By Jack Chavez, Staff Writer
(Aug. 4, 2022) The Ocean Pines Board of Directors election is around the corner.
Ballots are due back for voting on the 2022-23 board on Wednesday and three winners from the six candidates are expected three days later at the annual OPA homeowners meeting — Saturday, Aug. 13.
The candidates are Paula Gray, Amy Peck, Stuart Lakernick, Monica Rakowski, Josette Wheatley and Stephen Jacobs.
The issues that the candidates are focused on in their campaigns do vary, but some common themes exist as well.
According to the OPA website, Gray is focused on continuing the “positive path that only began a few years ago.” She’d also work on improving the lines of communication between the association and its residents.
Peck brings a career as an early childhood educator and paralegal to the community and said she wants to fight for the Pines residents who aren’t here year-round or are not among the wealthiest members of the association.
“I was here when my kids were little, so I understand (the perspective of) the young families,” Peck said in July. “Now I’m a retiree, so I feel that I have a unique perspective that allows me to look at all of Ocean Pines. Too many people only see it as a retirement community, especially if you look at the makeup of the board, which tends to be older, retired people. So I feel that often, the part-timers and young families are left out of the equation. I make sure not to leave them out.”
Peck also wishes to protect the investments homeowners have made, which means investing in infrastructure and maintaining public safety.
Lakernick has said he’d work on the well-documented drainage issues around the community and support law enforcement and emergency services. He sees an untapped resource in the Pines, too: the people.
“I can put people in the right place,” Lakernick said in July. “I recognize talents within folks and put them in place so they can shine, give them autonomy but hold them accountable for their actions. I give you room to make your own decisions as manager. If you stray from the goal, I pull you back in — never publicly — and discuss how we can meet our goals better.”
Rakowski wants to protect the investments homeowners have made and improve the board’s transparency, which she said in July is lacking.
“Too many decisions are made behind closed doors,” she said. “There’s not enough information after meetings come out. We’re in the middle of this whole (former director Tom) Janesak-Wheatley debacle. It went to court and now there’s been a decision by (the Ocean Pines Association) to delay the hearing. Why? No one knows. How much is this costing us? No one knows.”
She also said she’s concerned about the presence of short-term rental companies like La Casa in the community.
Wheatley brings with her years of infrastructure experience in her professional life and sees that as a boon for the community, especially with issues like drainage concerns and Route 90 revitalization at hand.
“(I’d like to) open up the Ocean Parkway for firemen to go straight through,” Wheatley said in July. “The six-minute crawl would improve just by default because it’s six minutes as the crow flies now and it certainly would reduce it. Right now, they’re going around and it’s a lot of time. I just think it could help. A few minutes in a fire … it’s critical.”
Jacobs brings an outsider’s perspective to the table, he has said. A retired attorney, he has Capitol Hill experience and family law experience — both areas of expertise that could be beneficial in a political position.
“As much as people belittle it, a lot of what happens is strictly political and I happen to enjoy politics. I like it,” he said in July. “I’m ready to jump in with both feet. It’s what I’ve done for a lot of my life.”
Jacobs, a member of the Ocean Pines Bylaws and Resolutions Committee, said he would focus on protecting and continuing the association’s smart money management in recent years and into the future. He also sees the Ocean Pines Volunteer Fire Department’s South Station renovation project as a top priority.
The ballot deadline is 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 10.