ZACK HOOPES ¦ Staff Writer
Councilman Lloyd Martin, left, was voted by his peers as council president during Thursday night’s post-election organizational meeting, taking the seat of honor next to Mayor Rick Meehan. At right, former city manager and new councilman Dennis Dare is sworn in during the council induction ceremony.OCEAN CITY TODAY/ZACK HOOPES(Nov. 16, 2012) For the second time in as many elections, Ocean City ended a bizarre, two-day period of municipal interregnum last Thursday night following the ouster of a sitting council president.
Councilmember Lloyd Martin, who had previously been serving as the council secretary, was unanimously voted in as council president during the Nov. 8 organizational meeting. Councilwoman Mary Knight was voted in as secretary.
“It’s something that I’d love to do,” Martin said. “It’s a position where you can direct the council, guide the council — keep the peace, so to speak.”
Jim Hall, who had served as council president since 2010, was defeated last Tuesday in his re-election bid. Incumbents Mary Knight and Doug Cymek won their re-election, and the seats left vacant by Jim Hall and fellow incumbent Joe Hall, who lost his bid as well, were filled by Dennis Dare and Joe Mitrecic.
Interestingly enough, this past week was not the first time the city has been left without a legislative leader for a 48-hour period, following the Tuesday night defeat of a sitting council president, but before the Thursday night agreement on a new one.
In 2010, then-Council President Mitrecic was narrowly beaten in his re-election bid by newcomer Brent Ashley, creating another president-less council until Jim Hall was voted in as president by a fourmember group of himself, Ashley, Joe Hall and Councilwoman Margaret Pillas.
Mayor Rick Meehan’s sister, left, and daughter, Kellie, were present for his swearing-in following his fourth successful mayoral bid.OCEAN CITY TODAY/ZACK HOOPESAt that time, however, it was already clear that the council’s then-minority saw Martin as the appropriate presidential successor. At the 2010 meeting, Knight and Cymek motioned for Martin to assume the presidency, but they were outvoted 4-3.
Cymek and Knight made the same motion this past week, and it passed unanimously.
Further, in a rare 8-0 vote, Knight was made secretary; while normally a nonvoting member of the town legislature, the mayor does have the power to vote for council secretary.
Before the vote for council president was taken, however, Pillas and Ashley moved to nominate Dare for the position, an ostensible olive branch to the man whom they had fired as city manager a year earlier.
Incumbent Councilman Doug Cymek signs his Board of Elections papers during Thursday’s induction. This will be Cymek’s second term at City Hall.OCEAN CITY TODAY/ZACK HOOPES“I thought with Dennis being the top vote-getter, and having the experience — which, I think, was the No. 1 reason people voted for him — made sense to me,” Pillas said. “You would pick the person who basically has no learning curve, who already knows how this runs from the other side of the dais.”
Dare declined the offer, however, making Martin the sole choice.
With the ouster of Jim Hall, who had served for nearly 26 years, Martin will now be the council’s longest-serving member, having been first elected in 2002 and serving as secretary since 2006.
“We’re heading in a direction now where we’re starting an important plan- ning process,” Martin said of new City Manager David Recor’s strategic planning initiative. “I hear it a lot from the public, ‘What is this [process] going to do for us?’ [The answer] is that we need to be thinking now about what we need, what we want, what we can afford.”
Incumbent Councilwoman Mary Knight, above, was selected by the council as the new Council Secretary. She is pictured during her oath of office with husband, Frank. (Left) Councilman Joe Mitrecic, who will be returning to City Hall after a two-year absence following his loss in the 2010 race, takes the oath of office alongside his wife, Sheryl.OCEAN CITY TODAY/ZACK HOOPESRecor’s signature project, which will see comprehensive, multi-year development designs and goals set for the city, seeks input from all of the city’s stakeholders.
But it remains to be seen exactly how the council’s long-term dynamic will work out, now that the controversial former majority has been reduced to just Pillas and Ashley, with the other five council members all being endorsees of Mayor Rick Meehan.
“If this new majority plans to go along that way, I’m going to be part of that vote, and I will vote with them,” Pillas said. “If this new majority plans to increase salaries and build more bureaucracy, I’m going to be voting against it, as I have since I’ve been elected.”
Martin said he has already personally spoken with the new council regarding any lingering differences in methodology.
“I talked to the council members oneon one,” he said. “We all want the same thing, the same success for this town, we just have different ways of getting there.”
In the short term, however, the city may have to allay some of its more grandiose long-term plans to deal with union contracts that will lock the town into several years of expenses at a time when property tax revenues are still declining. The town’s chapters of the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Firefighters will both be re-negotiating their contracts over the next three months.
The FOP has gone for three years without any of the raises or cost-of-living that it had been given in previous contracts, negotiated before the economic downturn.
“The issue of how we’re going to find money and spend it has to be dealt with immediately due to these union contracts,” warned Pillas.