OCEAN CITY — Regardless of the outcome of next Tuesday’s municipal election, the make-up of the Ocean City Mayor and Council will look significantly different this time next week.
The municipal election will be held next Tuesday at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in conjunction with the highly anticipated national election. This year, six candidates are vying for four at-large open council seats including incumbents Tony DeLuca and John Gehrig, along with newcomers Peter Buas, Nicholas Eastman, Daniel Hagan and Frank Knight. Mayor Rick Meehan is unopposed and has retained his position.
No matter what happens on Tuesday, the face of the city council will change somewhat. Gone are longtime councilmembers Dennis Dare and Mary Knight, who did not file for re-election. At the very least, there will be two new faces on the council and as many as four. Last week, The Dispatch hosted a virtual town hall-style forum during which the candidates were asked for their views on a variety of timely issues.
At the outset of that forum, the candidates were asked to provide a little information about their backgrounds, how long they have lived in Ocean City and why they are running. The following are the candidates’ responses to the introductory question:
Meehan: My name is Rick Meehan and I’m currently the mayor of the town of Ocean City. Like many of you, I started coming here when I was in high school and college. I worked here all the way through high school and college. I actually moved to Ocean City and became a year-round resident in 1971 and started a business in town and was elected to the city council in 1985. It was a great time to be in Ocean City. Ocean City was just starting to really grow and develop and there were a lot of new people coming to Ocean City and I was fortunate to be in a position to represent them and to be a part of the city I really enjoyed. I live in town with my partner, Katy Durham, and my daughter Kelly lives in Ocean City with my two grandchildren, who most of you know, Brantley and Everly. It’s a great place to raise a family. I raised my kids here and now my grandchildren are being raised here. I’ve always been very active in the community, participated at Northside Park, coached all of their teams and all of the things that all of us want to do, and were so fortunate to be able to do in Ocean City.
I was appointed mayor in 2006. When Jim Mathias held that office, I was council president at the time and became mayor when he went to the state legislature. I’ve been re-elected six times since then. I also served as acting-city manager for a total of 17 months during two different time periods, so I’m very well acquainted with the government of Ocean City. I’m very dedicated to the Town of Ocean City, and I think for the same reason a lot of you are here tonight, I’m here because I’m committed to Ocean City. I love where I live, I love doing what I do and I hope to continue doing that with your support.
Buas: I was born and raised in this town and come from a big family. I grew up in the hospitality industry working mainly in hotels. Myself and my five younger siblings all went to Worcester Preparatory School in Berlin. After that, I went to the University of Maryland and thereafter, the University of Baltimore Law School. After I graduated from there, I really didn’t hesitate to jump back to the shore pretty quickly. I came back here and I clerked for the judges of the Worcester County Circuit Court for two years. And after that, I moved to Moore, Williams, Shockley and Harrison, where I practice today. My background abilities kind of give me an opportunity to jump in and make a difference. If I was elected, I would focus on two overarching goals and one would be quality of life for the residents of the town and two would be reinforcing Ocean City as a safe, family-friendly resort.
DeLuca: I worked for Yum Brands, which is Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. I was in charge of franchising there. I moved here 12 years ago from Annapolis, but I’ve owned here since 1988. I’ve owned here for a long time. As I said, I’ve been a resident since 2008. I’ve been on the council for six years. I was elected with Councilmen Matt James and Wayne Hartman. I met my wife on the Boardwalk at 9th Street in high school and we live here at the Gateway Grand. Why am I running? I think I want to continue to ensure that Ocean City is the cleanest and safest family beach in the world.
