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Herrick brings independent edge to OPA Board race

(June 11, 2015) While several of the candidates in this year’s Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors race have experience on the board, the crop of seven also includes a number of newcomers.
Thomas Herrick, 61, is a member of the latter group.
Born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, Herrick spent 28 years on the New York state police force before moving to Ocean Pines with his wife six years ago.
“Ocean Pines has everything we wanted,” Herrick said. “We wanted an active life style, we wanted amenities and a sense of community, so this fit perfectly for us. And we’re only four and a half hours away from my three boys who are still up in New York.”
Herrick quickly became an active member of the homeowner’s association, buying a small boat, taking up platform tennis and making good use of the community’s golf course. It was that involvement, he said, that led him to run for office.
“I’m very active and I talk to a lot of people with the amenities, and I saw some policies that were being made that were discouraging the residents from using the amenities, and I thought that was an injustice,” he said. “I realized we could do better and promote these activities and promote these amenities and make them more affordable and have more of the people who live here use them.”
Herrick said he watched as several of his friends, discouraged by some of the community’s policies, moved away. Others, he said, simply started using facilities outside of Ocean Pines.
“I belong to two outside golf groups and I would say 85-90 percent of them are former members here, and they’re all golfing elsewhere,” he said. “Our resident rate was $62 and at five or six golf courses around here it’s $45 with a group rate – we have the biggest group on the Delmarva Peninsula. The people own the golf course. Treat it like an HOA golf course and give the people who live here the added value. That’s what they’re paying for.”
Herrick also said unfair policies also caused a number of Ocean Pines groups to book major functions outside of the community.
“Why are you overpricing the people who paid for that building?” Herrick asked. “I feel like there are some injustices and I think the policies of the board and management have to be more friendly, make the amenities more affordable, and bring in more of our membership to use it – not so much people from the outside, but our people that own them.”
The proposed new facility use rules, which would either charge groups a fee to use amenities or require a certain amount of volunteer hours, is not the solution, according to Herrick.
“I don’t see how that benefits the welfare of the community, and the amenities are here for the welfare of the community,” he said. “Are [the new rules] making it affordable and enjoyable for the people who live here? I don’t think so. I think it’s misdirecting what the amenities should really be for.”
Herrick also took issue with the way the board and the general manager work with each other.
“The board responsibility is to adopt, publish and enforce rules and regulations governing the use of our amenities. The manager should manage those policies,” he said. “The problem is that some board members – past and present – don’t understand those guidelines. I think that’s what leads to the dysfunction between the board and the manager. If they both understand the guidelines and they both realize what they have to do and they work together as a team, the community can reach its full potential.”
Herrick said he’s paid more attention to the board in the last year, either attending regular meetings, or else watching the live streams online.
“I started seeing the policy problems, I started seeing the nickel and diming that I think we can do better with, I started seeing the dysfunction, and I see the venom spill out in the newspapers,” he said. “That bothers me because it just shines a bad light on the community as a whole, and I don’t think they’re really thinking about the community as a whole. I think they’re thinking about some special interest groups, and they’re fighting for those special interest groups.”
Herrick said he would be an independent voice on the board, voting on individual issues rather than siding with factions within the body.
“I believe you look at each issue, debate it – that’s why there’s seven people on the board, because you want different views – and you need to learn to compromise and have an open mind,” he said. “Depending on what the issue is I will do in my heart what I feel is the best for the community as a whole, not for one group. That’s why I’m running as an independent.”
Ultimately, Herrick said, it’s “up to the community to put the right people in there.”
“That’s really what has to happen, and I hope it does,” he said. “I’m giving it a shot because I feel strong enough about this community that I want to try. I’m not a politician, but I feel like I can help.”