Soifer honored as Ocean City’s Citizen of the Decade

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Ann Richardson / Mayor Jay Gillian presents a plaque to Mark Soifer, Ocean City’s Citizen of the Decade. Ann Richardson / Mayor Jay Gillian presents a plaque to Mark Soifer, Ocean City’s Citizen of the Decade.

OCEAN CITY — For more than 45 years, Mark Soifer has tirelessly promoted Ocean City, generously using his creativity and enthusiasm to overcome a shoestring budget, and in the process marketing “America’s Greatest Family Resort” around the world.

On Thursday, Feb. 21, 20 years after the long-time city publicist was named Citizen of the Year, he was honored by the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce as the first-ever Citizen of the Decade. About 200 people joined in the laughter, fun and nostalgia at Greate Bay Country Club, rewarding him with two standing ovations.  

Michele Gillian, the chamber’s executive director, said Soifer’s tireless efforts put Ocean City on the map.

“We have the beach, the boardwalk and the bay and we’re lucky enough to have Mark Soifer,” she said, adding that the husband, father and grandfather was an exemplary role model for generations of city employees fortunate enough to work with him.

Soifer, she said, had a “unique way of looking at things.” Attempting to promote Ocean City with little funding, Soifer dreamed up quirky events, like races and beauty pageants for a hermit crab named Martin Z. Mollusk. He created the Doo Dah Parade for comic relief to celebrate the end of tax season.

So crazy were these events that they would attract the attention of media across the globe. Long before social networking, the zany stories would spread the word about Ocean City from the Delaware Valley to as far away as Japan and the Philippines. Soifer’s magic worked wonders on other events, too, Gillian said, such as Night in Venice and the Baby Parade.

Martin Z. Mollusk, aka MZM, made a personal appearance, standing alongside Soifer as he received a number of honors, including a resolution passed by the New Jersey State Legislature, a proclamation from City Council and a gift personally delivered by Cape May County Clerk Rita Fulginiti.  

City business administrator Mike Dattilo said he had worked alongside Soifer for many years. The notoriety and recognition that Ocean City receives thanks to Soifer is “really, really remarkable,” he said.

“I’ve learned a lot from Mark,” he said.

Most importantly, Dattilo said, Soifer stressed telling the truth, even when it was unpleasant.

“He reminds us every time to tell the truth, because if you don’t, things are going to be a lot worse,” he said.

Dattilo said Soifer said was one of the kindest and most generous people he has ever met.

Sea Isle City Mayor and Cape May County Freeholder Lenny Desiderio provided the biggest laugh of the evening. Soifer built a reputation for a clean city as the environmentally-friendly “Canned Crusader,” or “Trash Buster.” He often dressed up as a trash can and walked in parades.

Desiderio strolled in the room, sporting a “Trash Buster” costume of his own; eerily similar to the one Soifer has long been known for.

“I know you’re busy promoting Ocean City,” Desiderio said, adding that he wanted to lure Soifer to Sea Isle as he had a few other former city employees.

Instead, he said, he honored him with a “key to the city” that was so special, it meant he would get two tickets instead of one if he was caught speeding, would permit him to be on the beach without a beach tag from Sept. 15 through May 15 and park at a meter for free during the same time period.

“We have a key to our city, too, and I have one; and it’s much bigger,” Soifer joked back. Desiderio got the last laugh as he retorted that it “wasn’t always size that mattered.”

“We don’t give these things out to just anyone,” he said.

On behalf of the city, Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian presented Soifer with a giant Ferris Wheel award.  

“I have been very fortunate,” Gillian said, adding that he grew up knowing Mark during the time his father was the mayor and a city commissioner. He said Soifer taught him many lessons.

“Everybody wants to be Ocean City, because of what Mark has accomplished here,” he said. “What he has done for Ocean City is absolutely amazing.”     

To honor his “tireless dedication” to the city, Gillian said, the new park on the corner of Ninth Street and Asbury Avenue would be known as the “Mark Soifer Park.”

“We wish you continued health and happiness,” he said.

