be an asset for us going forward.”
Meehan said the council undertook the interview and selection process with the gravity it deserved for such an important position in the municipal government.
“We were asked why do we go through this extensive process, but we owe that to the citizens of this town to make sure we make the right choice,” he said. “We have a great council in place and with Doug now coming on board, we expect great things from our municipal government going forward.”
Council President Lloyd Martin said Miller exhibited knowledge and experience during the interview process that made him the ideal candidate.
“Doug’s background made him the ideal choice for the position of city manager,” he said. “He is familiar with Maryland government and has experience in both tourism and emergency management.”
No less important were Miller’s credentials as a solid fiscal manager, according to Martin.
“He has improved the financial position in each municipality he has worked and values customer service. We believe he will be a strong leader, a team player and we look forward to his arrival and the beginning of a bright new era in Ocean City,” Martin said.
For his part, Miller said the decision to accept the position as Ocean City’s newest city manager was an easy one after working with the town’s elected officials and staff during the interview process.
“Professionally speaking, I’m not sure the people of Ocean City appreciate the staff here is first-rate,” he said. “This is a winning team and for me, it is a great situation to come to a winning team.”
Through his different career moves throughout Maryland and his positions of leadership in the MML, for example, Miller said he is keenly aware of Ocean City’s operations and the challenges they present. He related an experience in emergency preparation and planning as city manager of La Plata and how Ocean City officials arrived to provide support.
“In 2002, we had a devastating tornado in La Plata which wiped out the middle of our town and a bunch of our residential areas including the home of Butch Arbin on the Ocean City staff,” he said. “That tornado came through at 7:18 p.m. as the sun was going down and [then] Mayor Mathias was literally at my front door saying we’re here to help. About two hours later, a big tractor-trailer with a large Ocean City logo on it showed up with materials and people and stayed for several weeks to help us with recovery.”
Miller said he did his own research during the interview and selection process and came away with a greater understanding of how Ocean City’s municipal government operates.
“I am very impressed by the elected body here,” he said. “Mayor Meehan is highly respected around the state. As I was researching and preparing during the interview process, I watched a lot of video of council meetings and work sessions and I’m highly impressed with the way the president conducts meetings. I’m also highly impressed with the way the council interacts with each other and the respect they have for one another and the fact they are very up to speed on the issues.”
Working with a productive, efficient council and the resort’s highly experienced department heads and staff will make his position as city manager easier, according to Miller.
“For a city manager to walk into a situation like that is very appealing,” he said. “From a city management standpoint, Ocean City is almost one of a kind. Most city managers take care of water and sewer, and police and those kinds of things as we do here in Ocean City, but here we are the No. 1 family resort on the east coast and that has its own set of services and challenges and I look forward to taking those on.”
Ocean City recently completed a comprehensive strategic plan, something in which Miller is well versed.
“Strategic planning is an extremely important part of what we do as city managers and I am pretty well versed in them,” he said. “I gave a speech at a recent MML convention about the importance of strategic planning and I’ve been the benefactor of two important strategic plans, especially after a devastating tornado in La Plata while I was city manager.”
While he is anxious to get started in his new position, Miller said he doesn’t anticipate putting his fingerprints all over Ocean City’s strategic plan initially.
“I have read Ocean City’s strategic plan carefully and it’s very well done,” he said. “Strategic plans are not meant to be written and then put on a shelf. They are living documents that must be tweaked and revisited all the time as things change.”
With his connections to Ocean City, and as former town manager of Snow Hill, Miller said he is aware of the dynamics between the resort and Worcester County, dynamics he has seen firsthand earlier in his career. Miller said during the interview process, he related a story of his own experience on the tax differential issue while serving in a lesser capacity in Snow Hill.
“Former Ocean City Mayor Fish Powell was then president of the Worcester County Commissioners and we walked across to the old courthouse where the commissioners met,” he said. “State law requires only a meeting and a discussion about tax differential, and we met with Powell and the commissioners for about 18 seconds when he declared we had officially met and discussed tax differential in compliance with state law. I’m sure he had a different opinion about the issue when he became mayor of Ocean City.”