Sincerity – it’s the word that comes to mind when I reflected on Mike Beatty’s passing this week. He was a genuinely nice guy who always had a kind word to share. It was this authenticity merged with a fun, entertaining light-hearted personality that resonated with people. It’s impactful when Ocean City loses these types of popular and endearing individuals with an ocean of friends from all walks of life. In fact, when news of Beatty’s passing was shared on our Facebook page Sunday afternoon, the post reached more than 120,000 people within two hours and about 400,000 within 24 hours. He was an Ocean City icon.
Batman’s passing this week makes last year’s surprise proclamation as an “Ocean City Legend” and “Night Time Mayor” and key to the city at Buxy’s Salty Dog – where he got his start at the former Bayside Pub — all the more special. After being recognized by Mayor Rick Meehan, Beatty told the assembled group of friends, “I am stunned that you all are here. You have no idea what this means to me. A few more drinks and I’m going to take his microphone and tell some stories … This means the world because I love this town. This town has been so good to me. I always say my heart is in Baltimore, but my soul is here in Ocean City. It’s because of you people, every single one of you, you have no idea what you mean to me.”
It was fitting all over social media last Sunday when people posted pictures of themselves raising a glass with the simple word, “Social.”
As I walked into the Berlin Intermediate School “Rise Up” ceremony this week, it was interesting to note the large police presence. It was unclear initially until Superintendent of Schools Lou Taylor spoke. He pointed out police officers from Wicomico and Worcester counties were presented to support fallen Wicomico Sheriff Deputy Glenn Hilliard’s son, a student at the school who would be celebrated as the students finished up their final days at the school before moving on to middle school. The officers – including Wicomico Sheriff Mike Lewis and Worcester Sheriff Matt Crisafulli – wanted to be there for Trenton Hilliard as he received recognition and specific honors for the President’s Education Award and Principal’s List. While his father could not be there, his fellow men and women in blue were to ensure the young man felt supported, admired and loved.
There were plenty of emotions in the room throughout the ceremony as parents experienced the pride of seeing their kids complete a journey in their lives. What most of us parents will remember forever, however, was the moment when Hilliard received his recognition. When the child’s name was called, the room immediately rose to give him a standing ovation. We had been asked by Principal Ryan Cowder to hold all applause for the more than 300 students until the end to allow for a timely ceremony. It was certainly fitting for all of us to put aside the request. It was impossible to not be moved by this show of support. I will never forget this moment, one full of raw emotion, sincerity and humanity as well as tremendous strength by this young man. His father had been killed just 48 hours before the ceremony, but he showed tremendous fortitude in being present for the event and handling himself with remarkable composure.
His father would surely have wanted his son to stand proud of his work at the school. Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing, who hired Hilliard and worked with him for six years as a town officer, put it well when asked to comment on his passing. He said, “His family was really entrenched in the community. There are a lot of people hurting from this. Those who knew him personally really saw the best in him. He was a better officer when he left for Wicomico, and it was just a better opportunity. He was never running from anything. He always running to something, even on his last day.”
There are various events to cover each summer the Maryland Municipal League convention is held in Ocean City. Most of the stops are purely public relations type of things for state dignitaries, but this week’s announcement of an injection of $15 million toward the Route 90 dualization project is significant.
Though the timeline of the project has never been discussed publicly, realistic minds put the project completion date at somewhere between five to eight years as the process is thorough before ground is even broken. It seems realistic based on this week’s announcement that Gov. Larry Hogan was allocating the new $15 million in funding to advance the planning and design phase for dualizing Route 90, a 12-mile road with two bridges that connects Route 50 and Coastal Highway in Ocean City.
During a brief off-the-record conversation with an official this week, I was cautioned about using the word, “dualization.” He said the project could include other improvements that did not necessarily mean four lanes but would not expand on what he meant. It was interesting to review state documents and find “dualization” is not a word used, although it would seem obvious. The corridor study newsletter read, “MDOT SHA has initiated the MD 90 Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) study as part of this effort. The PEL study will identify long-term transportation needs, including traffic operations, capacity, safety, economic development, pedestrian and bicyclist accessibility, and emergency evacuations. The PEL study also will identify and prioritize individual, stand-alone projects within the corridor.”