Considering the importance of the elections on the state, county and local levels, Worcester County’s registered voters should make a point of going to the polls next Tuesday.
Next week’s elections are particularly important, as voters will have to pick from a field of distinctly different candidates as they decide who will speak for them in Annapolis, county government, and in Ocean City.
In addition, the Ocean City election, which is held separately from the state and county contests, will present voters with a tough referendum question: whether the collective bargaining agreement local firefighters have with the city should include binding interest arbitration.
The race for the Maryland Senate is, perhaps, one of the closest watched in this section of the lower shore.
It pits Democratic incumbent James Mathias against Republican Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, who is attempting to move into the legislature’s senior chamber.
More locally, the District 3 (West Ocean City-Berlin) race for Worcester County Commissioner offers voters a clear choice between long-time incumbent Bud Church (R) and challenger Zackery Tyndall (D), a Berlin councilman.
In the Ocean City contest, it’s a matter of who will get left out in a five-way race for three seats. If incumbency means anything, Councilmen Matt James and Lloyd Martin would have an edge in name recognition, while recently retired Ocean City police officer Mark Paddack, 2014 council candidate Chris Rudolph and businesswoman Emily Nock go after the vacancy created by the departure of Wayne Hartman.
Hartman, a Republican, resigned from the council to run for the House of Delegates in District 38C (Worcester-Wicomico) and faces token opposition from Ed Tinus, also a Republican, who’s mounted a write-in campaign.
Here’s who’s running for what.
Jim Mathias, 67, Democrat: Mathias, who has a degree in political science from the University of Maryland-Baltimore, has been a fixture in local government and politics since the 1987, when he was named to the Ocean City Board of Zoning Appeals.
He graduated to the City Council in 1990, was reelected in 1994, but two years later ran successfully for mayor. He held that post for 10 years before winning a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates in 2007.
Mathias was elected to the Senate four years later and was reelected in 2014. He is a member of the Finance Committee, Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area, and served on the Task Force to Study a Post-Labor Day Start Date for Maryland Public Schools.
Mary Beth Carozza, 57, Republican: Carozza is a veteran of politics and government of more than 30 years.
She has served in numerous capacities at the state and national level, including two stints as chief of staff for members of Congress, deputy chief of staff for a U.S Senator and as Deputy Chief of Staff for Gov. Robert Ehrlich.
She also was the recipient of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service for her effort, when as a Department of Defense staffer, she helped to maintain communications between the Pentagon and the Capitol Hill after the Sept. 11, 2001 attack.
A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and Catholic University, Carozza became a member of the Maryland House of Delegates in 2015.
Three members of the Worcester County Board of Commissioners face no opposition in this year’s election. Joe Mitrecic (Dist. 7, Ocean City), Madison “Jim” Bunting Jr. (Dist. 6, Bishopville-Ocean Pines) and Diana Purnell (Dist. 2, Mid-County) will return for another four-year term in Snow Hill, the county seat.
Voters in the Berlin/West Ocean City, Ocean Pines, Snow Hill and Pocomoke districts will have decisions to make.
(Berlin/West Ocean City)
Republican Bud Church, who has represented this district since 2003, faces Berlin Councilman Zackery Tyndall, a Democrat. This is a classic contest between a long-time county government veteran and a newcomer on the county scene.
Church, 77, acknowledges that the pro-environment community criticized him in his first term for favoring developers over environmental preservation, but that he gained its support by backing or sponsoring “every conservation easement that [came] through to add to our forest[s] and trees.”
He said critical issues in his district that must be addressed are meeting the growing retirement community’s needs for services, and grappling with increasing development and its infrastructure requirements. Church, a Realtor, is president of Coldwell Banker, Bud Church Realty in Ocean City.
Tyndall, 28, was elected to a four-year term on the Berlin Town Council in 2016, but now seeks to vacate that seat two years early so he can represent his hometown and West Ocean City on the county level.
Holding a master’s degree in business administration from Salisbury University, Tyndall says that county commissioner complacency is costing this area jobs, is hindering education and hurts local nonprofits.
He also says finding ways to create more steady employment opportunities for residents and focusing on pedestrian safety in West Ocean City are among his priorities.
Republican incumbent Anthony “Chip” Bertino, 53, is seeking reelection to his second term, while hoping to derail that endeavor is Democrat Judy Butler, 70, former president of the Democratic Women’s Club of Worcester County.
Bertino, who went into office with a pledge to keep a tight rein on spending, says he has learned a great deal about how government works in the past four years. That, however, hasn’t changed his views on how it should budget its money. While he cites his support of building the new Showell Elementary School as evidence of his pro-education philosophy, he also points to his role in helping to pare down the cost of construction.
His campaign positions also include pushing for the expansion of Route 589. Butler, a retired clinical laboratory scientist, shares that assessment of the Ocean Pine’s area transportation needs.
She says safety is a paramount concern for the connecting road between routes 90 and 50, and that the area’s continued growth makes that artery more congested every day.
Butler, a clinical laboratory scientist, retired to Ocean Pines in 2010, and since then has been a volunteer for local nonprofits, such as Diakonia. She also advocates planning to preserve the area’s natural environment.
