OCEAN CITY — Former City Council President John Flood plans to challenge Mayor Jay Gillian in the May election.
Gillian has announced plans to seek a third term as mayor, citing the ongoing infrastructure projects his administration has undertaken. With Gillian as mayor, the city has launched several multimillion-dollar projects, including a multiyear reconstruction of the boardwalk, extensive work on roads and drainage, and dredging the city’s back bay lagoons.
Gillian, now in his eighth year in government, has said he would like another term as mayor to see some of those projects to fruition.
Flood served on City Council from 1988 until 1996, including four years as president. He also served on council in 2011, after he was appointed to fill the remaining term of Councilwoman Susan Sheppard when she won a term on the Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Sheppard went on to become the county surrogate, and last year was sworn in as a superior court judge.
Flood did not run for a full term when the 10 months remaining on Sheppard’s term expired.
He cited Gillian’s extensive capital work as part of his reason for challenging him for the seat. At the City Council meeting Thursday, Feb. 8, Flood questioned the city’s five-year capital plan.
He said he did not specifically object to any of the projects, but called for a more thorough accounting of the costs, and suggested the city had not given a clear enough picture of the cost of the plan to taxpayers.
At the meeting, city finance director Frank Donato disagreed with Flood’s assessment. City Council unanimously approved the five-year plan, which calls for about $100 million in capital work, including $17.5 million for the city’s Public Safety Building. City officials are still working on a plan for that century-old building at 835 Central Ave., which houses the police department, the municipal court and social services.
Donato estimates the capital plan would cost $50 this year to the owner of a house assessed at $500,000 – a little lower than the average assessment. That’s about a penny on the city’s tax rate per $100 of assessed value.
Flood maintains that the city has not made clear enough the continuing cost of the debt in years to come.
Flood is seeking signatures on a petition for a place on the May 8 nonpartisan elections. On Tuesday morning, Feb. 13, he expressed confidence that he would gather enough signatures by the March 5 deadline.
Flood grew up in Ocean City, where he raised his family. His grandfather opened a business in town in the 1920s, and the family has run several businesses here, including Palmer Chevrolet, the island's first car dealership. After college, Flood returned to the family business, and he owns several properties in town.
He has a pending lawsuit against the city over a vote to rescind the “coastal cottages” ordinance. He maintains that two city councilmen with businesses in the affected zone should not have voted on the ordinance.
Gillian also grew up on town, and remains in the family business. His grandfather began Gillian’s Wonderland Pier on the boardwalk, which he now runs. His father, Roy Gillian, was also involved in city government, both as mayor in the 1980s, and as a city commissioner before Ocean City’s change in government.
The three at-large seats on council are also up for election this year. The seven-member governing body has four ward seats and three at-large seats. The at-large seats are up for election the same year as the mayor.
So far only the incumbents have announced plans to run. they are Peter Madden, who serves as council president, Karen Bergman and Keith Hartzell. All candidates have until March 5 to file election petitions.
According to the City Clerk’s office, as of Tuesday morning, Flood, Gillian and the council incumbents have picked up petitions, but no potential challengers have for the City Council seats.
The council members have each said they endorse each other in the election, but they do not plan to run as a ticket.
“We’re running independently, but we’re very happy with each other,” Bergman said. “We think we make a good team.”