Election Preview: Five Candidates Vying For Three Open OC Council Seats

Election Preview: Five Candidates Vying For Three Open OC Council Seats
Pictured, from left at a recent candidates forum, are Emily Nock, Mark Paddack, Chris Rudolf and incumbents Lloyd Martin and Matt James. Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY — There will be at least one new face on the Ocean City Council after Tuesday’s municipal election with five candidates vying for three open seats.

Current City Council President Lloyd Martin and incumbent Councilman Matt James are on the ballot, as are challengers Emily Nock, Mark Paddack and Chris Rudolf. Councilman Wayne Hartman won the Republican primary for the House 38-C seat in June, and while he is being challenged by Ed Tinus in a write-in campaign, it appears he will be in Annapolis when the General Assembly convenes early next year.

Martin has been on the the council since 2002, including the last six as council president. James was a relative newcomer when elected in 2014 and was the top vote-getter in that election.

Nock is a life-long resident of Ocean City and serves as president of her family’s insurance company. She is also deeply involved in civic organizations including leadership positions locally and nationally with the Jaycees.

Paddack is a 28-year veteran of the Ocean City Police Department who retired this week. Paddack has also served in leadership positions in his community civic association.

Rudolf was a near-miss when he ran for council in 2014. Rudolf is a Realtor, manages a Boardwalk store and serves during the General Assembly session as a legislative aide to the Senate minority caucus.

Each of the candidates this week was asked to explain why they deserved to be elected and were also asked to respond to questions on current events. The following are the candidates’ responses to those questions.

Q: What specifically makes you a good candidate for this office?

James: The main reason is my experience. In addition to my public service on the City Council and as a volunteer with the fire department, I also have several years of management experience where accountability and results also matter. As it is with being a member of the council, in business I have a lot of people who rely on me, and who have faith in my ability and my judgement. The skill set and common sense I’ve needed professionally, have also been a valuable asset for me with my work on the council, particularly with budgets, procurement, and contractual issues. I’m comfortable challenging folks and asking questions because I know the taxpayers want value and results for their money, just like I do. I live here, I own property here, and I plan to be here for many years because I really do love this town.

Martin: As an owner of a small business in Ocean City and a dedicated family man, I am committed to fiscal foresight and strategic planning. In my 16 years as a councilman, I have a proven track record. I have helped to maintain our tax rate at constant yield and also enacted a zero-percent Homestead tax credit. At the same time, the town’s bond rating has increased as well as our reserve fund balance. If re-elected, my priorities over the next four years are to continue to advocate for a tax differential for the town of Ocean City, dualizing Route 90, working with OCDC to revitalize downtown Ocean City and work to resolve ongoing issues with motor events.

Nock: Growing up in the weekly rental business gave me a foundation to understand both business and the tourism industry. My experience from being president of an insurance agency and from the positions I have held in various civic organization has given me a set of skills that will enable me to efficiently and effectively serve as a member of the council. Additionally, having grown up in Ocean City and being a current property owner in the town, I have a vested interest in seeing this town flourish. I understand business and finances, I understand hard work, and I understand the citizens of Ocean City. I promise that if elected, I will work tirelessly to see that the residents of our town are fairly represented and Ocean City continues to be the family friendly resort, beloved by so many, for generations to come.

Paddack: Ocean City is our home, my hometown period. My college education with 28 years of professional career training has molded my ethical character to be an objective independent investigator. My career coupled with a combination of thousands of hours detailed to special events knowledge, operations and emergency planning for weather events, and involvements with many local civic organizations which I am a member. I have been challenged personally to contribute for our community’s betterment. Humbly, I am one of Ocean City’s most uniquely qualified citizens to serve as an elected official in the development and implementation of the strategic plan. I have consistently documented a respectful experience with our citizens. I believe in Ocean City.

My support of our local community as an elected official is as honorable as the respect I earned throughout my professional career. I have resided in the 28th Street/Bayshore, Caine Woods and currently the Caine Keys II residential communities serving as a leader. Owning, voting, listening, and paying taxes to government while being beholden to no one except my fellow citizens. I have worked both professionally and volunteered civically for the community to solve problems while maintaining my personal independence as a team member making decisions.

Rudolf: I am uniquely qualified for membership on the Ocean City Council. I have spent the last nine years working as a legislative assistant to the Maryland Senate Minority Caucus in Annapolis from January to April when the legislature is in session. My duties as a non-elected staff person range from organizing and assisting with the caucus’ weekly meetings, following important legislation going through the state Senate’s four standing committees, and other administrative duties.