Eastman: I moved to Ocean City two years ago. However, I’ve been a life-long Maryland resident, with the exception of a little over three years. I went to West Virginia University where I somehow managed to cram a four-year degree in criminology and a minor in forensics into that three-year period. Hard work isn’t something I shy away from. I did cram a four-year degree into three years and it’s no easy task. That’s something that I am fully committed to do for the city and for the residents. I want to make sure that Ocean City is the family resort town that I always came to as a child. I want to continue to be that family resort town and bring back that family atmosphere that I know we all love. I guess the other thing I’m really passionate about that I’d like to see on the city council is transparency. My job with the city of Salisbury working at the water department does not permit to have enough time to have all of these closed-door meetings, so they’re going to need to be in the open. If they’re not in the open, I won’t be able to attend them. So, transparency is just something that I cannot, cannot stress enough.
Gehrig: I’m a 25-year resident. I moved here in 1995 and happened to move on the same street where my wife’s mom lived. We met at Macky’s and now we’re married. We have two kids and my father moved here. Both of her parents moved here, so now we have three generations who live right on the island. So, this is personal for me. Ocean City is one of the few places in the world, and I think we take it for granted because we live here, but it’s one of the few places in the world that has the amenities and the God-given nature that we have. I own an internet business and for 25 years we’re a debt-free company. After a couple of decades in business, I have developed an understanding of business principles and how to deal with human resources and managing people and leadership and making payroll. Sometimes the most stressful part right now is setting budgets and marketing and economics and pivoting and changing. So, being able to think creatively, see trends, see around the corner and create ideas with my team. A lot of times these ideas come from them. So, I think thinking and listening and taking action when appropriate, those are some of the skills I bring to the council.
We have a diverse group on the city council and I think those are my unique skills that I bring to the table. I’m on the board of the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce and I’ve been a president for three terms. I’m also on the board of the Ocean City Paramedics Foundation, so I appreciate the value of our public safety. I’ve been on countless other boards and committees as well. I’ve been a councilman now for four years and I tell you, it’s just been a lot to learn and absorb. You think you’re smart and you know things, but you have to listen. So, now I think I’m kind of in the groove a little bit and have a much greater understanding of things I never really knew about before. I’m not a civics guy. I’m not a government guy. I think that comes out a lot in the meetings, but I’m kind of the voice of change. I think I have a bold style and it’s not for everyone, but I’m fighting for our future through creative thinking and new ideas and bold action. I’m really just tired of sitting around, so I’m running to expand what makes us great and to help solve our challenges. There’s a need for solutions and I’m happy to sit at the table. So, I hope to earn the confidence of the public for the next four years. I’ll be even better now with four years behind me.
Hagan: My name is Daniel Hagan. I’ve been a resident of Ocean City for about a year. My family has been coming here for generations since the 1960s starting with my grandparents and on. I decided to run because I believe in honesty, transparency and loyalty. I believe we need to have better leadership on the council and in the mayor’s spot as well. I come from Glen Burnie, Md., which is a small town. Like Ocean City, it’s a tight community that believes in honesty, loyalty and transparency. That’s what I hope to convey when I get in office. I believe all business should be conducted in an open forum because without having that type of platform, how can you trust the people that have the town in their hands. I’m a graduate of Glen Burnie High School in 2004. I studied government, marketing and business throughout my four years there. I learned a lot. I studied to make me better prepared for things like this. I decided to run because I feel like I can be the voice of change and hopefully learn from others when it’s time to do that. Finally, I would like to be the one who goes out on the Boardwalk when things turn to hell. I am going to be there and making sure we can do better when certain events and other things occur.
Knight: I too have a history in Ocean City. I took my first steps here on 3rd Street in the sand. I worked at Mario’s, I flipped burgers at the Alaska Stand and I bussed tables in Harrison Hall. In 1995, I became a full-time resident to raise my daughter in a better environment. It was family-friendly and safe. I’ve got a lot of experience to bring to the city as a retired business owner. I’ve had two successful dental practices. I’m a member of the American Legion. I’ve been a Boardwalk code enforcement officer for a few years. I’ve been on the Board of Port Wardens for the last six years. I’ve been on the OCDC, the Downtown Association and I’ve served on multiple task forces. I believe this experience can help me hit the ground running to serve the taxpayers, the non-resident taxpayers and the tourists that come to Ocean City.