Ocean City Beach Patrol Capt. Butch Arbin has pretty much experienced it all.

In 50 years of service, outlasting five mayors and seven city managers, Arbin’s legacy is long and ongoing. And last weekend, coworkers, family members, friends, dignitaries and community members gathered to recognize Arbin at the spot where he climbed up on the stand for his first shift five decades ago.

“If you look at the last 50 years and just think about how many people have been on this beach, you’re talking millions, not a couple hundred thousand, but millions over the past 50 years,” Mayor Rick Meehan said during the tribute ceremony last Sunday on the beach at the edge of the inlet.

“And over the course of his term as captain, Butch has been able to keep up with the training, with the recruiting and doing things that other jurisdictions haven’t been able to do,” Meehan continued. “We’ve continually been able to guard our beach and protect everybody that’s here.”

Arbin started out as a surf rescue technician, or SRT, at the ripe age of 15. It was 1973 and age limits had not yet made it to the OCBP’s staff requirements.

He moved steadily through the ranks, becoming a lieutenant before officially taking on the role of captain in 1997. The rest is history.

Every summer since, Arbin has come to Ocean City for the season after finishing his off-season job with the school system in Charles County, where he lives full-time nine months out of the year.

Throughout his tenure, Arbin has performed and overseen countless water rescues, tended to calls for lost and found children, and helped address just about alll other imaginablebeach emergencies. He’s responded to every type of storm that could hit the East Coast, and helped recruit and mentor thousands of seasonal and full-time employees.

And during both the tribute ceremony last weekend and at a City Council meeting on Monday where he received an official proclamation for his service, Arbin emphasized the importance of the team of people around him.

“I’m fortunate and blessed to be here 50 seasons, there’s no question about that, but it’s really about the we,” Arbin said Monday. “The Beach Patrol is an incredible organization. I don’t think people really understand the kind of people we get … We have a mission — education, prevention intervention — we do that every day. But there’s another part of our mission that I’m more proud about, which is the development of our youth.”

Most of the seasonal employees who Arbin oversees come to him young, between the ages of 18 and 22, but he said many have returned in later years to tell him how much summers with the Beach Patrol meant to them.

Meehan presented Arbin with a proclamation at Monday’s council meeting, adding to the statewide recognition he received Sunday on the beach. Sen. Mary Beth Carozza presented a governor’s citation to the longtime captain for his 50 years of service on behalf of the residents of Maryland and Gov. Larry Hogan.

Other speakers on Sunday included former state senator Jim Mathias, who was the mayor when Arbin became OCBP captain; Tom Perlozzo, the city’s director of tourism and business development; and Emergency Services Director Joe Theobald.

The speakers shared memories and commended Arbin for his longtime service. They also recognized his family, whom Arbin also thanked multiple times for the sacrifices they have made for him to follow his career.

After the speeches, Arbin was told to change into the uniform he wore on for his first day on the job — a forest green T-shirt and shorts — and climb up on a designated beach stand out in the sand on the edge of inlet, just like he did for his first day of work. Arbin climbed smoothly to the top of the stand, right at 10 a.m., and signaled that he was ready for duty with the signature red flags that guards still use today to communicate from stand-to-stand.

Arbin’s years of service are also commemorated in a display at the nearby Ocean City Life-Saving Museum, where members of the public can see it.

This story appears in the July 22, 2022 print edition of the OC Today.

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