Ocean View resident Tom Sheeran is running for a seat on the Ocean View Town Council. Sheeran has been involved in the town since he and his wife moved to Hunter’s Run in 2001, having retired from a 35-year career with the federal government.
After Sept. 11, 2001, Sheeran worked with the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA), giving family preparedness briefings. He was later approached by Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin to help put together the town’s Citizens Auxiliary Patrol.
“During that time, I would go to the town hall meetings and I would watch what was going on,” he explained. “From the time I started going, it was not bad, but it got more and more contentious with certain council members.
“I also started to notice other things,” he said, “like they have Citizen’s Privilege. The citizens get up to talk, and you notice the councilmen are talking to each other. They’re looking up at the ceiling, and nobody’s paying attention to them. That’s not right. That’s not even respectful, in my way of thinking.”
“I heard some other various complaints,” Sheeran said, “so I thought, well, maybe I can do something here.”
Sheeran said he hopes that, by winning a seat on council, he will be able to do whatever it takes to make Ocean View better for its residents.
As the town is currently in the process of preparing its 2012-fiscal year budget, budgetary issues are in the spotlight.
“If you want the truth, I am from the old school,” Sheeran said. “I look for common sense to rule. Budget-wise, my daddy taught me, if you don’t have it, don’t spend it. I’m kind of a novice at the budget, to be honest,” he allowed. “I run my own budget for my household. The in-depth things required in running a town, I’m still learning, but I think there are many things that can be adjusted.”
Sheeran noted overtime as a big budgetary issue and said that, although it is warranted in some areas, it should not be taken advantage of.
“I think, for instance, going from a 3 percent increase in overtime to a 10 percent increase in overtime – and I thought, well, this is ridiculous. People should get their job done in the normal work hour,” he said.
“There are exceptions – police officers for example,” Sheeran said. “They have built-in overtime in their schedule in order to provide 24/7 coverage. The Public Works Department, they do their work normally, but they need to come in on overtime if there’s a snowstorm or bad weather of some sort — that’s understandable.
“But, overall, I’ve been an [administrator] most of my career, and you do your work in the allotted time,” he said. “I don’t think there should be a lot of overtime allotted to the normal administrative people.”
He also noted that the construction of a new public works building seems to be a point of contention.
“I’m looking at the tough times today, and I think they’ve set aside $350,000 for the public works building. Now, granted, we got the land just about given to us, but we have vehicles you’re going to be putting into that building that have been sitting outside their entire life. So, do they need a $350,000 building or can they get by with something else? Again, I’m a novice at it, I don’t know. I hear about them talk about pole buildings and this big, massive design they had for the public works building, and I’m thinking there might be something in the middle. I don’t know. These are things I’ll have to learn as I go along.”
The town’s Homecoming event, is another item the council currently seems to be focusing on during budget talks, and Sheeran said he feels that perhaps, in these times, the event should be held off until the town is more financially stable.
“I see no reason to pay $5,000 a year for a Homecoming event at this time, in this state of the economy in the state, in the country and in the world. Everybody can bring their own picnic and have a good time. There shouldn’t be a lot of money spent on it. Maybe $5,000 isn’t much in a town budget of $2.5 million, but it seems like a lot to me,” he said. “My main effort is probably being sure that every dollar being spent needs to be spent, particularly during these times.”
Sheeran is running against sitting Councilman Perry Mitchell, whom Sheeran said he feels hasn’t done enough when it comes to the town’s financial matters.
“My opponent talks about how everything is wrong with the taxes and the budget, yet he’s been on [the council] for three years. Why hasn’t he done something? I don’t understand.”
Another issue Sheeran is focused on is bringing business into the town and making it more business-friendly.
“We need businesses in town. You can’t buy a loaf of bread or a bottle of milk in Ocean View. You’ve got to go outside,” he pointed out. “The few businesses we do have are summer seasonal and some are year-round. Blockbuster, from what I hear, are going to be going away. Papa John’s – that’s good, I like that,” he said with a laugh. “But, overall, what do we have? We’ve got one deli, the Ocean View Deli. You have the Northeast Seafood Kitchen...”
Citing his belief that previous councils had been very “anti-business,” Sheeran said that’s beginning to change, and the town needs to be more favorable to businesses.
“They put every roadblock they could in front of a business that wanted to open up in town. For example, the scenario with the Timmons property,” he said of the property at the intersection of Route 26 and West Avenue. “Somebody mentioned the CVS. Nothing was ever locked into there, but that’s all you ever heard about was this big building. Nobody knew anything about that being for sure, and yet they kept putting all these roadblocks in the way.
“The one before that was a Royal Farms off of Savannah’s Landing,” he noted. “I thought it would’ve been a good thing, but evidently the council didn’t.”
Sheeran said that everyone needs to be more realistic in what they want the town to be and, hopefully, come to some happy medium.
“Some of these folks, I’ve heard them say, ‘I want it to go back the way it was in 1930.’ Well, in 1930, they had pigs being raised around here. We don’t want pigs being raised in our back yards. But, at the same time, I don’t think it needs to become a vast commercial enterprise.
“It’s going to be a small town – let’s face it,” he said. “We’re blocked in by Bethany at one end, and we’re blocked in by Millville on the other. Millville eventually is going to be gigantic compared to Ocean View, but we can be a nice, small enjoyable town with businesses, with civility within the government.”
Sheeran said he will be going door to door on Saturdays to campaign by handing out brochures and talking to constituents. He also hopes to meet with homeowners associations, so that he and the developments can discuss issues and concerns.
Although he said he is not too familiar with two of the three candidates running for mayor, Sheeran said he supports Mayor Gordon Wood’s reelection and hopes they can cooperate for the betterment of the town.
“Things get done a whole lot better when you work together, and I think that can be achieved,” he said.