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Dir. Sharyn O’Hare opts against OPA board reelection bid

(April 30, 2015) After three years in office that featured significant changes in the community’s political landscape, Ocean Pines Association Director Sharyn O’Hare will not be running for reelection to the board of directors.
At least partially responsible for her decision is what she sees as an increasingly confrontational board of directors bent on trying to run the community on a day-to-day basis.
O’Hare, 67, moved to Ocean Pines in 1975 and began practicing real estate four years later. Both of her children were born in the community.
Her inadvertent journey into politics began with her involvement in the community’s 35th anniversary celebration in 2003. After organizers raised more money than they needed, the excess dollars were put toward the Worcester County Veteran’s Memorial, established in 2005.
O’Hare co-chaired the effort, along with the late Roseanne Bridgman.
“I did that for the community and it was just a labor of love,” she said. “My father was a World War II vet and it was just one of those things that needed to be done.
“Through [veteran’s memorial] events, I started meeting a lot of people and knew a lot of people from having lived here and sold real estate for so long, and people starting asking me to run for the board,” O’Hare continued.
“I always said, ‘No, no, no’ because I didn’t have the time. Finally Tom Terry, who was on the board at the time, and Dan Stachurski did a one-two punch type thing. I was at the Lion’s Club and I was cornered. I said, ‘Okay, all right. I’ll run, just leave me alone!’”
Despite experience as co-chair and eventually president of the veteran’s memorial, as well as her tenure as president of the Worcester County Commission for Women, O’Hare said she never set her sight on politics.
“I didn’t know how to run a campaign, so I said I would do it if I had help, and I had some great people who stepped up to be my campaign team and help me run,” she said. “I started having coffees and got to meet a lot of people and came up with a campaign theme and worked from that. I kind of considered it an honor to be running. And then I was elected and I went, ‘Oh my God, now what?’”
O’Hare took office in 2013. It was a time, she recalls, when good feelings ran rampant throughout the community.
“The new yacht club got passed that same timeframe, so there was a lot of positive energy going around in Ocean Pines,” she said. “I’m a very positive person. I don’t have time for negative vibes and negative feelings.”
The learning curve, O’Hare said, was sharp during her first year on the board.
“I never served on any committees in Ocean Pines, but I had worked on a lot of things,” she said. “But I didn’t know the financial aspect. That was a huge learning curve. Probably the hardest one.
“The first year you’re on the board you have to find out what the nuances are and what the needs are,” O’Hare continued. “It’s not just about the visible stuff. I went to meetings about the sewer department and county wastewater thinking this is not an exciting thing to do, but it was rather interesting when I got there. The things behind the scenes are not as fun as something like the yacht club, but they’re just as important.”
Her second year on the board, when she served as vice president, was the “best and most valuable,” O’Hare said.
“I worked with the general manager and the president very closely, as well as the other board members, trying to make things happen in a positive mode in Ocean Pines,” she said. “I think things were going very well. Every week we were in [General Manager] Bob’s [Thompson] office having meetings to understand what was going on, where the issues were, what could we do, who do we need to pull in, those kinds of things to help make the place better.”
Looking to take some of the burden away from Thompson, O’Hare volunteered to chair the groundbreaking and ribbon-cutting at the new yacht club.
“I said, ‘Let me do some of those little things to take them off your plate,’ because you have to do it. It’s for the community,” she said. “And we did. Bob took things, Tom took things, I took things, other board members took things that they had their expertise in and we all tried to work together.
“We certainly didn’t agree on everything and that’s okay,” O’Hare continued. “I don’t think all board members should agree on everything. I don’t think that’s healthy. I think what is healthy is that you bring your thought process and your expertise to the board level, and then you make things better by what you contribute. What is unhealthy, I think, is what is going on now.”
During her third year in office, O’Hare said the tone of the board took a darker turn.
“Everything changed after last year’s election,” she said. “The two members that lost, both of them existing board members, they were not confrontational. They didn’t speak a lot, especially Jeff [Knepper]. Jeff was an attorney and he’s a very good listener. When Jeff spoke, he had something very valuable to say, and I think people would listen.”
O’Hare also lamented the defeat of incumbent Terri Mohr and said women bring a different approach to the board.
“We’re not an in-your-face type,” she said. “It’s not a natural thing, at least for me. I can’t speak for all women. I’m a compromiser, and I think women tend to be to solve problems. We don’t have to man up and beat on our chest. We don’t do that.
“I think women have an ability to bring unity, or try to, or compromise,” O’Hare continued. “There have been many times in the board this year when I’ve asked for compromises and it’s been shot down every single time I’ve tried. That’s disheartening. I think there are some people on that board that don’t understand what compromise means.”
One instance of compromise the current board did accomplish, and O’Hare praised, was the passing of the fiscal year 2016 budget.
“Pat [Renaud] and Tom [Terry], they both crafted a budget that I think met both sides’ needs,” she said. “That was very positive, and that passed 4-3 because there was a compromise between both sides. I think it should have been unanimous, personally. Both sides gave.”
The budget process had been a contentious one, reaching a boiling point when Vice President Marty Clarke stood up, frustrated over the continuation of the five-year funding tool, for the seventh year, and walked out of a public meeting in February.
“When I saw Marty jump up, I though he was going to hit Bill [Cordwell],” O’Hare said. “I really thought he was going to. And I said, ‘Gentlemen, sit down! We’re all board members. Respect each other.’ The president should have said that.
“The anger expressed by a couple board members is unacceptable,” O’Hare continued. “When I ran, I honestly felt it was an honor and a privilege to run for the board. I really did, and I still do. What I don’t understand is the animosity of current board members.”
The hostility she perceives on the current board, O’Hare said, was the principal reason she decided not to seek a second term in office.
“I’ve done three years,” she said. “I felt I was doing a lot of good for two years. This year I haven’t been asked to do anything – not one thing. To my knowledge, I don’t think our president has had one meeting with the GM since he’s become president. He’s certainly not called me once.”
“I have a lot to give and help with and I’m more than willing to,” O’Hare continued. “I’ve been in this community longer than anyone else on the board. And I’ve offered to help. But I can’t do it without authorization from the person in charge.”
The coming election, O’Hare believes, could be another referendum on General Manager Bob Thompson, meaning the current majority could increase its numbers.
“I would hope anybody running for the board would run without an agenda,” O’Hare said. “Run with an open mind and run with a positive attitude, and let’s make this foolishness stop. This arguing between each other – it makes no good happen. Let’s sit down as adults and work for what’s right for Ocean Pines. That’s what the purpose of the board is. We are not supposed to be running the day-by-day operations and that what this board is trying to do.”
O’Hare hopes to focus her life after politics on the more positive aspects of the community, including the veteran’s memorial, which first held its dedication and blessing a decade ago.
On Saturday, May 23, the Worcester County Veteran’s Memorial Foundation will host a cocktail party from 5-7 p.m. under a tent at the memorial grounds. The foundation will also mark the 10th anniversary of the memorial on Monday, May 25 at 11 a.m.
“I still have a lot of energy and a lot of interest,” O’Hare said. “They veteran’s memorial has always been near and dear to my heart, and I’m chairing the cocktail party and it’s going to be the party of the season. It’s going to be great, great fun for sure.
“Pretty soon, in a couple of years, it will be the 50th anniversary in Ocean Pines, and I will hope to have some role in that,” O’Hare added. “Who knows what the future holds, but I am not one to sit and eat bonbons.”