Republican Ted Elder, 67, ousted incumbent Democrat Virgil Shockley, 65, by 176 votes in 2014 to claim his first term, and now Shockley would like to return the favor.
Voters in this district know the candidates, and the competition between them, well. Shockley and Elder also went head-to-head in 2010, when Shockley eked out a win by 90 votes, again in 2006.
Both identify with the agricultural community and both say the need for high-speed internet connectivity is critical. They disagree, apparently, on how aggressively to pursue it.
This is contest might be described as an up-and-comer versus the veteran, as Democrat Joshua Nordstrom, 45, challenges incumbent Republican Merrill Lockfaw, 70.
On his list of accomplishments over his past two terms, Lockfaw points to improvements in his southern Worcester District’s various facilities, including lights for the Pocomoke River Bridge and a handicapped-accessible crab pier in Girdletree.
He also says he is one of seven commissioners who have been focusing on streamlining government and cutting expenses. Of crucial needs, Lockfaw thinks volunteer fire companies need more financial assistance and help in attracting more recruits.
Nordstrom has been attending commissioners’ meetings for the past four years, the purpose of which, he says, is to learn as much as possible so his first year in office wouldn’t be devoted to finding his way.
He, too, believes the absence of broadband internet access is a major obstacle to economic development and jobs creation. He advocates helping to create an educated workforce by making further education more affordable, especially for disadvantaged students.
Acknowledging the Ocean City is responsible for a good portion of the county’s economy, he says the rest of the county needs to diversify its economic base, and become less dependent on the resort’s commercial success.
Register of Wills
This person won’t set your tax rate, won’t fix the potholes in your street or pursue street lights on your block. But she will be responsible for helping people get through a difficult time with the administration of a loved one’s will, or someone who died intestate, or without a will.
Political affiliation is hardly an issue in this contest, yet the rules of the ballot require that candidates be identified by party.
Republican Terresa “Terri” Delaney Westcott, 54, is looking to move up from her position as chief deputy register of wills under Register of Wills Charlotte Cathell to the post Cathell will be leaving with her retirement at the end of the year. Westcott has worked in this office for 18 years.
She is being challenged by Democrat Nicole Caudell, 36, who also works in the Worcester County Courthouse in Snow Hill, just across the hall as a clerk of the criminal court.
Caudell holds a degree from Temple University and says she hopes to help people gain a better understanding of probate and estate planning.
Ocean City’s municipal election is held the same day as the state election, but is a separate exercise. It even has its own polls in a different location in the Ocean City convention center (signs will direct voters).
When voters do enter those polls next Tuesday, they will choose between two candidates for mayor and six candidates for council, as well as decide whether collective bargaining by the Ocean City firefighters union should include binding interest arbitration.
Mayor of Ocean City
On paper, the office of mayor has been largely ceremonial since 1982, when the City Council voted to institute the council/city manager form of government and stripped the mayor’s office of much of its authority.
The mayor, who is elected to a two-year term, has no vote, in most circumstances, but does have veto power and, depending on the individual, can wield considerable influence from the bully pulpit and the powers of persuasiveness.
The mayor is the official front man for Ocean City government in dealings with the General Assembly and other branches of government.
Rick Meehan, 69, has been the resort’s mayor since 2006 and before that a member of the City Council since 1985. A Realtor, Meehan holds considerable sway over the council by virtue of a persuasive, rather than confrontational, style.
He is being challenged in this election by former Councilman Joe Hall, a restaurant chef and veteran of the hospitality industry.
Hall’s decade of service on the City Council was marked in 2011 by the forced resignation of then-City Manager Dennis Dare, now a councilman, and the majority’s decision to overhaul the city’s employee benefit package, including its guaranteed pension payment plan in favor of a 401K-style retirement package.
Ocean City Council
Three vacancies and five candidates — that’s what elections are all about, and in this case, voters will decide whether incumbents Lloyd Martin and Matt James should serve another four years, as they are being challenged by retired Ocean City Police Sgt. Mark Paddack, businessman Chris Rudolph, who’s making his second run for a council seat, and businesswoman Emily Nock.
Martin, who owns and operates convenience stores, has been on the council since 2002, and has served as its president since 2012. He says his loves council work, but also acknowledges that he’s not inclined to run a hoopla campaign, having said more than once, if the voters see fit to re-elect him, he’s happy to do the job.
James, meanwhile, was propelled into office four years ago by campaigning hard and building support outside the usual political circles. It worked so well that he was the lead vote-getter, even though he was still working on his degree from Salisbury University. A volunteer fireman who works in hotel management, he wants another four years to continue what he’s started.
Paddack has paid his dues in Ocean City via his 28 years with the Ocean City Police Department and handling assignments in all its divisions.
He says he’s on board with the council’s quest for a tax differential with the county government, and wants to help eliminate the noise and congestion generated by motor vehicle events
Nock, who entered the race somewhat late in the game, is a lifelong resident of Ocean City and is president of her family’s insurance company in Salisbury.
In addition to her business background, she’s experienced in organizational and leadership roles, having served as chairman of the board of the Maryland Jaycees and national vice-president of JCI USA (Junior Chamber International).
All council candidates profess to be fiscal conservatives.