Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – August 26, 2022

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – August 26, 2022

Though it might not have been the case, the internal promotion of Mary Bohlen to the town administrator post seemed planned. Four months ago, Town Administrator Jeff Fleetwood retired from the post despite having one year left on his contract. He was willing to stay on the job until the budget process wrapped, but Mayor Zack Tyndall decided he would serve out the week instead. It was clear to all Fleetwood and Tyndall had different leadership styles and disagreed on some key aspects of town governance, especially the property tax rate and the budget. That’s why it was not a huge surprise when Fleetwood opted out of retirement and quickly became the town administrator for Delmar, his hometown for many years.

Bohlen was named acting town administrator, a position she has held four times previously. With no job description or posting activity on the vacancy and Tyndall saying earlier this month progress was being made, it was clear Bohlen would be offered the role. Her promotion was lauded by all the town department heads at this week’s meeting. Long-time Councilman Dean Burrell called his closed-door motion to support Tyndall’s recommendation for Bohlen one of his proudest during his 28 years as an elected official. The decision to promote Bohlen has the robust support of staff because they are familiar with her and respect her 31 years of service and familiarity with the town. For his part, it’s clear Tyndall has a better relationship with Bohlen than he did with Fleetwood.

Though Bohlen’s knowledge of the town and the respect she has from her coworkers is undisputed, Councilman Jack Orris made some good points in explaining why he was the lone vote opposed to Bohlen’s appointment. I personally think a search process should have been launched with Bohlen able to apply for the position. After the position was advertised and candidate resumes reviewed, it may have been obvious Bohlen was the most qualified. It’s clear it was Bohlen’s job to accept as soon as Fleetwood moved on. “My no vote was purely based on process, not person,” Orris said. “Yet again, and still with no steady reporting mechanism from the mayor’s office to the council, council is kept in the dark like mushrooms, and it would appear that only after external pressure the mayor’s office arrived at a recommendation. In my view, an open search — through which any qualified candidate could apply — and at a minimal cost in an electronic world, I believe was the appropriate avenue for our town.”

Timing is everything, and Ocean City Jeep Week’s date on the calendar is the perfect example of it.

With many school systems in mid-Atlantic states back in action or at least pre-season sports underway for nearly all high schools everywhere, there has been a noticeable drop off in visitors this week. It was especially noticeable on the Boardwalk this week. It’s typical and happens each year.  It’s why Jeep Week continues to be the perfect addition to the late August schedule. A drive on Coastal Highway Wednesday night found most of the traffic associated with the Jeep event.

Without OC Jeep Week, this could be a quiet end-of-summer weekend ahead of next weekend’s Labor Day.

It was nice to see a public statement made about the eyesore that has become the vacant buildings on Berlin’s Main Street. The empty storefronts combined with the seemingly unsafe appearance of the former antique stores, and other spaces, was a bad look for the town’s historic district. Months of inactivity throughout the summer has resulted in understandable grumblings from citizens about safety concerns as well as the obvious perception of a run-down property at the heart of Berlin. Town staff had been reporting for weeks the property was under contract and subsequently improvements have been halted until closing. Once the planned sale of the property fell through, the long-time property owner, Jack Burbage and his Blue Water Development company, issued a much-needed statement to clear the air. The statement confirmed Burbage is now committed to improving the property with renovations planned for the entire two-story building on the Main Street side as well as those along Pitts and William streets.

“Berlin is his hometown too–Jack grew up on Main Street and worked in the Style Guide for many years. We want to do this right and take this building forward for all of the people of Berlin– residents and visitors–to enjoy for many, many years to come. It will take time and inconvenience while we are in progress and patience as we move along the development road. We just wanted to answer the question and give our neighbors and friends some understanding of the process. We want the project done too, but we want to do it right and that takes time,” the statement reads. “The designs so far are great and we are hopeful to have the town’s cooperation to bring this project to fruition. We ask that you bear with us as everything takes a lot longer than we think it should, Contractors are super busy so getting bids takes a long time – especially with a project of this size and once all that is done then we may have supply issues to deal with to get the materials.  We are keeping our eye on the prize of what the final product will be and how that will bring new eateries, shopping and apartments to the already awesome Town of Berlin.”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.