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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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Four Councilmen Outline Goals at Ocean City Reorganization Meeting

Four Councilmen Outline Goals at Ocean City Reorganization Meeting

By Vince Conti

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OCEAN CITY – Four recently elected members of the City Council took their oaths of office and spoke of their goals as council members at the council’s July 1 annual reorganization meeting, held at the city’s iconic Music Pier.

The meeting also saw the passage of a consent agenda that dealt with many of the housekeeping resolutions that are required to be renewed or altered yearly.

Five individuals were elected to the governing body in the May municipal elections. Sean Barnes, an at-large member of the council, took his seat in June since that seat had been vacant due to the resignation of Karen Bergman, who accepted a job with the city.

The other four were newly elected or returned to seats on the council by the voters. Each was then given an opportunity to address the public.

First Ward Councilman Terry Crowley Jr., the first to be sworn, thanked his family and those who helped him on his campaign. He spoke of meeting and marrying an “Ocean City girl” and of a lifetime of memories in a unique place.

Crowley pledged to always work for the benefit of the citizens of Ocean City and asked the public to accept the challenge of “listening to each other” openly. He added that it was important for all on the council to strive to understand the challenges the administration faces. “We will not always agree,” he said, “but we need to listen and understand.”

The Second Ward will be represented by Keith Hartzell, a returning council member who had stepped down in 2022 to challenge Jay Gillian for the mayor’s office. Hartzell was visibly emotional during his remarks, saying “there is not a better place” to hold the reorganization meeting, waving his hands around to encompass the circa-1929 building. He announced himself a Christian who grew up in a “God-fearing” home.

Hartzell said he had always wanted to represent the Second Ward, which runs from 4th to 12th streets, calling it the economic engine of the city and praising it as the city’s most diverse ward.

He pledged to maintain the character of the city and resist over-development. He received applause with a promise to ensure that zoning regulations require parking spaces to match the number of people who can occupy a home.

Next up was the Third Ward’s Jody Levchuk, who won his race for reelection by just two votes over Amie Vaules, who had been supported by Mayor Jay Gillian and who is challenging the election in court, with a July 23 date set before Superior Court Judge Michael Blee.

Vaules filed a civil action on June 12. She is challenging the vote rather than requesting a recount. Specifically, she is challenging two votes that were disallowed, saying they were properly cast and should be counted.

She is also challenging Randy Levchuk’s vote, seeking to have it discounted. Randy Levchuk is the brother of Jody Levchuk. In his comments following his swearing in, Jody Levchuk got emotional, displaying anger that anyone would challenge his brother’s vote.

“Shame on them,” he said. He maintains that his brother is a property owner in Ocean City with a long history of voting in the city. The complaint filed by Vaules says Randy Levchuk does not actually live in Ocean City.

Jody Levchuk recounted his initial bid for the council that gained him his seat during the Covid shutdown of his businesses in the city. He said he would stay true to the values that have made Ocean City a special place since 1879. The city must remain a family resort, it must remain dry, and it must continue to be “wildly safe,” he said.

He said everyone must have a voice and promised to always listen and respond to all communications. He pledged better planning and zoning to meet the challenge of over-development, and said the city had to address the “parking challenge.” He singled out new development of “party houses,” saying they represented “selfish development.”

The last of the four candidates to be sworn was David Winslow of the Fourth Ward. After thanking his family and supporters, Winslow said he saw an “incredibly bright future” for Ocean City. He singled out three areas of focus: Maintaining high-performing public safety departments, preserving the family values that underpin so much in the city while maintaining a vibrant tourist economy, and keeping his attention on the needs and opinions of the Fourth Ward. He said he had one and only one agenda, “keeping Ocean City the place we all love, our happy place.”

The business portion of the meeting was quickly dealt with. The consent agenda passed unanimously, with its contents uncontroversial.

The public comment period saw two individuals address the council. One urged the council to back a call for a new national constitutional convention “to start our national government over again.” The other asked the council to support bringing Bibles back into the schools and to consider the possibility that the city’s Santa Mailbox and the general belief in Santa that parents teach children might help to drive children away from a belief in God.

Contact the reporter, Vince Conti, at vconti@cmcherald.com.

Reporter

Vince Conti is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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