By Donald Wittkowski
Jay Gillian is ready to run again.
Confirming he will seek re-election in 2018 to a third term, Ocean City’s mayor said there is simply a lot more he wants to accomplish in office.
“I hope the taxpayers like what I’m doing,” he said in an interview Thursday after the last City Council meeting of 2017.
First elected in 2010, the 53-year-old Gillian has steered the resort town through an unprecedented level of capital improvements, including a $10 million facelift for the tourist-friendly Boardwalk, a series of drainage projects to reduce coastal flooding and the dredging of the shallow back bays.
He has also worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on beach replenishment projects to keep the shoreline a centerpiece of the tourism industry. The latest project, completed two weeks ago, revitalized the storm-ravaged north end beaches with 1.3 million cubic yards of new sand. The federal and state governments paid for 90 percent of the project’s $13.4 million cost.
No other mayoral candidates have announced yet, so it is not immediately clear whether Gillian will face any opponents in the May 8 municipal election. He easily defeated his opponents in the 2010 and 2014 elections.
In addition to the mayor’s race, the election will include the three at-large City Council seats now held by Peter Madden, Karen Bergman and Keith Hartzell. Madden serves as Council president.
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.
As 2018 approaches, Gillian noted that, as mayor, he is looking forward to continue with the city’s ambitious capital plan. Top priorities include dredging projects to clear out the sediment-choked back bays, completing the Boardwalk’s overhaul from 10th to 12th streets and finally settling on a plan for modernizing the antiquated public safety building.
“There’s a lot of projects I want to get done,” he said.
The mayor will soon submit an updated capital plan to City Council as well as the city’s proposed operating budget for 2018. In his most recent weekly message posted on the city’s website, Gillian said he wants to have a capital plan and budget that avoid placing “an undue burden on taxpayers.”
Gillian, who often publicly expresses his frustration over regulatory red tape and the slowness of government, described himself as an “impatient mayor” in his desire to get capital projects done.
One of his favorite expressions is that he has grown “tired of waiting for somebody else to kick the can down the road.”
Gillian said there is simply no time to waste as Ocean City continues to address its critical infrastructure needs after years of neglect. The latest example is a nearly $8 million drainage and pumping project that will replace aging pipes and deteriorated roads in a flood-prone section of the city’s north end.
“We’re going to move as quick as we can,” he said of the drainage project, which will get underway in early 2018 and take 12 to 18 months to finish. “I’m an impatient mayor, so we’re going to get it done.”
He began 2017 by outlining a $112.2 million, five-year capital plan – the biggest in city history. The capital plan proposed a series of major projects in 2017, including the renovation of the public safety building and the continuation of upgrades to the Boardwalk.
The last phase of the Boardwalk’s multiyear rehabilitation began in the fall and is scheduled to be completed by March. However, Gillian held off on the public safety building for further study.
He originally proposed tearing down the building and replacing it with an all-new public safety complex. Later, after changing his mind, he proposed renovating and expanding the building at a cost of $17.5 million.
Now, he wants to analyze the project even more before making a final decision. The red-brick building, which was originally a school, is more than 100 years old and badly in need of updating. It is the headquarters for the police department, municipal court and city’s social services.
“It’s going to be one of the legacy buildings, so we have to make sure we do it right,” Gillian said.