Voters in the Town of Ocean City have a paramount decision to make this November, as four seats on the council along with the mayoral spot are up for grabs. In a candid interview with OceanCity.com, incumbent Councilman Tony DeLuca discussed his response to the pandemic, views on budgeting and finance, green team projects, and future initiatives.
Tony DeLuca is campaigning for a third time in the hopes that he retains his seat on the Ocean City Council. He was first elected in 2014 to fill the spot vacated by Joe Mitrecic and served a two-year term. DeLuca won re-election in 2016 after finishing second in an impressive race.
DeLuca moved to Ocean City from Baltimore in 2008 after a 46-year career with KFC at Yum! Brands, Inc., where he worked on franchising, development, and operations for 2,000 stores. This experience helped him get elected in 2014, and he says it has certainly been an advantage. “It’s really helped me. I try to look at most of what we do as business, not government,” DeLuca said.
While he has not been a resident of Ocean City for his entire life, DeLuca surely has a rich connection with the city. He and his wife Joyce met on the Boardwalk in high school, and he has been coming down to the ocean for decades. After a lengthy career in business, he decided that it was time to give back to the community.
Campaigning in the Covid-19 Era
DeLuca credits his previous two wins to thousands of interactions with voters. However, he and other candidates will have to get even more creative this time around. “Both times previously, I went door-to-door, visiting over 2,000 homes. That was a huge, huge advantage. I don’t think I will be able to do that this time, it really may be a detriment because of Covid-19. So, that’s going to be a disadvantage this time,” Deluca explained.
He also is skeptical that there will be opportunities for presentations from the candidates at the American Legion or AARP as there have been in previous election cycles. “It’s going to have a lot to do with the newspapers, your record, and the signage that you have out there so that people know your name,” DeLuca added.
What is Your 10-Year Vision for the Town of Ocean City?
“I want Ocean City to be the cleanest and safest family beach in the world.”
“I want to have a really strong and strategic financial plan. Not only capital projects for the city, but also operating projects. I want to work on canal dredging, which is very important and improves property value, along with the streets. And of course, I do not want to have a tax increase in the next ten years, maybe even a decrease.”
DeLuca Has No Plans to Raise Taxes
“That’s probably my single biggest strength,” DeLuca said, when referring to managing the city budget. “For six years, I have always voted against any tax increase. If you look it over, I have never, ever supported a tax increase, and I continue not to support a tax increase,” Deluca said.
On this issue of taxation, DeLuca’s record reflects something that no other 2020 candidate’s does. “Everyone else who is running this year, has voted before to increase taxes,” Deluca added.
“I’m very cautious about spending any money unless it’s absolutely necessary,” DeLuca said.
Push for More Permanent Residents in Ocean City
Councilman Tony DeLuca has acted to encourage more people to live permanently in Ocean City, Maryland. Just last month, DeLuca voted to approve the Primary Residence Incentive Program. The program aims to bring year-round residents to Ocean City, who will in turn support the tourism-based economy and benefit the community. Included in the program is a building permit fee waiver of up to $7,500 for “new or substantially approved primary residences” and a tax rebate of up to $2,500 if you are a new, permanent resident.
What is the key to bringing people to OC?
“We can’t have tax increases. People continue to move to Delaware, Berlin, Ocean Pines, and West Ocean City because the taxes are so much lower. It’s expensive here, so we just can’t have a tax increase.”
Covid-19 is certainly going to affect the choices voters make, from local races all the way up to the presidency. Councilman DeLuca believes that he has made the right calls. “I think we are doing a lot of the right things…If we continue to focus on masks and social distancing, we’ll be alright. In all of the situations, we’ve always made safety a priority,” DeLuca said.
When asked about his reaction to critical comments on social media about Ocean City’s response to the health crisis and accusations of mixed messages, DeLuca reiterated that he is taking the right steps.
Unrest on the Boardwalk in June
Throughout much of June, many residents and even visitors were frustrated over the increase in violence and unrest on the Boardwalk. Many high schoolers traveled to Ocean City for Senior Week and other young people arrived early in the summer when the statewide Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. According to the Police Commission report from June, over 1,000 calls were made to report disorderly behavior and noise complaints increased. On June 15, many members of the public voiced their anger to the council and pleaded with members to take action. In response to the unrest, the Ocean City Police Department increased their presence, though the problem continues to arise each year.
Councilman DeLuca feels that something must be done to combat this issue next year. “I have a view that not everyone supports, but I support combatting it, and to help alleviate the problem, I support a curfew. Many of the issues happen late at night between 3rd and 10th Streets. I am going to push for a curfew to put a stop to that,” DeLuca said.
Transparency and Optics
When asked about how transparent he has been with his constituents, DeLuca said that he has been very clear. “Transparency has always been at the top of my mind, and something that I’ve pushed for in terms of audits and everything that we’ve done at the council. I often get in trouble for talking too much and being too transparent,” DeLuca said.
Throughout his tenure, Councilman Tony DeLuca has been a strong advocate for sustainable environmental practices as Chairman of the Ocean City Green Team. His focus has been on the Protect our Sand and Seas source reduction campaign. The initiative aims to reduce or eliminate the use of items such as plastic straws, plastic bags, and styrofoam.
The Green Team has also had success with its cigarette Butt Hut program. Last month, thousands of butts were recycled to make new benches for the Boardwalk.
The Green Team is the recipient of the Sustainable Maryland Award and the Maryland Tourism Coalition’s Visionary Impact Award.
DeLuca is still looking for ways to be active with the Green Team during the pandemic.
What Have You Learned During Your Time on the Ocean City Council?
“One thing that I’ve learned is that it takes a tremendous amount of time to do anything in government. In business, you make a decision, and you’re doing it the next day. In government, it takes forever.”
Election Day is November 3
The candidate filing deadline is October 6, and election day is November 3. This year, many, if not all, will cast their ballots by mail due to the ongoing pandemic. The top four vote-getters will secure spots on the council, serving the people of the Town of Ocean City.
For more information on Ocean City elections, click here.
To send Councilman Tony DeLuca an email, click here.
To view Councilman Tony DeLuca’s voting record, click here.