Mayor has his hands full

Technically, Ocean View Mayor Gary Meredith is number one.
Ocean View has been around a while (founded in 1893), but until 2002, no mayor before Meredith had ever been chosen by popular election.

He downplayed any significance, though, calling it “more like the answer to a trivia question.”

Meredith said he’d fallen into public service. Having retired from Olney, Md. to his vacation home in Country Village, he started attending town meetings for “something to keep busy, something different.”

He said he’d never lived in a small town, and was interested in learning more about it.

He learned plenty at the town meetings.

“I sat around too long and wound up being part of it,” he joked.

Council eventually asked Meredith to join the town Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission, and then he signed on with a charter revision committee.

“Bob Orem was president — there was no mayor at that time,” Meredith pointed out.

When Orem retired his post due to health reasons, the council brought Meredith on board to fill the roster. They moved Doug Tolley into the presidency, but then Tolley retired (also due to health reasons) and Meredith became president.

“I’ve kind of moved up by filling vacancies,” he said.

Meanwhile, the charter changes went into effect, and the job title changed. As the revised charter also provided, henceforth town residents would vote for mayor, rather than accept a council appointment.

One year later, in April 2002, they elected Meredith as the first mayor of Ocean View. (Three years later, Meredith is gearing up for the April 9 election and the chance to serve another term.)

Meredith was born in Altoona, Penn. in 1937 — “Right after the Depression, I guess — that’s probably why I’m an only child,” he said (as is his wife, Bette).

He met Bette in high school. They eventually moved to Maryland and married (46 years ago).

Meredith studied education at the University of Maryland, but upon graduation opted for industry instead.

He went to work for a defense contractor — the Vitro Corporation — for 36 years.

“It was more of a paper-pushing company,” he said. “We checked out the Polaris and Poseidon missile systems that other people manufactured.

“I worked there my whole life — I enjoyed it,” he said. “Of course, I was negotiating contracts for the company with the federal government, so it had its days.”

Technically, he’s retired, but Meredith said being mayor took up a fair bit of his time, and he’d been averaging more than a dozen meetings and other official appearances a month.

“It’s not just a drop in every once in a while type thing,” he pointed out.

However, he gave credit to the town staff, especially noting Town Manager Kathy Roth and Police Chief Ken McLaughlin — “They basically do all the work,” he said.

Of his time on town council, Meredith said, “I think the council’s been working very well together — we don’t always agree, but we haven’t gotten into any shouting matches with each other.”

He offered a few highlights from his time in office.

• Formed a historic committee. There’s been some talk about turning the Shores property — the temporary town offices at 39 Central Avenue — into a museum.
• Town Hall rebuild almost complete, and there will be permanent restrooms attached for West Park.
• Replaced and upgraded playground equipment in West Park.
• Buying land — bordering West Park on two sides. The town received a grant from the Delaware Land and Water Conservation Trust Fund for half of the north-side parcel.
• Built up the police department — residents now have 24/7 police coverage.
• New police station project underway, construction bidding soon, and central water system back on track, nearing final engineering.

Meredith still finds time to play ball (he helped found the Old Timers’ Softball League).

He also does a little bowling (he founded the AARP bowling league in Millsboro), and participates in the Delaware Senior Olympics on occasion.

“I play golf, too — but not very well,” Meredith added.

By far the biggest activity, for both him and his wife, is dog showing.

They have seven dogs — five Pomeranians, one shih tzu (Dixie, a frequent visitor around Town Hall) and one mixed-breed dog.

“Bette travels to shows, I stay home with the ones she doesn’t take,” Meredith pointed out.

His wife still volunteers at the Montgomery County Humane Society now and then, and, “Every time she goes, I’m always rather nervous until she comes home,” Meredith joked. “I never know what she’s going to come home with.”

The Merediths and their children (two daughters and a son) have been vacationing in the area for more than 20 years.

They bought a piece of land in 1986, built in 1991, and made a permanent move to Ocean View in 1997.