Fulginiti said Soifer had made Ocean City – her hometown – the “most fun place on Earth.”

“Everywhere I go, people say that because of what you do, that great off-beat stuff,” she said, as she presented Soifer with a pen set featuring Lady Liberty.

“As Lady Liberty is the symbol of our country, you are the symbol of Ocean City,” she said.

Sen. Jeff Van Drew said Soifer was one of those rare, “truly good people,” who never do or say anything mean.
“You see him and he makes you smile,” he said. “He’s kind, gentle.”

Van Drew said that he marveled at the fact that Soifer could put up with politicians and other nonsense for so long. Soifer, who recently turned 80, he said, was a role model.

Presenting him with a proclamation, Van Drew said it represented 9 million New Jersey residents who are very proud of Soifer.
“May God bless you for many more years,” he said.

Winnie Piriano, who has worked alongside Soifer as a volunteer on many projects, said Soifer was a brilliant, creative genius. She read a couple of Soifer’s many poems.

His poetry, she said, was beautiful.

“This is a man whose mind, sense of humor and passion, his dedication is incredible. Once you read something that Mark wrote, you just want to dig in deeper,” Piriano said.

Soifer said he was fortunate to have found his way to Ocean City. His long career began with the creation of the city’s art show, which just celebrated 50 years on the Ocean City Boardwalk. He was working in advertising when the late Dr. Marcia Smith sent him a postcard asking for his help to get an art show off the ground.

“So I called Jim Penland, an artist and good friend of the mayor, Tom Waldman,” he said.

Penland, he said, talked Waldman into hosting an art show and the rest is history. About five years later he was hired as the city’s first ever fulltime publicist. Nine mayors, he said, “put up with me” over the years.

“Ocean City has been very good to me,” he said. “I was brought up toward the end of the Depression, when families took care of each other and the neighborhood.”

His parents both worked and helped to feed everyone who was hungry.

“That instilled in me the importance of families,” he said.

Soifer said Ocean City developed a unique family niche. As a former advertising professional, he said he understood its importance.

“You have to have that unique feature in business, something no one else has,” he said. “Since 1879, through the Depression and two wars, that was a unique selling point.”

Soifer paid tribute to his wife of 56 years, Toby, who smiled in the audience as Soifer said she was a wonderful and supportive wife, mother and grandmother. He lauded his four children and eight grandchildren.

One of his many contests, Little Mr. and Mrs. Chaos, was inspired by his grandchildren, who ran around the house banging pots and pans. It became clear, he said, that children enjoy creating chaos, so why not encourage and reward it on vacation?

Soifer said he was not the most organized person, so he thanked all those who assisted him over the years, from the Retail Merchants Association to the Ocean City Chamber.

“You can’t thank everyone,” he said, but the city would not be what it is without the volunteers who step up for every event.

Awards at the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce 2012 Citizen of the Decade and Outstanding Business and Beautification Awards Dinner:

Business Renovation/Improvement Award: Stainton’s: A Gallery of Shops and Peace, Love and Yogurt

Outstanding Landscaping/Signage Award: Dunkin’ Donuts and Yogurtland

Business New Construction Award: Sunoco 34th Street and the Rt. 52 Causeway

Outstanding Business Award: Ocean City Parasail/Pirate Voyages  and Yianni’s on the Boardwalk

Outstanding New Business Award: Heritage Surf Shop on the Boardwalk and Yoasis: Your Yogurt Paradise located in downtown Ocean City

Outstanding Service to the Community Award: Cricket Box 

Outstanding Civic, Community, Non-Profit Organization Award: The Ocean City Fire Departmentand the Ocean City Halloween Parade.

Outstanding Use of Technology: Tackle Direct

Environmentally Friendly Award: Jilly’s

Two special awards were presented: one to Henry’s, which is celebrating 40 years in business; and one to the Forum Motor Inn, which is celebrating 50 years in business. 

Brian Broadley (Broadley’s MDI) was installed for his second term as president of the Chamber. Bill McMahon III (McMahon Agency) was reinstalled for his second term as 1st vice president. 

