Ocean Pines Candidates Discuss Views At First Forum

Ocean Pines Candidates Discuss Views At First Forum
Pictured, from left, are OPA Board candidates Frank Daly, Stuart Lakernick, David Hardy and Richard Farr. Photo by Bethany Hooper

OCEAN PINES – Four contenders in this year’s board election shared their views on various association matters this week in the first of two scheduled candidate forums.

On Wednesday, the Ocean Pines Elections Committee hosted a forum for the four candidates running in the 2021 Ocean Pines Association (OPA) board election. This year, candidates Frank Daly, Stuart Lakernick, David Hardy and Richard Farr will vie for two seats currently held by Daly and Frank Brown. A previously announced candidate, Lisa Romersa, has withdrawn from the race.

As part of this week’s forum, candidates were given time to share opening and closing statements and answer questions submitted by residents.

Daly, who was elected to the board in 2018, told attendees he was not running on promises, but on results.

“My core values of honesty, integrity and independence focus my efforts not on special political interests, only on yours, the homeowner,” he said. “I’m asking for your vote to continue my work and improve the core values of this community, our finances, its infrastructure and our management.”

Lakernick, who lost to two incumbents in last year’s election, said he hopes to bring his leadership and problem-solving skills and his experience in financial management to the board.

“This year, perhaps more than ever before, who you elect will determine the long-term success of Ocean Pines,” he said. “I will represent full- and part-time homeowners equally and work hard to make necessary improvements to our board. I wish to thank the 1,050 members who voted for me last time, and for the other members, I hope you please consider voting for me this time.”

Hardy said his management of personnel and large budgets in both the private and public sectors has prepared him for a position on the board.

“I look forward to being involved, bringing a new perspective to the Ocean Pines community,” he said. “I do believe everyone in the community should have an opportunity to have a voice in what’s done. I will listen and be a part of this community.”

Farr said his career as a human resources executive, and experience on several executive boards, have taught him the value of people and their voices.

“I’m not a politician, I’m here for the people and here for the community,” he said. “I’m not going to make promises I cannot keep. But the promise I can give you is I will listen and make sure the voices of our community are heard and understood, and that those concerns are brought to the board.”

Last month, Daly presented the board with a recommendation to adopt the county’s short-term rental regulations into the association’s Declaration of Restrictions with enhanced enforcement provisions for violations. When asked this week about the current plan, Lakernick argued there needed to be a procedure for filing complaints, but added that the county should be responsible for enforcement.

“I think the rules are already in place from the county …,” he said. “The enforcement mechanism is complaint driven. I don’t think we should put more restrictive covenants on owners here in Ocean Pines. If the county takes your fee of $200, the county is responsible for enforcement.”

Hardy noted that homeowners should comply with rental regulations and supported the idea of a better complaint process.

“If the county needs more assistance, we should find a path to enable them to do their job more efficiently,” he added.

Farr said it was important to educate homeowners and enforce regulations that are within the association’s purview.

“On things we can control, such as noise and trash, there are mechanisms in place that we can go ahead and push forward to make sure we hold these owners responsible for their properties,” he said, “so that they are maintaining it to the standards we have and expect in the community.”

Daly said the association was not trying to create more restrictions, but to have a more effective enforcement mechanism, as the county did not have the budget or the resources. He noted, for example, the association has the ability to levy fines in certain sections of the community.

“We’ve had that for 20 years, and we haven’t used it,” he said. “We want to expand that to all sections so that when we get an irresponsible property that does not follow the existing law, that we can act faster and quicker than the county.”

Candidates this week were also asked how they would approach major infrastructure projects, such as the replacement of the southern fire station, Beach Club and North Gate bridge. Hardy highlighted the need for adequate funding and community involvement.

“I would expect we would assign committees, have them report back to us in an expeditious manner, have time for public comment from residents and then decide whether or not to move forward,” he said. “We should be running ourselves as a business and do what we can afford.”

Farr said projects such as the Beach Club replacement would call for a cost analysis, drainage improvements and community input.

“If we are going to do a replacement, we need to get the community involved, to show them different plans like we did with the Yacht Club, making sure they know and understand what we are trying to do and making sure we are open with replacement costs for that,” he said.

Lakernick added the association would need more money in reserve to replace its infrastructure.

“A study shows we are going to need 24% of our assets in reserve so we can replace these things and it doesn’t hit us in our pocket real bad,” he said.

“Part of our assessments go to those funds so we can replace our infrastructure … We have to continue to apply best business practices on how we manage this money.”

Daly said while the association would not be responsible for funding the replacement of the fire station, it is responsible for projects such as drainage improvements and the development of a new Beach Club.

“With exterior and interior renovations, the Beach Club will be good for another 20, 25 years,” he said. “Those renovations would be under the referendum limit. But when we go to replace the Beach Club, get ready for some real big numbers you haven’t seen in Ocean Pines since you’ve lived here.”

Candidates this week were also asked how they would improve the working relationship among board members if elected. Farr said he would remain professional and establish open communication.

“I think that it’s important to have open collaboration between board members and understand why they are leaning a certain way or why they want to vote a certain way,” he said.

Hardy agreed.

“We’re professionals here,” he said. “You respect what your peers believe to be the truth and you don’t live on innuendo and rumor.”

As a Rotary member, Lakernick said he would follow the organization’s guiding principles for personal and professional relationships.

“If anyone is Rotarian, they know the four-way test – is it true, is it fair, will it build goodwill and better relationships, and will it benefit all concerned,” he said. “That’s how I will be a director and relate to fellow directors on the board.”

Daly said there were disagreements among board members, but for the most they worked together for the betterment of the community. He noted that most board motions made this year passed with five or more directors on one side of the issue.

“It tells you that people that probably aren’t number one on the Christmas card list with each other are working together, they do listen to the issues, and they do collaborate on issues, and we do that in a tough, politically charged environment …,” he said. “You’re not going to walk in as a new member of the board and sprinkle holy water on the board and they’re going to love each other. When you stay in the middle and focus on what somebody wants to do and how it benefits the association, you can work with both sides and get things done.”

Candidates this week spent two hours answering questions focused on roads maintenance, amenities, mailboxes, and community involvement, among other things. A second candidate forum will be held virtually at a date to be announced, and homeowners are encouraged to submit their questions to [email protected].

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.