Field Of 4 Set For Ocean City Council Race; Mayor Unopposed

OCEAN CITY — There will be at least one new familiar face on the Ocean City council after the municipal election next month.

The candidate filing deadline expired at 5 p.m. on Tuesday and the field has rounded out. There were several items of intrigue heading into Tuesday’s deadline along with some certainties.

Mayor Rick Meehan is unopposed and will remain in his position. Councilman Lloyd Martin did not file for re-election ending a two-decade run on the council including a long stint as council president.

Current Council President Matt James filed earlier this summer for re-election for his third term and will be among four candidates vying for the three open seats in November. Sitting Councilman Mark Paddack was the last to throw his hat in the ring, formally filing after Tuesday’s work session. Paddack had two high-profile negative incidents during his first term in office, raising questions whether he would file again.

Potential newcomers among the four candidates vying for three open seats include local Realtor Carol Proctor and local businessman and volunteer fireman Will Savage. The other council seats currently occupied by Council Secretary Tony DeLuca, and Councilmen John Gehrig and Peter Buas will come up for election in 2024, with the mayor’s position up for grabs as it is every two years.

Resort voters will also have three referendum questions on which to weigh in on the ballot in November. One is related to the percentage of room tax revenue collected in the resort dedicated to marketing and advertising. Last year, the council approved an ordinance creating a graduated increase in the amount of collected room tax revenue dedicated to advertising, marketing and special events.

The current 2% formula will be in place for fiscal year 2023, but it would increase to 2.1% in fiscal year 2024 and 2.2% in fiscal year 2025. After a successful petition drive to get the issue on the ballot in November as a referendum question, the town’s electorate will have the opportunity to decide the fate of the room tax distribution ordinance on November 8.

The other two referendum questions are related to proposed salary increases for the Mayor and Council, which will appear as separate ballot questions. The salaries of the town’s elected officials have not been increased since 1989. Earlier this year, after careful research, City Manager Terry McGean recommended increasing the mayor’s salary from the current $30,000 50 $50,000. Under the recommendations, a councilmember’s salary would increase from the current $10,000 to $20,000, while the council president’s salary would increase from $11,000 to $23,000. Voters will have the opportunity to vote on those referendum questions on the November 8 ballot.

In an issue both indirectly and directly related to the resort, there will also be a countywide referendum question on the November 8 ballot regarding the county’s purchase of property adjacent to Stephen Decatur High School and Middle School for a future sports complex. It’s largely a Worcester County issue, but Ocean City has been intrinsically involved because of its own desire to develop a sports complex in the area and tap into the growing youth sports market.

Again, with the passing of the Ocean City Mayor and Council filing deadline this week, the field of candidates for the November election is set. However, there are a few more dates of interest in the lead-up to the November 8 election.

Next Tuesday, October 18, is the universal registration deadline as set by the state board of elections. Universal registration allows a voter to vote in national, state, county and Ocean City elections. Candidate interim campaign expenditure reports are due October 21 and the deadline for requesting absentee ballots is Monday, November 7, or the day before the election.

Ocean City’s election will be held at City Hall on Tuesday, November 8, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in conjunction with federal and state elections.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.