I have had the distinct pleasure of having served as the Vice Chairman/Secretary of the Ocean City Board of Zoning Appeals since May 2013. Additionally, I have managerial business background having served as the flying team manager at the Kite Loft since March 2011. Lastly, I have three years of experience in real estate, licensed in Maryland and Delaware. Collectively, I have experience in government and in the private sector which makes for a very nice well-rounded background going forward. I plan to use all these unique good experiences to benefit the citizens of Ocean City.

Q: What is your position on the referendum? A “for” vote would allow Ocean City’s paramedics/firefighters to have binding arbitration in addition to the already approved collective bargaining.

James: I would first like to point out that this is not an issue the City Council is going to be voting on. The voters of Ocean City will vote on this Nov. 6.

I’ve been a volunteer member of the Ocean City Fire Department for 12 years, so I’ve worked with and know all the career firefighter/paramedics and believe I understand their concerns, and I have always been an advocate and have supported them. The reason I have not supported the charter amendment is because I believe it is too broad and could force us into arbitration too soon while we are in negotiations and sometimes for issues I feel would not merit arbitration.

The voters of Ocean City elect a Mayor and City Council and ultimately hold them responsible for the governance of the city. The voters also appreciate and value the work and service provided by the career firefighter/paramedics, and they expect them to be treated fairly. If it is perceived by the voters that the Mayor and City Council don’t act in good faith, I believe they will let their elected officials know in a variety of ways, including at the ballot box. Remember we have elections every two years.

Martin: I supported collective bargaining with the IAFF union during my first term as a councilman. We have negotiated several contracts over the years with the union, however I am not in favor of binding interest arbitration for the Ocean City paramedics and Fire Marshal’s Office. We currently meet with them to negotiate their pay and benefits. Every two years we do pay and benefit studies prior to negotiating new contracts to make sure our employees are fairly compensated. We do all this for the employees and the tax payers of the town of Ocean City. I am opposed to a third party making a determination that might cause us to raise our tax rate or cut other essential services to keep tax rate stable.

Nock: Arbitration is a last resort means of settling a dispute when all attempts at negotiations have failed. A neutral third party weighs the evidence on both sides to make the best decision based on that evidence, similar to a judge in a court of law. It’s a method we use often in the insurance world to save money, time, and resources. Long-lasting disputes with continued failed attempts at negotiation are of no benefit to anyone. When it involves the safety of our residents and visitors, it’s something that we can’t afford.

If the referendum passes, I have every faith that our council and our paramedics/firefighters would still make every attempt at negotiation. The precedent has already been set with our police department. Since they have been allowed binding interest arbitrations, there has only been one case that has gone to arbitration and that was on a personnel matter. Our firefighters and paramedics have always supported us. It is our turn to help support them and vote in favor of the referendum.

Paddack: I support the voter’s decision, either for or against the question. I have not carried the flag for the IAFF. In fact, over 20 years ago I was elected president of the FOP by my colleagues. I embarked as a model leader of Ocean City’s FOP during a tumultuous time not seen today. Your police officers successfully gained the community support for collective bargaining with binding arbitration. The officers have since worked with the Mayor and City Council to develop five contracts. I am proud of the Mayor and City Council accomplishments with the police officers in the FOP today.

The dedicated cross-trained EMS/Fire employees went to the electorate of Ocean City and obtained the required signatures to put this issue to referendum. I attended graduate school at the University of Baltimore studying Public Administration. I learned management/labor relations for both public and private sector management/employee groups. Public safety employees are not immune to unionization and arbitration. Arbitration is a last resort to temper overzealous demands by either management or the employees. I have the upmost respect for the voters’ decision. I’m promising to work on behalf of all stakeholders to continue to make Ocean City the world’s finest family resort.

Rudolf: First and foremost, I want to be crystal clear that I support the firefighters and paramedics of Ocean City. We will always need their services in the future and give them incentives to stay employed through the town of Ocean City. My understanding is that the current way the city has negotiated works. The Mayor and Council negotiates with the IAFF with no outside influence. The importance of this is both sides have the best interests of the 41 union members of the firefighters/paramedics and the citizens of Ocean City at the same time. It is also my understanding that current response times to our citizens surpasses national averages.

I have heard chatter about whether or not any arbitrator in this scenario would or would not be from this area. From what I have gathered, the consensus seems to be that this arbitrator — when and if it gets to that point — would likely be from outside our area, and I don’t think that’s a good thing for any of the parties involved. I believe everyone should be treated fairly: the Ocean City taxpayers and the firefighters/paramedics alike. With my strong feelings about statesmanship and hearing/considering all sides of the story, I believe the current system is the fairest of fair deals for all the parties involved.

