By Donald Wittkowski
Mayor Jay Gillian and three incumbent members of City Council took the oath of office Sunday during a swearing-in ceremony filled with tears, references to God and a famous quote by former President Ronald Reagan that symbolizes good government.
Gillian and Council members Keith Hartzell, Karen Bergman and Peter Madden made it clear that they intend to continue working together in a collaborative fashion while representing Ocean City during their new terms.
“Our teamwork is exactly what voters are looking for,” Gillian said in his remarks to audience members who attended the ceremony at the Ocean City Music Pier.
Emphasizing a theme of harmony and cooperation among the elected officials, Gillian closed his speech by referring to a quote inscribed on a plaque that Reagan kept in the Oval Office of the White House.
“There’s no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit,” Gillian said, quoting Reagan.
Gillian, who first took office in 2010, won his third, four-year term in the May municipal election by defeating challenger John Flood, a former city councilman.
Hartzell, Bergman and Madden, however, ran unopposed in the race for Council’s three at-large seats. Like Gillian, they thanked their family members, supporters and voters for guiding them in their re-election to new four-year terms.
Bergman and Hartzell also spoke of their religious faith and devotion to God. Bergman quoted from scripture, while Hartzell alluded to Ocean City’s “foundation by God.” The city was founded as a Christian seashore retreat by four Methodist ministers in 1879.
Hartzell, who first joined Council in 2006 and is the longest-serving member, won his fourth term in the May election.
In his remarks at the swearing-in ceremony, Hartzell repeatedly emphasized the level of cooperation between the Council members and their partnership with the mayor.
“At times, you’ve got to put personal differences aside,” he said. “Sometimes, I have to give in for the greater good of the team.”
Hartzell’s remarks included an emotional tribute to his late parents, Paul and June Hartzell. He fondly recalled the deep love his parents had for each other as well as the rest of the family.
“The greatest gift they gave me and my sister was a strong work ethic,” Hartzell said.
Twice during his remarks, Madden choked back tears and had his daughter, Riley, read excerpts from his speech that focused on his love for his family.
“Moving here is definitely a life-changing decision,” Madden said at one point, noting how he and his wife, Ashley, relocated to Ocean City from Allentown, Pa., in 2004 to start a family that includes three daughters and a son.
Madden captured his second term in the election. During Council’s annual reorganization on Sunday, Madden was appointed as the governing body’s president for the third straight year. Councilman Tony Wilson was named vice president for the third year in a row.
Bergman’s swearing in by Superior Court Judge M. Susan Sheppard was livened up by the high-energy antics of Bergman’s three young grandsons, who joined her on stage and drew laughs from the audience.
“What a show, right?” a smiling Bergman said to the audience about her grandsons Michael, Max and Jack.
In her remarks, Bergman pledged that Council will always pull together, particularly during times of adversity, to “work tirelessly” for the community.
“You will never be snookered by us,” she said.
Bergman’s win in the May election was a follow-up to her election in 2016 to fill the unexpired term of former at-large Councilman Michael Allegretto, who resigned in 2015 to become the city’s director of Community Services.
She served as a Second Ward councilwoman from 2008 to 2012, but chose not to seek re-election in 2012. She returned to the governing body in 2015, when she was unanimously appointed by Council to temporarily fill Allegretto’s vacant seat leading up to the 2016 election.
Bergman used her remarks Sunday to praise Council for its diversity, but also noted that she is the only woman on the seven-member body.
“I believe it’s my duty to provide a common-sense, female view of the issues at hand,” she said, eliciting applause from the audience.