Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – October 20, 2017

It’s unclear when Gov. Larry Hogan will announce his replacements of two long-time Worcester County Circuit Court judges. However, it was learned this week who he has to choose from in the near future.

Hogan will be deciding between Worcester County Circuit Court Master Mary Margaret “Peggy” Kent, Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby, Berlin Town Solicitor Dave Gaskill, Snow Hill attorney Jeff Cropper and Ocean City area attorney Regan Smith.

It’s interesting to note Smith and Kent were finalists in 2010 to replace retiring Judge Ted Eschenberg along with Kathyrn Westbrook and Brian Shockley, who was eventually chosen by Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Whoever the governor selects – my nickel bet is on Kent and Oglesby – the chances are it’s going to result in some local fallout. If I’m correct and Kent is chosen, then her master post will need to be filled. If my prediction that Oglesby gets picked is right, that means the State’s Attorney race in 2018 will not feature an incumbent for the first time in more than 30 years.

Interestingly enough, local media received an embargoed invitation this week to an announcement on Monday of a prosecutor from Wicomico planning to file for State’s Attorney in Worcester County. If Oglesby is selected, my guess is whoever is chosen as the interim State’s Attorney will also vie to become the elected prosecutor next year.

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Kudos to the residents who came before the Ocean City Mayor and Council to seek an update on what plans are being pursued to address concerns from the numerous vehicle events in Ocean City.

“At the last meeting, I heard the outrage about this particular event,” resident Suzanne Ahalt said. “Somewhere in there, we missed that back in the spring there was outrage about the cruiser event. We had people standing here outraged about what had gone on. Last weekend, we had another cruiser event, and while it wasn’t as big, we live back on the bayside and we could hear the drone of the cars at 4 a.m. with our windows closed.”

Ahalt and Jean Keagle were right to follow up on the issue with the city, which has in recent years talked tough about these events with little to no follow-up that resulted in any noticeable change in public safety and general welfare during these events.

For the city’s part, Mayor Rick Meehan acknowledged the concerns and assured the citizens the city will back up the recent tough talk.

“It has been discussed at the police commission level, which is the first step,” he said. “Then, it will come back to the full Mayor and Council. That’s the direction and the thought to do whatever we can to eliminate that particular event. That’s the goal.”

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When the topic of a government-funded sports complex in Worcester County was discussed a couple months ago, it was obvious the Worcester County Commissioners were not on the same page. Although the commissioners ultimately decided to allow staff to pursue some possible locations and evaluate acquisition costs, it was unclear whether the required majority votes would be there to ever move beyond the exploration phase.

During his quarterly recap of county business before the Ocean City Mayor and Council this week, County Commissioner Joe Mitrecic discussed the current process underway.

“There is a continuing process to build a major sports complex out in the county that can host large-scale sports tournaments,” he said. “That’s the next logical step in the sports marketing alliance between the county, Ocean City and Wicomico County. Currently, we’re trying to identify potential properties and hopefully decide on one spot. Then, we can go to the Maryland Stadium Authority for funding and partnership.”

Mitrecic said the complex could attract major youth tournaments and other events and potentially replace private sector revenues realized by many of the town’s motorized special events, which have come under increased fire lately.

“There are people in the county who want to do away with some of these events that take up our weekends,” he said. “We all know if we do that, it will create a vacuum for the business community. If it’s not filled by us, it will be filled by somebody else, which could be worse than some of the special events we have now. We want to fill that void with sports marketing. These are huge family events with low impact.”

When asked if the proposed sports complex had the support of the entire Board of County Commissioners, Mitrecic said the support was not unanimous.

“It does not,” he said. “The two commissioners from Ocean Pines do not support it, so I figure maybe we should send the promoters of H20i over there and send them the Ocean Pines rental list.”

This is the second time in a month that a commissioner has singled out a colleague or colleagues, in this case. It’s unusual for elected officials to call each other out like this, but it sure does increase the transparency a bit within county government. That has not always been the case.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.