Last Thursday’s organizational meeting at City Hall was fairly banal as far as politics goes. That was until it was time to elect a new council president.
The night is typically devoted to the newly re-elected or elected officials who are sworn into office who then make some comments, but two years ago it was anything but ordinary, as the council made drastic moves on a night usually reserved for pomp and circumstance as well as the election of a new council president and council secretary.
There was nothing unexpected last Thursday with the exception of the bizarre motion by Councilwoman Margaret Pillas that former City Manager Dennis Dare, the top vote-getter in last week’s election, be the new council president. Councilman Brent Ashley seconded the motion, which was quickly declined by Dare. Pillas and Ashley voted to remove Dare as city manager last year because he would not reportedly go along with the direction they wanted the town to head in. Perhaps understanding many would question her motion, wondering why Dare would be fine as council president but not as city manager, Pillas explained her reasoning for nominating Dare.
“My reason is because he got the majority vote,” Pillas said. “The citizens who went to vote said he has the experience and I believe that, and I think he would make an excellent president of the council because he comes with over 20 years of service as city manager. The citizens have the faith in him that he can set the agendas and send us in the right direction, and to help us sustain a future and also to break down some debts.”
After Dare’s public refusal, which followed his private decline, Lloyd Martin was unanimously chosen as the new president followed by the same vote for Mary Knight as secretary.
At last weekend’s Hal Glick Distinguished Service Award Gala, there was an ad in the program guide from Seacrets that created quite an early stir. It was a congratulatory ad to award recipient Dr. Leonard Berger and it read, “It’s no Seacret that you deserve recognition for all you do for our community. It is a Seacret to what extent your generosity truly extends as we never until tonight hear … ‘The rest of the story.’ Seacrets owner Leighton Moore delivered on that promise in an emotional speech that served as one of the highlights of the evening to me.
The story dates back to the 80s when Moore owned the Gateway Hotel and Ocean Club on 49th Street and the ocean. In his speech, Moore documented how Berger wanted to purchase the Gateway, which today is home to the sprawling Gateway Grand complex, because his family vacationed there for years. According to Moore, Berger approached him about buying it soon after he purchased the then-Sheraton (now Clarion) in north Ocean City. He said the deal was simple because it revolved around a handshake. Moore quoted a price and Berger agreed, but there was an unexpected holdup late in the transaction. It involved a non-compete clause, and Moore could not stomach the five years Berger initially sought. A negotiation took place and it was reduced to one year.
Seacrets later opened as a members-only club on the bay across the highway from the Gateway and Ocean Club, but Moore divulged some information at last Saturday’s gala organized to honor Berger that had previously never been publicized.
“I opened up the first year and because of overspending I ran out of money. … The bank was going to take Seacrets, no questions, no doubt. I had been underneath buildings all winter, putting foundations under buildings in Montego Bay to try and get enough money together. Well, I came up short. I had worked hard and somebody was watching. Somebody who paid too much at the time to me because of his love of the Ocean Club and Gateway. So I came to Dr. Berger and he said, ‘I know.’ He didn’t even make me ask. He said, ‘you are short $60,000, aren’t you?’ I said, ‘yes’ and he offered the check,” said Moore, choking up at this point. “Without Dr. Berger, I would have never given anything because I would be broke. That’s why I won last year’s award and that’s what he is. Dr. Berger is more like a dad than my dad and I love him. Thank you, Lenny.”