OCEAN CITY — The void was palpable at the first Mayor and Council meeting on Tuesday after the passing of long-time City Solicitor Guy Ayres III.
Ayres passed away at his Ocean City home early Saturday morning. A memorial service will be held Thursday, Sept. 5 at the Ocean City Performing Arts Center. Friends may come to greet the family from 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM, with a service immediately following. The Rev. Matthew D’Amario will officiate.
A dedicated and passionate public servant, Ayres served the town of Ocean City for over four decades, first as a city councilman for four years and, for the last 37 years, as city solicitor
The affable Ayres was called the “rock” in the town’s local government this week by Mayor Rick Meehan because of his consistency, dedication and passion to the community for over four decades. Because of his longevity, but largely because of his remarkable memory and attention to detail, Ayres essentially wrote the town’s current code and was relied on heavily to provide context and history as he helped shepherd the resort through vast change over the last few decades. At the outset of Tuesday’s meeting, the first since Ayres’ passing over the weekend, Meehan acknowledged the long-time public servant’s absence from his familiar chair.
“The council chambers seem a little empty to me tonight,” he said. “This is the first time in 37 years that we’ve held a meeting and Guy Ayres has not been the city solicitor. It really marks the end of an era. For 37 years he served as city solicitor and for four years prior to that, he was a city councilman and elected official for the town of Ocean City.”
Meehan is the elder statesman of sorts in the city’s government, having been first elected to the council 34 years ago in 1985 and serving as mayor for the last 13, but he acknowledged even his track record couldn’t match Ayres’ service.
“Guy led the way and there is nobody in this room that has come to a meeting in the last 37 years when Guy wasn’t the city solicitor,” he said. “Very few people if any in City Hall were here before Guy was the city solicitor.”
Meehan said with Ayres’ long record of public service, he witnessed and was very much a part of the renaissance in the resort over the last four decades.
“When you look at the growth and the challenges and changes that we have faced over the past 37 years, we’ve had one person that has always been here,” he said. “Guy has always been here to help us be consistent and give us the best advice possible.”
Ayres practically knew the city code by heart since he wrote many of the ordinances that were approved by the council. He could recite ordinances and recall the motions made to pass them with unsurpassed institutional knowledge and experience. He was firm but fair and those who occasionally disagreed with him could always respect his opinion despite their differences, Meehan said.
“Guy had an unparalleled commitment to civic responsibility,” he said. “Even those who were in opposition or disagreement with Guy, when they walked away, they respected his opinion and his approach. Guy was truly everything you could ask for in a city solicitor. I know I have that empty feeling today, but I know we’ll move on because that’s what Guy would certainly want us to do.”
Despite his passing, Ayres’ legacy in City Hall will live on and the lessons he handed down over the years will always be adhered to, according to Meehan.
“There will be many occasions when those of us sitting up here will reference something Guy said,” he said. “Guy basically wrote the code book and he knew it by heart. His recall was total and when we needed the history or needed the background, we had Guy Ayres. We certainly lost something as a town government and a community with his passing this week.”
Ayres graduated from the University of Maryland in 1967 and continued his education at the University of Baltimore School of Law, graduating in 1970. He was elected to the city council in September 1978 and served as an elected official for four years before being appointed city solicitor in January 1982, a position he held for 37 years right up to the day of his passing last Saturday.
In addition to his work with the town, Ayres was also a partner in the law firm Ayres, Jenkins, Gordy and Almand. His practice areas included municipal law, administrative law, real estate and civil litigation, the latter of which he used to litigate hundreds of cases for the town of Ocean City.
“As we join Kay, Courtney, Chase and Chip, along with the entire Ayres family in mourning Guy’s passing, we also celebrate the life and fond memories of our beloved friend and city solicitor,” said Meehan. “Though he is no longer with us in person, his legacy and enormous spirit will live on in Ocean City forever.”
Donations may be made in Ayres’s memory to Atlantic General Hospital, 9733 Healthway Drive, Berlin, MD, 21811 or Ocean City Paramedic Foundation, P.O. Box 3099, Ocean City, MD 21842. Letters of condolence may be sent to the family at www.burbagefuneralhome.com.