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Ocean City

New Planning and Community Dvlpmt. director to start in Jan.

Margotta worked with OC city manager in Ft. Pierce; OCPD chief coming soon

ZACK HOOPES ¦ Staff Writer

Matthew Margotta Matthew Margotta(Nov. 23, 2012) Ocean City government is closing its top-end leadership gap, as the town announced this week that Fort Pierce, Fla. Director of Planning Matthew Margotta will be coming to the resort to replace former Ocean City Planning and Community Development Director Jesse Houston, who retired in September.

Incidentally, Margotta is being hired away from the same municipality, Fort Pierce, that current City Manager David Recor came from in May. Margotta also worked in Hilton Head, S.C. when Recor was employed there as well.

“As David was leaving here, he asked me to keep it in mind if a planning job opened up in Ocean City,” Margotta said. “He let me know that the position was out there [after Houston announced his retirement, and I put in my resume.”

“I wasn’t looking to move. I didn’t send my resume all over the place,” Margotta added. “But Ocean City has got a lot going for it … it looks like they’re trying to expand into more things that OC can be, and I’d love to be a part of that.”

Margotta will begin his new post on Jan. 7, 2013. Before his time at Fort Pierce, Margotta was the senior planner for the town of Bluffton, S.C. and Hilton Head (the current town manager of Bluffton is Ocean City’s first city manager, Tony Barrett).

He is a graduate of University of South Carolina, with a bachelor of arts in geography. He is also a major in the U.S. Army Reserves, with 25 years of military service.

“I am very pleased to welcome Matthew to the Planning and Community Development director position,” Recor said in a press release. “His knowledge, experience and leadership will be a great asset to the citizens in the community, as well as the future of Ocean City.”

The city is currently in the midst of a strategic planning process that is Recor’s signature program, having pioneered a similar method in Hilton Head and Fort Pierce to develop goals that are fully integrated throughout all levels of municipal government.

Margotta was never heavily involved in Recor’s prior work, as he was not in an administrative position in Hilton Head and, during Recor’s last planning process at Fort Pierce, Margotta was on duty in Iraq.

He is, however, is looking forward to being highly involved with the current strategic planning process.

“I was never in on the ground floor [with the strategic plan], so that’s what’s so exciting,” Margotta said. “Ocean City was important to me because of the strategic plan, because they’re just starting that. It’s an exciting time to be the planning director.”

The filling of the planning position comes on the heels of another high-level vacancy opening in the resort. Ocean City Police Department Chief Bernadette DiPino was selected last month to head the Sarasota, Florida Police Department beginning Jan. 1, 2013.

According to Ocean City Communications Manager Jessica Waters, an interim replacement for DiPino will be announced “if not by the end of the month, then in the very near future,” with the goal of having a permanent replacement before the 2013 summer season starts.

The city aims to do a national search for a new chief, although it has not determined if that process will be done inhouse or through an outside recruiter.

“In the past, there have been incidents in which we have used a search firm and other incidents in which our HR department has handled the search themselves,” Waters said in a recent email.

“It’s a priority for the mayor and council to get that started … so we can reach the most candidates and have the largest pool of qualified people possible,” she said.

Earlier this year, Ocean City commissioned corporate recruiter Springsted Inc. to hire Recor from his previous post as the city manager of Fort Pierce, Fla. Other high-level changes in the past months have included the appointment of former Communications Manager Donna Abbott as tourism director, following the departure of former tourism head Deb Turk, as well as the hiring of Convention Center Director Larry Noccolino after the departure of Rick Hamilton.

Although the weather may be a bit different, Margotta will be no stranger to the lay of the land in Ocean City.

“My entire career has been in coastal communities that have tourism-related issues,” he said.

Ocean City, however, is somewhat of a reverse mirror of Fort Pierce. The central city of Florida’s coastal St. Lucie county, it maintains a larger permanent resident population of over 35,000 people. Any demographic swing it sees is largely in the winter.

“The fact that you have such a defined season in Ocean City, with a Memorial Day-to-Labor Day-type of event [is different],” Margotta said. “Our season [in Fort Pierce] is just the opposite. It’s actually this time of year [that attracts visitors]. The snowbirds come down and we get big and busy now.”

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