Last week, Ocean View resident Walter Curran officially filed with the Town of Ocean View to run for the town’s soon-to-be-vacant mayoral seat.
“I was just kind of talking to Gordon Wood one day about it,” recalled Curran. “He said he was termed out and couldn’t run again. Quite frankly, the first thing I said was, ‘That’s too bad,’ because I think he’s done a good job. I have not agreed with everything he’s done, but I think, all in all, he’s done a very good job.
“He said, ‘Why don’t you do it?’ And my first comment was, ‘What, are you crazy?’ He said, ‘Just think about it,’ and so I did. I thought about it for three or four months… Finally, I called him up and said, ‘I’m going to do it.’”
Curran, who is originally from Boston, Mass., graduated from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in 1966 and worked in the maritime field for more than 40 years.
“I sailed in the Merchant Marine as a deck officer for a little over four years. I got a commission in the Navy Reserve at the time, so I sailed mostly as a third mate, and some a second mate. After I got married and found out that being away 90 percent of the time is not conducive to a good married life, I came ashore.”
He also worked for General Dynamics as a test engineer and has also worked as a stevedore.
Eventually, Curran moved to Crofton, Md., in 1976 and later worked in Baltimore, Md. For a year, he worked as the deputy executive director of the Maryland Port Administration before moving on to Holt Logistics Corp. in Philadelphia, Penn.
“I ran operations for them,” he explained. “We were on two sides of the river, under the Walt Whitman Bridge. One side was the container ship terminal, and on the Jersey side we handled breakbulk,” which is individual items of cargo.
Curran retired at the end 2011, although he still works as an expert witness in maritime affairs.
“I started that in 2002. An attorney who worked for our company was looking for someone to be a witness. He needed an expert witness. A lot of them are personal injury cases on ships and terminals and whatnot, but there are a few others,” he said, of the more than 30 cases in which he’s testified.
“It’s fun. The best part of it is the attorney pays you,” he added with a laugh.
Curran said he and his wife, Marie, along with their children, Christopher and Amy, have been coming to Bethany Beach for more than 30 years, having first rented in Sea Colony, and eventually having purchased a home there. Seven years ago, they moved to Ocean View.
“People just talked about Bethany Beach. So we thought, ‘Well, let’s go down one year and try it.’ And we liked it.”
Once he retired to the area, Curran said, the first thing he did was join the South Coastal Library.
“I started reading like crazy,” he said. “Five or six books a week.”
He also became involved in the community. He currently served as president of the Bear Trap Dunes homeowners’ association and as the chair of the Ocean View Planning & Zoning Commission.
“I have been enjoying retirement, but I’m not the kind of person who can sit around and do nothing. I like to keep busy,” he said. “I’ve always believed that you need to participate — it’s your home, and you have to take care of it. What Bob Lawless said was correct: If you’re going to live in a community and want to maintain the standards, then do your part.”
Curran was already following that model of involvement in his own back yard before town government came into play.
“That’s what I did at Bear Trap to begin with, and then I got a call one day from Gordon Wood, asking if I’d be interested in sitting on the Planning & Zoning Commission. I said, ‘Sure, why not?’ It’s a good way to get to know the town’s folks and the people in the town itself, and it went from there.”
Curran said he is a fiscal conservative who will watch the town’s money as closely as he watches his own.
“I watch my own money closely. I watch other people’s much closer. I just don’t believe in wasting people’s money. That doesn’t mean I think there’s a free lunch, and you cut down to the bare bones all the time. You have a government. You have to have systems and processes, and it all costs money.
“What I look to do all the time is keep a very good balance. I’ve done it for four years while on the board of the homeowners association, and I will, hopefully, continue doing it if I get elected.”
He added that he would never be in favor of a tax increase unless it was absolutely necessary.
“I’m not in favor of just raising taxes and saying, ‘What are we going to do with the money?’ There has to be a definite need for something in order for it to get on my radarscope and say, ‘OK, yes, it must be done. What’s the best and cheapest way to do it?’ Then you finally look to see how you fund it, and not the other way around.”
Curran said that he has no plans to run for any other political office on the county or state level later on.
“The only reason I considered running for mayor was because there really are no social issues at this level — it’s all fiscal policies,” he said. “I’d never run for anything beyond this, because you inevitably get into social issues. I don’t believe in inflicting my opinion on other people. I sort of resent it when they try to inflict it on me.”
Curran said that he believes the Town is currently running well and, if elected, doesn’t plan on changing many things.
“I’m looking to protect my own interests, too,” he added. “The last thing I want is to see some radical person in there, one way or another. This is a town that needs to maintain a good middle-of-the-road presence, look at what needs to be done going forward, look at it in a rational manner and get people’s input. That didn’t always happen in the far past, but in the recent past I think it has.
“I’m going to try to continue that,” he said. “I won’t say ‘maintain the status quo’ but be very close to it and see where we go.”
He also praised the Town’s current staff for being an integral part of why the town has done so well in recent years.
“I think the new town manager, Dianne Vogel, is doing an excellent job. I’ve talked to her half a dozen times on various matters. I think Lee [Brubaker] is a great comptroller. I’ve gotten to know the people that are on the administrative staff over there, and I think they’re very good and competent people. I’m not looking to come in and make huge changes.”
He added that he knows there are some issues that are facing the town, such as drainage, which will create some issues, but said he believes that, with his background, he would be able to help effectively deal with the coming challenges.
“We have a few testy issues facing us. I’m sure we’ll be getting a lot of noise over the Route 26 stuff. That’s inevitable. I’m sure as we get into the maintenance of the drainage ditches that will become a somewhat controversial issue. People are going to resent that they have to take care of property that they didn’t even know was theirs.
“Having negotiated with unions all of my life, I’ve learned to separate fact from fiction,” he added. “I don’t let personal issues or personalities get involved with it. You have to look at the cold, hard facts of what needs to be done and deal with it on a rational basis.”
Of the town’s past struggles, Curran said he’s happy to see the town in a better place and hopes to maintain the peace.
“Some of the histrionics that the town was noted for and in the paper a lot for in past years has been, thankfully, missing for a couple years and, hopefully, it will stay missing. It’s not needed, and we certainly don’t want it.”
As of early this week, Curran was the only person who had filed to run for the mayoral seat, but he said he can’t imagine running unopposed.
“I have a very unique perspective in politics. I’m never running against anybody. I’m running for the position. I despise negative politics. I believe in putting out there what your position is, and if the voters like it, they vote for you. If they don’t, they don’t — so be it. But I’m not running against,” he said. “I’ll be more than willing to sit down and discuss issues and debate things. But I’m not running against that person. I’m running for the position.”
Although he only recently filed to run for mayor, Curran said he plans to advertise in local newspapers, make signs and speak with Ocean View residents throughout his campaign, until the April election.
“Some people have come up to me and said they’re glad I’m running. There seems to be a lot of support from folks that I really didn’t know very well at all. I take that as a good sign, but only time will tell,” he said.
“I am delighted he is running,” said Mayor Gordon Wood. “I have believed he would be a very good candidate, and, now that he is running, I believe he would do a great job as mayor. He has done a very good job as chairman of Planning & Zoning.”
Curran added that he looks at vying for the mayoral position as a civic responsibility and hopes to serve the town of Ocean View to the best of his ability.
“I do think I have a fairly good sense of civic responsibility. I don’t consider this to be politics at this level,” he said. “I look at this as being responsible and protecting your interests, and that of your friends and neighbors.”