(Oct. 11, 2019) Ocean City government will continue its partnership with the local law firm of Ayres, Jenkins, Gordy and Almand and has selected it to fill the “Office of City Solicitor” role, with Heather Stansbury, a partner in the firm, as the main point of contact.
“The law firm of Ayres, Jenkins, Gordy and Almand is humbled and flattered that you have confidence in us to continue serving as the Town of Ocean City’s legal counsel in the footsteps of our beloved partner, Guy Ayres,” the law firm said in a letter to the council.
Former City Solicitor Guy R. Ayres III, who had served as the city’s legal counsel since 1982, passed away in his Ocean City home on Saturday, Aug. 31.
Ayres is frequently referred to as the “Father” of the city’s codebook, as he either wrote or rewrote much of the code. He also helped transform Ocean City’s government from one headed by a powerful mayor to the city council/city manager form of government.
During his service, Ayres was recognized as the singular city solicitor. However, toward the end of his career, the firm began using a more collaborative approach, Stansbury said, which it has now formally adopted.
While Stansbury will serve as the primary point of contact between the city and the law firm, she will work in conjunction with a team of associates.
Bruce Bright will handle the city’s litigation, and work with city Risk Manager Eric Lagstrom on matters in that realm. Other attorneys in the firm, including Jim Almand, Mark Cropper and Will Esham, will work with Stansbury and Bright on specific issues and projects. Victoria O’Neill and Ryan Bodley, associates with the firm, will offer aid for general legal work and for research.
The billing rate for the firm’s services will remain at $175 per hour, as it was for Ayres. The firm will not, however, ask for financial benefits provided to Ayres, such as cell phone services and reimbursement and/or payment of certain health insurance premiums.
Stansbury was born and raised in Baltimore, attended Towson University and graduated cum laude in 2001.
“I was going to college and I took a job as a secretary at a law firm, and that quickly gave me the idea of going to law school,” she said.
She obtained her J.D. at the University of Baltimore School of Law in 2004.
After she graduated, Stansbury clerked for Chief Judge Joseph F. Murphy of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
In 2005, she relocated to Ocean City, and joined Ayres, Jenkins, Gordy & Almand, as an associate and became a principal in 2012.
Although Stansbury’s practice generally involves family and criminal law, she is also well-versed in education law, trusts and estates, civil litigation, landlord/tenant matters.
“I really love my job,” Stansbury said. “Every day is something different, and I like to think that every day I’ve done something good for someone.”
Stansbury has served as the attorney for the Board of Zoning and Appeals and the Board of Adjustment and Appeals since 2009.
She also often acted as “substitute attorney” for Ayres over the last nine years.
Her legal expertise extends beyond Ocean City into Worcester County, and includes work as a member of the Trial Courts Judicial Nominating Committee for the First Circuit (2009-2014), as an attorney for the Shoreline Commission for Worcester County (2008-2011), as a volunteer attorney at the Worcester County Pro Se Family Law Clinic (2007-2012), as vice-chair for the Board of Trustees for Atlantic General Hospital (2013-present).
“We are humbled and honored to continue in this role, and to try and step into the shoes of Guy Ayres,” Stansbury said. “He was just a giant, but we appreciate the confidence that the mayor and city council has in us.”