OCEAN CITY — City Clerk Carol Jacobs may not have necessarily written all the rules in Ocean City, but she most certainly has been writing them down for the better part of three decades.
As one of the most recognizable faces at City Hall announced her retirement in recent weeks, some of the town’s top officials are admittedly sad to see her go and are taking turns singing her praises for her 33 years of service in Ocean City.
It is clear and evident that Jacobs, who recently announced that she will be taking the town’s retirement incentive plan and is set to retire from the post she’s held since 1987 on March 31, has made a significant mark on the town of Ocean City. According to some at City Hall, there may be no better person to chronicle Ocean City’s growth and progress over the last three decades than Jacobs.
“Carol is someone that you could always turn to at City Hall, and her vast knowledge of history and her professionalism is going to be severely missed,” said Mayor Rick Meehan. “She’s been a part of pretty much everything that has happened in this town for longer than I’ve been here, so I think it’s safe to say that City Hall is going to be a very different place without her there.”
Jacobs, a Worcester County native, started working as a secretary in the Engineering Department in Ocean City in 1976 before being appointed to the city clerk position in 1987. She has served alongside five different mayors and dozens of council members over the years and has been on the front lines as Ocean City has grown from what was once considered a small fishing village to now the second largest city in Maryland during the summer months.
Although Jacobs says she is looking forward to retirement, she says the reality of her recent decision is just starting to sting a bit.
“I think it’s finally setting in, but I still have a little ways to go before the end is here,” said Jacobs. “I think as it gets closer, I’ll have a little more apprehension, but I’m trying to realize that there are going to be advantages to being retired.”
Daily duties for Jacobs range all over the proverbial governmental map as she says many of the tasks that don’t necessarily meet a criteria end up in her office. She has handled the council’s meeting minutes, administered countless permits to everything from construction jobs to street performers who busk on the Boardwalk. In addition, Jacobs often left her business suit and the fast paced corporate environment at City Hall to handle the inspection of the beach stand franchises a few times a summer.
“If I got it down two or three times a summer, I was pretty happy,” said Jacobs, “but yes, I would put on my shorts and sneakers and the beach patrol would lend me a four wheeler, and I would drive up and down the beach and make sure that all the beach franchises were in compliance with the code. Admittedly, I’m not much of a beach person, but it made for some interesting moments over the years.”
City Manager Dennis Dare said that Jacobs was one of the first people he met when he started at City Hall 27 years ago and said that he’s never seen her have a bad day.
“Carol is the epitome of what every public servant should be,” said Dare. “She interacts with the public many times each day and is patient, understanding and pleasant with each and every citizen, visitor and boardwalk performer. Her dedication and pleasant smile will be dearly missed.”
One of the biggest projects that Jacobs handled in her career was the republication of the town’s City Code in the early 90’s, which goes back to the analogy that Jacobs may not have written the rules, but she played a big part in writing the rulebook.
“I don’t think anyone realized how long that was going to take and how involved it what going to be,” said Jacobs. “All in all it took us four years. Down the line, someone else is going to have to do that job again, and I don’t envy them a bit.”
Jacobs is admittedly a bit reluctant to leave her post during the most trying economic times that she’s ever witnessed in Ocean City, but she is assured by the town’s proactive strategy in addressing the so-called economic crisis.
“I was here in the 80’s when we had the last recession, and I think Dennis [Dare] has done such a great job as our city manager in keeping things headed in the right direction by knowing what was coming and making the changes to prepare for that,” said Jacobs. “The citizens are still getting the same level of service, and the cuts that have been made are to try to ensure that the same level of service is met.”
Ironically, as Jacobs now looks back in hindsight in the final months of her tenure, she notes that perhaps the biggest issue that the town dealt with when she started, is still a main issue.
“Harry Kelley was the mayor when I first started and beach replenishment was being touted as the big issue for the town, and if you look at it, protecting the beach and the property owners still is one of the most important things,” said Jacobs. “If you look at the town’s growth over the years, each mayor and council has had the best interests for the town while being very aware with the issues that come with development. All in all, I think if you compare Ocean City’s growth with other areas, the town and the past councils have done a very good job.”
For someone that has made a living swimming in the sea of politics and local government for more than 30 years, which oftentimes gets rough and occasionally nasty, Jacobs will leave City Hall next month with accolades about her calm demeanor and tremendous professionalism, and a list of contributions to the town of Ocean City that could fill a good portion of the very City Code book she helped write.