Lately, DeVlieger has been Council’s most outspoken opponent of a wind energy farm proposed 15 miles off the coast between Atlantic City and Stone Harbor. He has raised concerns about the wind farm’s possible negative impact on the coastal region’s environment, tourism industry and commercial fishing operations. “This has tremendous negative effects to our region,” he said of the wind farm Thursday night.
City Council Vice President Michael DeVlieger stepped down Thursday night in an emotional farewell that included some hugs, tears and laughter with his colleagues during his last meeting on the seven-member governing body.
DeVlieger, who had served on Council since 2012 as the representative of the First Ward, shocked his colleagues when he announced in July that he was resigning effective Aug. 12 to focus on his family and professional career.
Choking back his emotions at times, he waited until the end of the meeting Thursday to read a letter of resignation that expressed his thanks to his family and the entire community. He also emphasized what an honor it has been for him to serve the city as an elected official.
“The last nine-plus have been a labor of love. I have thoroughly enjoyed helping with our community’s challenges and help shape its future. Ocean City is truly America’s Greatest Family Resort and an incredible place to raise a family. Please do not let anyone ever change that,” he said.
With DeVlieger leaving, Second Ward Councilman Tom Rotondi was voted in as the new vice president. Rotondi was appointed to the leadership post after Councilwoman Karen Bergman did not secure enough votes for vice president.
DeVlieger threw his support behind Ocean City Planning Board member Terry Crowley Jr. as his successor for the First Ward Council seat.
“I have known Terry for about a dozen years. I have sought his counsel on matters and he has come to me. He has been on the Planning Board for the last five years and has a track record of independent voting based on the facts. I know that he does his research and cares about Ocean City,” DeVlieger said.
It will be up to Council to appoint Crowley or someone else as DeVlieger’s temporary successor. The process calls for that person to serve until the November election. In November, voters will elect the First Ward Council member who will fill the remainder of DeVlieger’s unexpired term until June 30, 2024.
Council President Bob Barr explained that the governing body will interview prospective Council candidates in closed session either at the Aug. 26 or Sept. 29 meeting.
Candidates will have until Aug. 20 to fill in the proper paperwork and return it to the City Clerk’s Office to be considered by Council for the temporary appointment until the November election.
The Council members, some fighting back tears, told DeVlieger they were sorry to see him leave. They praised him for being an independent thinker who was passionate about representing the city.
“I’ve never heard anyone say a bad thing about you,” Rotondi said to DeVlieger.
“You have a fantastic, independent mind and you voice it well,” Councilman Jody Levchuk added.
“You’ve been a wonderful colleague,” Bergman said, noting that DeVlieger always respected her views even if they disagreed about an issue.
Councilman Keith Hartzell said he was reluctant to say a formal goodbye because he is convinced that DeVlieger may return someday to Council or in some other capacity to represent the city government.
“No one fights harder than you in a cause,” Hartzell told DeVlieger.
Councilman Peter Madden joined with his colleagues to thank DeVlieger for his years of service on the governing body.
Barr revealed that he wanted DeVlieger to lead his final meeting from the vice president’s chair, but DeVlieger politely declined. Barr and DeVlieger formed Council’s senior leadership when they became president and vice president, respectively, in 2020.
Barr recalled how DeVlieger encouraged him to seek office when Barr first decided to run for Council in 2016. He said he always wanted DeVlieger at this side, which was a key consideration in Barr’s support for DeVlieger to become Council vice president.
“You’ve always been so encouraging to me, personally,” Barr said.
In his farewell remarks, DeVlieger recalled key projects that were completed during his time on Council, including the Ocean City skate park, the transformation of the historic Life-Saving Station into a museum, flood-mitigation improvements for the north end of town and the dredging of the back bays.
“None of these things happened because of me, but I feel that I lent a hand in all of them,” he said. “I will always look back fondly and cherish this time.”
During his time on Council, DeVlieger was one of the chief proponents of the city’s skateboard park built in 2015.
“I cannot express how satisfying it has been to have kids and their parents share with me and my colleagues how this park changed their lives. One young man told me that it saved his life. Not every kid is going to make the football team or cheerleading, but most any kid can find acceptance at our park and challenge themselves in a wholesome environment,” DeVlieger said.
He also spoke of how touched he was when Ocean City came together as a community following Super Storm Sandy in October 2012. The community efforts included the formation of the charitable group OCNJ CARE to help people recover from the devastating storm.
“Early on, I have had the pleasure of being on the front lines when our community was hit by Super Storm Sandy. In the face of tragedy, I witnessed kindness and beauty from not only the members of our community, but also from strangers who came from all over to help. OCNJ CARE was born out of the crisis and it continues to help local families to this day,” he said.
Lately, DeVlieger has been Council’s most outspoken opponent of a wind energy farm proposed 15 miles off the coast between Atlantic City and Stone Harbor. He has raised concerns about the wind farm’s possible negative impact on the coastal region’s environment, tourism industry and commercial fishing operations.
“This has tremendous negative effects to our region,” he said of the wind farm Thursday night.
DeVlieger was first elected as the First Ward councilman in 2012 and won re-election in 2016 and 2020 without facing any opposition.
A summer resident of Ocean City for his entire childhood and early adulthood, the 54-year-old DeVlieger has been a full-time resident for 22 years.
His wife, Jennifer, is a kindergarten teacher in Ocean City. They have two children, a son, Flynn, and a daughter, Reagan.
He expressed his thanks to God, his family, his close supporters and the entire community for all the help and guidance they have given to him.
“I want to thank God, my wife, Jennifer, our children, Flynn and Reagan, the residents of the First Ward, (former First Ward Councilman) John Kemenosh for endorsing me, Susan Sheppard for tempting me with the thought of running, this Administration, my colleagues on Council, the Chamber of Commerce, our Police and Fire departments, and lastly to all of the volunteers who help keep our community great. It has been a great honor to serve you,” he said.
DeVlieger has worked in the executive search industry since 1991. For his full-time job, he works as a Talent Acquisition Partner for a major consulting organization.
Noting his multitude of responsibilities as an elected official, business executive and family man, he announced in July he was stepping down from Council to avoid being overwhelmed by his workload. He stressed that his family and health are paramount.
“I have thought about this at length and for the immediate present, I need to channel my passion and energy in other directions. I owe it to this community, which I love, to step down,” he said.
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