Second vice presidents include Cricket Frank (Impala Island Inn), Tom Aromando(Fitzpatrick, Bongiovanni & Kelly, CPAs), Pat Gallelli (Tahiti Inn), Skip Tolomeo (Sea Oats), and Maria Marinelli (RE/MAX at the Shore). Former Past Presidents Gary Jessel (Fox Real Estate),William McMahon, Jr. (McMahon Agency) and Phil Perri (Forum Motor Inn) will remain as 2nd vice presidents.

Robert Adams (Tidelines Management) was reinstalled as treasurer and Kim Davidson (Ocean City Home Bank) was reinstalled as secretary. Scott Halliday (Halliday-Leonard) will remain on the Executive Committee as immediate past president.

The following individuals were installed as directors:

At-Large Directors 3-Year Term: Carol Heenan (Garden Court Estates) and Winnie Piriano (South Jersey Home Care)

Business Segment 1-Year Term: Dean Adams (Dean Adams Custom Builder), Robert Adams (Tidelines Management), Tom Aromando (Fitzpatrick,Bongiovanni & Kelly), Brian Broadley(Broadley’s MDI), Kevin Corcoran (Wet N Wild Wave Runner Rentals), Paul Cunningham (P. Francis), Kim Davidson (Ocean City Home Bank), Jane Davis (Johnny B Goode Ice Cream), Mike DeVlieger (Discover OCNJ, LLC), Cricket Frank (Impala Island Inn), Janet Galante (13th St Bathhouse & Bikes), Pat Gallelli (Tahiti Inn), Ron Gifford (ReMax of Ocean City), Beverley Gill(Island Beach Gear), Scott Halliday (Halliday-Leonard), Thomas Heist (Heist Insurance Agency),Walt Hohman (Ward’s Pastry), Ida Iacovetti (Interstate Outdoor Advertising), Gary Jessel (Fox Real Estate), Peter Madden (Prudential, Fox & Roach), Maria Marinelli (RE/MAX at the Shore), Nick Marotta (Prudential, Fox & Roach), Lynne McIntyre (Yesterday’s), William McMahon, Jr.(McMahon Agency), William McMahon, III (McMahon Agency), Phil Perri (Forum Motor Inn), Clay Pierce (Clay’s Climate Control), Eric Reich (Reich Asset Management), Dr. Richard Stanislaw(Ocean City Tabernacle), Avery Tietler (Teitler & Teitler, LLC), Skip Tolomeo (Sea Oats/RMA), Don Tomlinson (Gleeson’s Audio Video), Ronnie Town (Atlantic City Electric), Tony Wilson (C. Leo Wilson Plumbing)

 Ann Richardson / Longtime city publicist Mark Soifer addresses the attendees of the annual Ocean City Chamber of Commerce awards dinner where he was recognized as Citizen of the Decade. Ann Richardson / Longtime city publicist Mark Soifer addresses the attendees of the annual Ocean City Chamber of Commerce awards dinner where he was recognized as Citizen of the Decade.

Ann Richardson / Mark Soifer and Mayor Jay Gillian with Martin Z. Mollusk and Sea Isle City Mayor Lenny Desiderio, dressed as Trash Buster. Ann Richardson / Mark Soifer and Mayor Jay Gillian with Martin Z. Mollusk and Sea Isle City Mayor Lenny Desiderio, dressed as Trash Buster.

Ann Richardson / Ocean City’s Citizen of the Decade Mark Soifer, longtime city publicist, and his wife of 56 years, Toby, seated, are surrounded by chamber Executive Director Michele Gillian, Mayor Jay Gillian, chamber President Brian Broadley and Soifer’s daughter, grandson and granddaughter at Greate Bay Country Club. Ann Richardson / Ocean City’s Citizen of the Decade Mark Soifer, longtime city publicist, and his wife of 56 years, Toby, seated, are surrounded by chamber Executive Director Michele Gillian, Mayor Jay Gillian, chamber President Brian Broadley and Soifer’s daughter, grandson and granddaughter at Greate Bay Country Club.


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