OCEAN CITY — While Ocean City’s next municipal election is still roughly 10 months away, four incumbents each filed for re-election on Tuesday in a show of solidarity and continued forward progress.
Councilmembers Doug Cymek, Dennis Dare, Tony DeLuca and Mary Knight each officially filed for re-election to the Ocean City Council on Tuesday afternoon as a sign of what each characterized as a symbol of solidarity and a desire to continue the progress accomplished during the last 14 months or so. Council President Lloyd Martin, and Councilmen Matt James, Wayne Hartman and Tony DeLuca were each elected in November 2014. By virtue of his fourth-place finish, DeLuca was elected to fill the spot vacated by former Councilman Joe Mitrecic, who is now a Worcester County Commissioner representing Ocean City.
In Ocean City municipal elections, the seven council seats are staggered in alternating election cycles to prevent a potential complete turnover in a single election year. In addition, the mayor’s seat comes up in each election, but Mayor Rick Meehan has not been challenged in recent years.
In November, the seats currently occupied by Cymek, Dare, DeLuca and Knight are each up for re-election and the incumbents wasted no time early in 2016 to make their intentions known. Each officially filed on Tuesday afternoon in a symbolic show of solidarity.
‘’We’re hoping to send an image of solidarity,” said Cymek. “We all work well together and we’ve gotten to know each other well and we feel like we’re taking this town in the right direction.”
Cymek cited a laundry list of the accomplishments of the current council, including those whose seats are not up for re-election in November.
“We’re very happy,” he said. “I’m excited about a lot of the things we’ve been able to accomplish with this group, from the infrastructure improvements to the capital projects and moving into the next phase of the convention center expansion, we’ve been able to accomplish a lot in a short time and that’s because we work so well together. We don’t always agree, but we always talk things out and move in a direction that is best for the town.”
DeLuca’s situation is unique among the incumbents who filed for re-election on Tuesday. As the fourth-leading vote-getter, DeLuca is essentially filling Mitrecic’s vacated term, and as such will need to be re-elected in 2016 even though he was just elected in November 2014.
“I honestly feel like I just got here,” he said. “I’ve only been here a year, but this is a great crew and we work as a team and there is a lot of mutual respect. We don’t always agree, but at the end of the day, we talk it out with each other and work through the differences.”
Throughout the afternoon, the consistent message among the incumbents was the positive direction and the healthy dynamics of the current council. DeLuca said he sat in the audience at council meetings prior to his election and often witnessed a decidedly fractured former elected body.
“I sat out here a lot in the months leading up to the last election and I saw a lot of divisiveness,” he said. “I feel like we’ve accomplished so much, but there is a lot more we can do. It’s really exciting. I love this place and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
For her part, Knight said she was enjoying the current make-up of the council after years of divisiveness and making a decision to file for re-election early in 2016 was an easy one.
“A lot of people were asking me if I was going to run again and we all decided we were going to announce early,” she said. “Before you know it, it’s summer again and people aren’t thinking about politics as much as the season, so it’s a good idea to get out in front of it and keep moving forward.”
Knight also pointed to the combined accomplishments of the current council and expressed an interest in keeping that momentum going.
“I know we have done a good job and I love what I’m doing,” she said. “As long as I enjoy it and continue to be effective, I want to be a part of this. There were times in the past when I really didn’t look forward to coming to these meetings, but that has long passed and I’m excited about what we’re accomplishing here.”
Despite having served just one term thus far on the council, Dare, the long-time former city manager of the resort, is clearly the veteran among the incumbents who filed for re-election after over three decades in public service in Ocean City.
“We don’t have districts and it isn’t partisan,” he said. “”This is just a good group that is working really well together. When I came on board as a councilman in 2012, we started working on a strategic plan with [Former City Manager Recor] David and that changed so much for the city. Out of that came the new Beach Patrol headquarters, the Performing Arts Center, a new fire station, a new smoking ordinance and so much more, and that’s a living document and there is much more yet to do. There are dozens of things we want to tackle, from the dualization of Route 90 to tax differential, to name a few, and the experience of this group will help accomplish that.”
Not lost on the incumbents was the announcement of the hiring of a new city manager in Doug Miller just last week. Assuming each is re-elected, having a new city manager in place and a largely intact council could help continue the recent momentum in the resort.
“We’ve made a commitment as we’ve moved forward these last six months,” said Dare. “We had the parting of ways with David [Recor] and we went through the hiring process and debated and unanimously came up with Doug Miller and that was huge.”
Dare said he started as city engineer in 1982 before his long career as city manager and ultimately councilman and had served under five mayors and around 30 councilmembers.
“It seems like we had a lot of divisiveness at different times in the past and it didn’t always allow us to reach our full potential,” he said. “The last couple of years, we’ve had dedicated and committed people up here, and when you have people pulling in the same direction, you can move forward a lot further.”