Name: Michael ThomasAge: 30How long living in Vero Beach: 6 yearsPlace of Birth: Terre Haute, Ind.Occupation: ArchitectMarital/Family Status: Married
Please list Civic and Volunteer Leadership Experience including title & position and Organization including dates and locations.
I’ve been a member of the City of Vero Beach Architectural Review Committee since it was formed in August of 2007. I volunteer on a regular basis for a number of beach cleanups (KIRB, Mayor’s Beach Cleanup, International Coastal Cleanup), road cleanups (KIRB and Kimley-Horn Adopt-a-Road) and an island cleanup (Prang Island Cleanup, sponsored by Coastal Tech) as well as Habitat for Humanity and special events at the Environmental Learning Center.
What issues motivated you to run for this office and what do you hope to accomplish during your term?
Running for this office was not an easy choice, but I feel that I can bring some fresh ideas to the council as well as help prepare the city for the future. I really want to see a more proactive City Council, particularly as the City prepares to face some tough challenges. Some of the bigger issues coming up are the potential sale of the electric utility and the hiring of a new city manager topping the immediate list. I also look forward to working with the Planning Department to update the City’s Land Development Code.
I would like to make sure that any sale of the electric plant is in the best interest of the city. The sale price has to be sufficient to offset the annual contribution to the general fund as well as promise a low enough kWh rate to justify the city selling such a valuable asset.
The hiring of a new city manager is going to be an incredibly important turning point for the city. The city needs to find the best possible candidate for the job to help us through the tough issues that it is going to face in the near future. Because of the importance of this position, I support hiring a consulting firm to aid the city staff in this search.
Updating the city’s Land Development Regulations is not a small task, but a down economy is the time to take a look at these things. The Planning Department has been working diligently to bring the Comprehensive Plan into State Compliance, and the next step will be to make appropriate amendments to that and to update the Land Development Regulations. There are many new and innovative land development regulations being implemented throughout this country and it is time to look at these alternatives to encourage more creative and responsible building. There are numerous opportunities throughout the City for creative and mutually beneficial redevelopment. It will be a great advantage for the City to be prepared for this redevelopment by amending our regulations to encourage smart, creative and sustainable projects. The City’s Vision Plan is an excellent foundation for these regulations, as it is site specific and formed from the collective input of professionals and members of the community.
What is your position on the potential sale of the Vero Beach electric utility? If the price and conditions were right, would you support selling? What would keep you from supporting a possible sale?
I maintain that the electric utility is a valuable asset to the city. This should be noted when considering any sale. If another company is willing to purchase the utility for fair-market value then the city needs to take a serious look at making the sale.
The final sale price must be enough to justify the city giving up such a valuable asset as well as provide a method for funding the approximately $5.6 million annually that the utility provides the city’s general fund.
Two things would keep me from supporting a sale: If the sales price was not high enough, and if the new supplier could not offer us considerably better rates than the ones we currently get through our current contract with OUC.
Do you support considering the possibility of merging the city’s water and sewer system with that of the county’s? What factors would you consider in making a determination whether or not such a merger should happen?
If the county can supply the same level of service and a lower rate, then I support the merger of the systems. I have to think that the current dual-system layout is redundant and less efficient than a single, countywide system would be.
In the event of a merger, I would hope to see all affected personnel transferred to the county level along with the service, so job losses would be minimized. The city’s budget would be impacted by a merger because the costs the city spends on staff and upkeep, but the contributions to the general fund would also be missed and need to be accounted for elsewhere.
Staff will be able to provide a more in depth analysis of the ramifications of a merger. Once all of the cards are on the table, the City Council will be able to make a truly informed decision.
The city is currently looking for a new City Manager to replace out-going Jim Gabbard. What qualities would you look for in a viable candidate?
The ideal candidate will have Vero Beach values as well as an understanding of budget constraints. He or she will understand the needs of the City and be willing to work with Staff and Council to create a better Vero Beach. It is also desirable for the candidate to have prior experience as a city manager, preferably in a municipality that has utilities, and perhaps even a background in the sale and/or merger of a City’s utilities.
How do you plan to work with Councilman Heady if elected to the dais?
I will be as professional with him as is possible. Councilman Heady has a lot of good ideas and knows the right questions to ask. He has a knack for getting extra information out of every situation and is a positive influence in operating a transparent government. I intend to work with him to get the best results for the City. His showmanship may be distracting at times, but I think that if the Council treats him with respect and lets him ask his questions, he will react with a more professional demeanor.