The crackle of Ocean City Councilman John Gehrig’s denunciation of the council president selection process last Thursday was strong enough, but even louder was the sound of the next generation’s footsteps marching toward City Hall.
It’s inevitable, and the reelection of Councilman Lloyd Martin to the council presidency, despite a councilmanic campaign that suggested he would not have been terribly upset if he lost, could represent one last time veteran officeholders get to do things their way.
There’s nothing new about this circumstance, because it happens to everyone, in politics and out. The late Mayor Harry Kelley was deposed as local government’s CEO by upstart council members in the early 1980s, and the late Mayor Fish Powell also witnessed a changing of the guard in the middle of that decade.
As a newly elected councilman, current Mayor Rick Meehan was part of that surge, which, with Powell’s retirement, led to the first time in Ocean City history that not a single elected resort official was native-born.
It’s understandable, though not applauded, that most of the city’s elected officials chafed at the notion of having to take direction from someone at least half their age in Matt James, even though he has twice garnered more votes than any of them.
Also a factor in the council members’ decision to stick with the old way of doing things is they know Meehan guides the process, but might not be able to do that under a council president whose authority, under the charter, is far greater than the mayor’s.
That’s just politics, as is the pre-meeting decision on the council presidency, a practice that has gone on for decades. It may not be right, as Gehrig asserted, but it is how things work and probably will work two years from now when the next generation has a good chance of taking over.