Wood running for second term as Ocean View mayor
Incumbent Gordon Wood will be running for Ocean View mayor. Wood said he wanted to run for reelection because there is still plenty to do.
“The job is not done. We are in the middle of the five-year get-well program. I want to see it through to financial health in Ocean View. Why else would any candidate support a tax increase? I understand the approved budget. The price to advocate a zero tax increase is too high —my integrity.”
One of Wood’s main campaign topics is budget — as the town is currently in the middle of their five-year “Get Well Program,” in hopes to reduce the town’s deficit spending.
“It’s working. The Get Well Program is working to short-circuit that now would be a mistake.
“We could’ve done what Bethany Beach did and had a 100 percent tax increase in one year. We could’ve done what other town’s have done and had big tax increases in one year. We’ve cut expenditures. We have an 8 percent increase this year, and 8 percent increase next year. In our budget right now includes a 5 percent increase in FY-14 and zero in 15 and 16. We’ve tried to be conservative because that’s what a small town needs.”
Wood voted for the 8 percent tax increase for the town’s fiscal year 2012 budget, and stands behind that decision.
“People who spent the time to come to the meetings I think have an appreciation of it, but nobody wants a tax increase. Nobody wants a tax increase. I live on a fixed income. Investments have gone down, social security hasn’t gone up, pensions haven’t gone up. A lot of people in our town are in that same situation. What we’re doing is the right thing to be doing.”
He understands why people are opposed to the tax increase ,but hopes they will take into consideration the actual number, instead of just the percentage.
“What is a tax increase? If the average house in town is $300,000, $400,000, it means 12 bar beers a year. It means 12 bar beers a year or a little over 12 Starbucks coffees a year. $35, $40. Something like that.”
Wood is a strong proponent of maintaining 24/7 police coverage throughout town and believes residents feel the same.
“I believe a majority of the town wants somebody to come to their door in 3 to 4 minutes when they make a 911 call. Look at the demographics in our town. There aren’t that many young people, there are an awful lot of retired folks — an awful lot of folks with grey hair and a stumbling step and I think that that’s important to them.”
He added that there are some questions regarding the police vehicles.
“There is still an issue out on the number of police cars. I know my reputation is with [Chief Ken McLaughlin] is that I listen. I don’t always agree, but I listen. The issue of the number of cars is out there. I personally do not believe we need a car for every policeman but Kenny has said that he can show us that it’s not going to be a cost savings to do that. So he’s charged with doing that.”
Wood praised McLaughlin for reducing overtime in his department and said that other than possibly a reduction in fleet, the only other way to cut budget would be to reduce staff.
“Cutting the budget really means cutting staff. There isn’t much else that one can do,” he said, adding he does not support the firing of police officers. “We have outstanding officers across the board and Kenny does a good job with that.”
He supports the town sidewalk plans, if allowed in the budget, which he believes residents are in favor of.
“I believe the town wants sidewalks. I get a lot of requests for sidewalks. ‘More sidewalks.’ Our population doesn’t really have any good place to go for long walks in Ocean View. We’re going to do a lot of sidewalk work in the next few months based upon 80 percent grants and 20 percent town money and the town will have to look at further town sidewalk projects, which will be available at an 80-20 basis but we’ve got to make a decision on that 20 percent.
“But we need to look at the following year’s budget as to what we have,” he continued. “And we’re going to have to coordinate closely with the state of Delaware. We’re also going to get a lot of sidewalks out of the Route 26 project, a lot of sidewalks. I’m in favor of it but we have to be sure we have that 20 percent grant money.”
Wood recognizes that there may be the perception that Ocean View government is not as business-friendly as they could be, and he believes that’s not true.
“There was a big hullabaloo over a big box store… over 80 percent of the calls and emails I got were opposed to it. That tells me that the significant majority of the town was opposed to it,” he explained. “But we had passed a comprehensive plan — essentially from Lord Baltimore School to the Assawoman Canal is commercial. We just annexed an area that would allow a commercial area on Muddy Neck Road. We just approved a comprehensive plan that increases a lot of commercial area. So I don’t believe Ocean View is unfriendly. I believe Ocean View has set up commercial areas and that’s important.”
He noted that the job of mayor of Ocean View was not entirely what he expected.
“One, it takes a lot more time than I thought it would. I have the time, I’m willing to put in the time but it takes a whole lot more than I thought it would. And there’s just contentious issues, essentially my first meeting, when I was informed that an attorney had been retained to challenge the chief’s contract… That kind of contentiousness was unexpected, that kind of wrongdoing was unexpected.”
Through that, Wood made changes to how the council meetings were run and believes it benefited the town.
“When I first became mayor there was Citizens’ Privilege at the end of the meeting, which meant nobody got to say anything about the issues we were going to vote on that night. I put it up front and also recognized people, as appropriate, during the meetings to have a timely input on what’s before the council and I think that’s important. It’s the way it should be. I did that,” he said. “Is our town better off than it was three years ago? And I think the answer is yes. We’re not on the front pages anymore with silliness, our meetings are professional… I think I did that.”
In campaigning for reelection, Wood had gone door to door, given out brochures, signs and held a public meeting.
“So far it has been very, very supportive. I get a lot of people asking me, ‘why are we raising taxes?’ I have a very standard answer. That is, we spend a lot of money in our town and all of a sudden we were spending over $1.60 for every dollar we were taking in. You can’t do that forever. There was a problem, we saw the problem, and now we’re doing some constructive work to get us out of that situation.”
Ocean View resident Bob Bacon, who is also Wood’s campaign manager, said that Wood’s “get it done” attitude is a big reason he’s been succesful.
“I live in West View. We’re the ones with the flooding. You’ve got a pretty good idea why I’m on his side,” said Bacon. “They dithered around with fixing that. The money has been there; the plans have been there for, a decade maybe? And they dithered and fiddled and [Wood] came in and took one look at this mess and pushed to get it done and it got done. He doesn’t deserve 100 percent of the credit but he does deserve a percentage of the credit to get this resolved. When he puts his mind to getting something done, he gets it done and that’s why I support him.”
Wood added that he is supporting candidate Tom Sheeran for District 3 councilman.
“When you go to a meeting, you know who comes prepared and who doesn’t. That’s why I’m supporting Tom. He will be a quiet strength on the board and that’s a compliment.”
Wood said that he hopes to continue to help the town lower their deficit and focus on the town’s attributes.
“I feel strongly that our park is a jewel and that we should continue to improve our park. But our budget situation is such that most of the work in the park is going to be based on grants in the near future.”
A Sussex county native, Wood always knew he would come back to the area and is looking forward to possibly serving the town for another three years.
“I don’t know how I ever got so lucky… I love it here, I love living here. I love the town of Ocean View.”