Sparks fly between Ches. City’s mayor, councilman
— At the first town council meeting following Councilman Frank Vari’s announcement of his mayoral campaign, a visibly upset Mayor Dean Geracimos responded to the criticisms levied at him by his colleague.
In an interview with the Whig last week, Vari said he was disappointed in Geracimos’ State of the Town address earlier this month, saying it did not give proper acknowledgement to the work of those outside the mayor and his administration. Vari also said he believed the town’s mayor should be more available for in-person interaction with residents.
On Monday night, Geracimos — who has not yet announced whether he will seek re-election in the June 6 election — fired back in a prepared speech at the end of the town council meeting.
“I am appalled and deeply disturbed by Friday’s article in the Cecil Whig in which Councilperson Frank Vari completely misrepresented the State of the Town presentation,” the mayor said. “By and large, the theme of
the evening was that the successes that have occurred during the past four years are the result of a team effort. We — the mayor, all of town council and town staff — are a team. That is what I stressed on April 5 and it’s what I’m saying now.”
Geracimos was also upset at Vari’s claim that he used the word “I” more than “we” during the annual address, saying he watched the video of the presentation twice over the weekend to check the facts himself. He said he counted seven usages of the word “I” or related words and 78 usages of “we” or related words — although those figures have not been independently verified by the Whig.
“This isn’t my normal style (to read a statement in a meeting), but I am passionate about this town and what we’ve accomplished as a team and I will not tolerate this type of misrepresentation and false accusations by a current team member,” Geracimos said. “Councilperson Vari should not have attacked the State of the Town presentation for political gain — that’s an attack on the team and the town.”
After the meeting, Vari said he was surprised that Geracimos chose to make his rebuttal during a public town meeting.
“I don’t think that was the time or the place to make those remarks,” he said, noting an interview with media would have been more appropriate.
Vari said he stood behind his remarks on the State of the Town address, saying he believes Geracimos did not give enough credit for previous efforts that benefitted the town, including the 5K races and salvageable metals program, which Vari spearheaded and now pay for Chesapeake City’s single-stream recycling program.
“Those programs have raised $120,000, and recycling isn’t free,” he said. “To say I’m misrepresenting the town by criticizing isn’t true. I’m criticizing because he didn’t recognize the council as much as he should have on each of the projects. I believe the council should have been up there contributing to the (State of the Town) presentation.”
While Geracimos said he was still discussing with his family whether he will seek a third term, he said the support from residents following Vari’s announcement has been encouraging. The mayor said he received numerous phone calls of support and a group of residents even drove down to Ocean City, where he was over the weekend, to meet with him.
“Frank’s announcement has ruffled so many feathers that people have been coming to me, and that’s what has most affected my thinking about another run,” he said.
While Geracimos said that he would not seek a third term shortly after winning re-election in 2014, he said he was not concerned about that remark. He added that many residents have told him they would support a re-election campaign and he still has projects on the books that he would like to see completed.
“If it takes working with people like Trudy (Carter), Harry (Sampson), Bill (Miners) and Tommy (Morris) for a couple more years, I wouldn’t mind doing it,” he said. “It’s my personality; I’m hungry to make things better.”
This year’s municipal election may be the most heated and divided since the 2012 race, in which Geracimos bested Vari by 15 votes. Geracimos faced no opposition to his re-election bid in 2014, but Vari is once again opposing the mayor — and it seems some in town are ready for a change.
During Geracimos prepared statement Monday night, former Councilwoman Rebecca Mann walked out, saying, “I can’t listen to this.” Geracimos has also addressed concerns from some residents who returned town surveys criticizing him for being an “absentee mayor,” or not holding regular office hours at town hall for in-person interaction, in recent weeks.
Geracimos reiterated Monday that he did not believe a mayor needed to hold regular office hours to be successful in today’s times, adding that his cellphone number is easily found on the town’s website for concerned citizens. He believes that those who want to see a mayor hold regular office hours are in the minority.
On Tuesday, Vari said he respects Geracimos and believes they have accomplished a lot in their tenure together — leaving the town in the best shape ever — but the two men also have differing ideas on what role the mayor should fill.
“Ultimately, we’ll just have to leave it up to voters to decide which style they prefer,” he said.
Chesapeake City Mayor Dean Geracimos, left, responds to a citizen during Monday’s town work session as Councilman Frank Vari, who has announced a mayoral bid in the June town election, looks on.