With an election looming, the faces of the Ocean City Council may look quite different after November’s contest. Despite the possible shakeups, there is a chance that one well-established name will retain a spot inside City Hall. Frank Knight, husband of outgoing Council Secretary Mary Knight, is vying for one of the four open seats.
For a typically quiet resort town with a small resident population, this year has been anything but normal. In the midst of a global pandemic, local businesses continue to feel the financial blunder. On top of the fight against Covid-19, recent unrest in the streets due to the pop-up rally has not made things any easier. Frank Knight believes that he has the experience to help tackle this “perfect storm” of issues.
A lifelong visitor of Ocean City, Knight adores the town. He learned to walk here in the 1950s and flipped burgers at the Alaska Stand during his teenage years. Knight spent 40 years running a dental practice and became a full-time resident in 1995. He knows the community well and carries a wealth of knowledge about town affairs. Since 2017, Knight has served as the Town Code Enforcement Inspector and since 2014, as a member of the Board of Port Wardens. He has also worked with the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) and the Downtown Association. Additionally, Knight has been a faithful observer at every council meeting for the past several years.
While this is his first time on the ballot for City Council, it is not the first time a Knight has sought this office.
Council Secretary Mary Knight Is Not Seeking Reelection
To the surprise of many, Council Secretary Mary Knight did not file for reelection ahead of the October 6 deadline. Knight, who has served on the council since 2006 and was promoted to Secretary in 2012, is ready for something new.
Frank Knight was open about Mary’s decision. “After 14 years, there is more that she wants to pursue. The council doesn’t meet just once a week. There are meetings for the police and tourism commissions, and more. It’s closer to a half-time job than a once-a-week job,” he said. “There are many opportunities she has and is looking forward to what’s next.”
Filling the Void
Mrs. Knight is not the only incumbent opting not to seek another term. Councilman Dennis Dare, first elected in 2012 following 30 years of service as City Engineer and then City Manager, is retiring.
Frank Knight says that Dare’s announcement was instrumental in his decision to run. “The main reason I decided to run is because there are four seats available, and Dennis Dare is not running. He was a great city manager and has been a great council member. I plan to tap into his brain and will try to be the voice that he is. If Mary would have run, then I wouldn’t have run. The same goes for Dennis.”
Knight also mentioned the other candidates running for seats on the council. “Two of my opponents don’t have the life experience to manage an eighty-seven million dollar plus budget.”
Ocean City’s Agenda
If watching his wife perform her duties on the council over the last decade and a half has taught Knight anything, it is that government is not exactly a fast-paced operation. “Government moves much slower than business does. I have seen government move too slow. Some things that were supposed to be accomplished in 2014 aren’t done yet. Fire Station 3 needs to be redone, but it’s been put on the back burner for 10 years now. The police need extra officers. That is finally being addressed, but that’s been on the agenda since 2005. We have been trying to redevelop downtown, build a bayside Boardwalk, and bring more events here.”
Knight believes that these items must be front and center on the town’s agenda to propel Ocean City into the future.
To raise revenue for projects such as these, Knight says he is firmly against raising taxes and that we must find creative ways to generate income.
Tackling the Issues: June Boardwalk Violence and September H20i Event
The unrest on the Boardwalk in June and the disarray caused by the pop-up rally at the end of September are two issues Ocean City residents will have in mind when voting.
Knight feels that the pandemic and reopening situation presented the perfect storm for the eruption of predicaments in June. He recognizes that the issue is not new but that this year was a special circumstance in many ways. “We had young adults with an extra $600 in their pockets. Bars were closed, so people had nowhere to go. There were no J-1 students, and all the cheap $50 rooms they are normally housed in were available. People came into town, stayed in those places, and started causing trouble.”
The solution for June remains unclear, but Knight believes in repurposing the month by adding more family-friendly events. He hopes that this would deter people from coming down and wreaking havoc on the town. Knight mentioned that he opposes curfews because he believes it will simply push people into alleys and neighborhoods where they will also act negligently.
As if June was not enough, the last weekend in September presented yet another challenge. The Ocean City Police Department was out in full force, and a couple hundred arrests were made. Knight is a vocal supporter of law enforcement; however, he hopes that extensive measures do not have to be taken again in the future. “More law enforcement is always good, and we did everything by calling in extra police. When they put their riot gear on, the people realized it was time to go to bed and go away. At the same time, this is not a town where we should have to have riot gear. I don’t want to see this militarization. We had some nasty events, and they got bad really fast.”
Response to Covid–19
Thankfully, Ocean City did not experience a major spike in Covid-19 cases throughout the summer. Nonetheless, businesses of all types, including hotels, struggled. Travel restrictions from states such as New York kept many people from taking a vacation.
Knight feels that local officials handled the situation well. “We followed the governor’s directives, and if a place was out of control, the health department took care of it. Ocean City was in lock-step with the state government. We had 75-80% compliance with the masks on the Boardwalk, and people were pretty responsible.”
Heading into the long offseason, the focus is shifting to the uphill battle for local businesses. These entities make most of their money in the short summer window, and despite many visitors still flocking to Ocean City, it was not enough. “This is a very pivotal year ahead for Ocean City. Is Covid-19 going to go away?” Knight wondered. “It’s going to be tougher for the economy. It’s the mom and pop stores that we have to worry about. By the time we get to the spring, are these businesses still going to be around? We must work for grants. This is important stuff.”
Knight assures the people of the town that he has the experience to dig businesses out of the hole created by the pandemic. “I’ve had businesses experience, but also real-world experience that can help us handle the things we are dealing with.”
Honesty and Transparency
If elected, Frank Knight promises to be honest with his constituents. “I’m all for transparency, and I will always act how I’m supposed to. I’ve never been an insider.”
Knight’s Vision for Ocean City
“We need to get strategic planning, enhance downtown safety, support the fire department, support police, and repurpose June. Ten years from now, I would like to see our neighborhoods protected. Ocean City has lost population since the last census, so let’s attract more families. This is a great environment to raise a family. I hope to see more businesses. After all these years, I still wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
Election Day is November 3
For local election information, click here.
In addition to Frank Knight, Councilmen Tony DeLuca and John Gehrig, along with Peter Buas, Nicholas Eastman, and Daniel Hagan will be on the ballot.