By Donald Wittkowski
Former Councilman John Flood officially announced Monday he will challenge Mayor Jay Gillian in the May 8 municipal election, ensuring a clash of two experienced, high-profile politicians for Ocean City’s top office.
Flood said he spent the past several months talking to residents about their concerns and ideas for the community while considering whether to run.
“They want their government to be more open and accessible. They have inspired me,” Flood said in a press release.
The 53-year-old Gillian announced in December that he will be seeking his third, four-year term. He easily won election in 2010 and 2014.
A race pitting Flood against Gillian will feature two prominent politicians whose families are deeply rooted in Ocean City’s business community.
Gillian followed his father, former Ocean City Mayor Roy Gillian, into politics. He is the owner of his family’s Boardwalk amusement business, Gillian’s Wonderland Pier, which was started by his grandfather, David, in 1929.
Flood served on Council from 1988 to 1996 and briefly returned to the governing body in 2011 when he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of former Councilwoman Susan Sheppard after she won a seat on the Cape May County Board of Freeholders. Sheppard now serves as a Superior Court judge.
The 65-year-old Flood is a lifelong Ocean City resident. His grandparents came to the resort about 100 years ago. His grandfather, Emil Palmer, founded the former local Chevrolet dealership in 1933. The dealership, which was later sold to other owners, was in business for decades before closing last month.
Flood owns land concentrated around 16th Street and Haven Avenue, including the property where the former Chevrolet dealership was located. The CVS store on 16th Street, a car wash and medical offices are among his commercial tenants.
Flood said he is creating the website www.johnfloodformayor.com to exchange ideas with voters and also plans to go door to door in the weeks leading up to the election.
“I will go door to door, debate anywhere and work to ensure your tax dollars are being spent for the good of all, not personal or pet projects. You have my word on it,” he said in his release.
Gillian said in December he is seeking re-election because there is a lot more he wants to accomplish. His top priorities this year include dredging and drainage projects and finally settling on a plan for renovating or replacing the antiquated public safety building.
As mayor, Gillian has steered the resort town through an unprecedented level of capital improvements, including the reconstruction of the tourist-friendly Boardwalk, a series of drainage projects to reduce coastal flooding and the dredging of the shallow back bays.
In addition to the mayoral race, the election will include three at-large City Council seats. Incumbents Karen Bergman, Keith Hartzell and Peter Madden are all seeking re-election to those seats. No other Council candidates have announced yet.
March 5 is the deadline for candidates to submit their nominating petitions, which must be signed by a minimum of 1 percent of the city’s 9,270 registered voters for candidates to have their names placed on the ballot.
Flood turned in his petitions to the City Clerk’s Office on Monday. Gillian has taken out petitions, but has not yet returned them. Bergman, Hartzell and Madden have all turned in their petitions, according to the City Clerk’s Office.