Q: Vehicular special events and their associated impacts on Ocean City’s businesses and residents remain a major issue. Are you satisfied with Ocean City’s direction on managing these events? Is there anything you want to see handled differently?

James: I’m satisfied with most of what the city is now doing. As a member of the Motor Event Taskforce, I feel that the town is moving in the right direction to better control and manage the motor events. Planning is very important to me and the taskforce is now spending a great deal of time to be better prepared for both sanctioned and non-sanctioned events. I think it is important to draw the distinction between the events that are approved and sanctioned by the city and those that are not. As a resident, I’m just as appalled as others when I see bad behavior, recklessness, and a “free for all” attitude by some visitors. Moving forward I want to see more emphasis on getting the organizers and promoters to be more accountable and for them to be part of the solution when there is a problem.

Martin: Vehicular events and the effects on Ocean City business and residents remain a major issue. I believe when the motor events started years ago in Ocean City, they accomplished what they were supposed to do. Over the years, visitors to the town on weekends during the shoulder seasons has grown tremendously and businesses can be open an extended amount of time. However, the issues with reckless driving, disrespect to the town of Ocean City, the residents and business owners, have put a strain on our resources.

I believe the task force has made progress with addressing the issues by going to the state and requesting they enact a special event zone and increase enforcement which was implemented this past year. I believe we need to continue to work with the state to enact more laws we can enforce for the safety of our town and to ensure the laws are abided by the visitors attending these events.

Nock: We’ve made a good first effort with the special event zones and the request for additional state troopers, but more needs to be done. We need to send a clear message that if your only intent in coming here is to disrupt our town, to disrespect our citizens, our visitors, and our businesses, then you are not welcome here. The safety of the people in this town has to be our top priority. I believe that in addition to strengthening fines and police presence, we need to impound unsafe vehicles and come up with new ways to discourage those that threaten our safety. For instance, in residential areas where these groups are known to congregate for burn outs and races, we could look into installing temporary speed bumps that could easily be removed later.

We also need to work to make sure we are doing everything we can to attract groups and events that will be mutually beneficial to our residents and our businesses. We have an amazing convention center. With the upcoming expansion it will only get better, allowing us to attract sports competitions and other events that seek affordable family friendly destinations.

Paddack: I am the current 12-year president of Caine Keys II Civic Association that comprises 316 homes. Appointed by the Mayor to help determine what is most important for our residential communities, our people identified quality of life as the major priority.

As a documented open and independent thinker based on training, knowledge and community leadership experience, I will protect our town and help enhance our quality of life as a current and future investment. the town of Ocean City’s Strategic Plan is an excellent roadmap to accomplish this.

The three prominent events that created issues and demand for police resources were Spring Car Cruise, Endless Summer Cruising and non-sanctioned “H2Oi” event. These three events require expensive police enforcement plus resources of allied law enforcement agencies. I will lobby the Motor Vehicle Task Force of the Maryland State Legislature to provide needed resources.

The harshest penalties should be imposed on transgressors that disrespect our laws and our community during motor vehicle events. When it comes to dealing with “hang arounds,” enough is enough. I believe in Ocean City. We will do the right things, at the right times, in the right ways, and for the right reasons to keep us the world’s finest family resort.

Rudolf: I’m a big fan of special events. I think they give people who would ordinarily stay here for a day or two reasons to stay longer. The Vehicular Task Force is working. The composition of the force is the Mayor, two council members, local business owners, the police force, tourism and citizens. I believe the Special Event Zone helped. By action of the Maryland General Assembly and Governor Hogan’s signature, Coastal Highway’s Special Events Zone was enacted with the lowering of the speed limit on Coastal Highway from 40 miles per hour to 30 mph as well as doubling of the fines.

Going forward, the goal is to also include more violations such as burnouts and reckless driving. I think this is a step in the right direction in terms of controlling the chaos that historically ensues during these kinds of special events. In addition, I support the Mayor and City Council’s request to Governor Hogan for additional Maryland State Police during these special events. Ocean City swells to the second largest city in the Old Line State in the summer months and it is very difficult to enforce our traffic laws under that kind of volume with our current municipal police force and the help of other allied agencies in the area. As stated in the city’s strategic plan, one of the priorities is to “manage motor events to reflect the town image.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.