Unlike in Berlin, there does not appear to be an outcry in Ocean City for a change of political representatives. This is one of the weakest fields of candidates I can ever remember.
The mayor has been re-elected by virtue of being unopposed again. Two veteran City Council members – Dennis Dare (elected in 2012) and Mary Knight (elected in 2006) – opted to not file for re-election this week. Incumbents John Gehrig, seeking a second term, and Tony DeLuca, who was elected in 2014, will seek to retain their seats.
Along with the incumbents, heavy favorites at this point to gain the seats held by Dare and Knight have to be attorney Peter Buas, the first to file and an active campaigner for months, and retired dentist Frank Knight, who is looking to grab the seat held by his wife. Mary and Frank Knight had their house for sale on Mallard Island this summer, but the couple have evidently decided to stay put for now and attempt a political swap.
Two others seeking seats are Nicholas Eastman and Daniel Hagan, who raised a lot of eyebrows last month when he posted an online video condemning Ocean City’s tactics to quell the antics of the pop-up rally. I was disappointed Emily Nock and Chris Rudolf did not give public office another shot this time around after impressive attempts two years ago. Nock only missed a council seat by four votes in 2018, securing 1,179 votes behind third-place finisher Lloyd Martin (1,183) and second-place’s Mark Paddack (1,187).
Though the field is small, the good news is the municipal election occurs on the same day as the presidential election, which is sure to bring out the voters on Nov. 3.
Some other thoughts on the Town of Berlin’s election this week:
•Compared to 2016 when there were 3,172, there are now 3,477 registered voters in Berlin (an 11% jump) – 988 in District 1, 904 in District 2, 865 in District 3 and 720 in District 4. The highest voter turnouts by district were District 2, 50% (455 voters); District 1, 40% (396 voters); District 3, 28% (245 voters); and District 4, 19% (140 voters). Altogether, there were 1,236 for a total voter turnout of 36%.
For comparison’s sake, the voter turnout in 2016 was 23%; 17% in 2012; and 32% in 2008.
•At 30 years of age, Zack Tyndall will become the youngest person ever to be Berlin’s mayor when sworn in next week. He’s not the youngest to ever hold a mayor title in Maryland, however. Brandon Paulin, who was elected at 19 years old as mayor of Indian Head, Md. in 2015, holds that title. Nonetheless, it’s an impressive accomplishment in any regard for Tyndall, but the fact it was such a landslide victory was even more remarkable.
Tyndall ran an aggressive, grassroots campaign. He clearly worked the hardest for the spot. Over the last couple months, it was common to see Tyndall walking the town knocking on doors with a box full of yard signs. Tyndall, who said he knocked on 1,000 doors during his campaign, clearly had the most signs out around town throughout the fall. While the votes were being counted Tuesday night, numerous residents reported seeing the mayor-elect out picking up his signs. Tuesday was a tremendous vote of confidence for Tyndall.
•Though he leaves office in a resounding defeat, Mayor Gee Williams deserves recognition for his 16 years of service to the town. It’s no secret Williams’ approval rating within the town never recovered from the tax and fee increases of 2019. An 18% tax increase is hard for any elected official to overcome, but the appointment of Austin Purnell to the planning commission at the final meeting of his term was also devastating to his cause. I understand that late appointment, which could have easily waited, resulted in some devoted supporters jumping over to Tyndall in the last week.
No matter the case on that front, a tip of the cap for Williams today as his passion and love for Berlin were always evident. He led as he thought was best, and the time came this week for Berlin to move forward under new leadership. From a reporter’s standpoint, Williams was always accessible for clarification and/or a comment. This is not always a given and was much appreciated over the years.
As an indication of his class, Williams purchased an ad this week to thank the people of Berlin. He had planned an ad whether he won or lost. He was the only candidate to do so. The message read, “Serving as your Berlin mayor for the past 12 years has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. I appreciate the support and encouragement so many of you have provided in good times and trying times. I trust you will continue to encourage, support and communicate with the newly elected and appointed leaders of our community. Our Town of Berlin is truly a special place to live and visit. I encourage everyone to remain interested and involved in our town’s future. Thank you for the unique and special opportunity to serve you as mayor.”
•The at-large district race came down to 106 votes with Jay Knerr gaining the seat held by Thom Gulyas the last six years. It was interesting to note Knerr secured 55% of the vote over challenger Tony Weeg, 606 votes to 495. I found it interesting there were 1,101 total votes cast for the at-large district, meaning 135 voters cast a ballot but did not weigh in on the contest. I doubt it would have swung the final outcome, but it’s surprising nonetheless to see so many ballots not filled out entirely.