INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The race for County Commission District 2 continues to heat up as ousted Vero Beach City Councilman Charlie Wilson has announced he will run, instead of fight a judge’s decision to remove him from city council.
Wilson will seek Commissioner Joe Flescher’s seat in race that already has three other challengers.
“At some point you have to realize where you can be the most useful,” Wilson said – and he can’t be useful on the City Council. Wilson said in a radio interview Monday morning that he plans to help the 20,000 county residents who are on the City of Vero Beach’s electric grid.
“They are not customers, they are hostages,” he told radio host Rhett Palmer.
County Commissioner Gary Wheeler, who was also in the studio with Wilson and Palmer, took issue with the former city councilman’s assertion that the county residents needed Wilson’s help.
“Where’s the county going wrong?” Wheeler asked of Wilson, noting that the commission has been unanimous in its support of reviewing the county-city utilities contracts.
Last week, Wilson told the public he would appeal Circuit Court Judge Paul Kanarek’s ruling that removed him from office for failing to meet residency requirements.
Wilson said on the radio show that much of his decision to not go through with the appeal came was based on the city following through in sending a letter to Florida Power and Light engaging the company in discussion of the potential sale of the city’s power plant.
In that same letter, Gabbard made clear Vero Beach intended to honor its commitment to the Orlando Utilities Commission which is set to become the city’s power provider on Jan. 1.
Wilson, in a prepared statement, called the letter “a solid victory for those of us who worked and fought and voted for change.”
However, he was critical of the Gabbard letter on Friday, saying it did not represent the will of the City Council, but the intentions of city staff.
“This letter is not an offer, it’s designed to once again dissuade anyone who might be interested in selling the electric utility,” Wilson said last week. “What the letter did not say was that the public has cried out and demanded a change in the electric utility.”
Wilson, who won his city council seat based on a platform of getting Vero Beach out of the electric business, said he had accomplished much of what he could do during his one month in office.
He was removed by Kanarek on Dec. 7 and last week announced his intention to seek an appeal that could have kept him on the City Council during that process.
“A study offered by FP&L will likely take months to complete,” Wilson said in his announcement sent out late Sunday night. “Any option to sell will therefore be presented to a newly elected council in Nov. 2010. An elected council with up to four new members who can better represent the ‘will of the people.’
“Therefore, having received the needed assurance to accomplish our primary goal, and that a new Council will act on a potential sale, I have decided that it is no longer in the best interest of city residents or voters for me to continue to request a stay or appeal the decision by Judge Kanarek.”
As for the future, Wilson joins fellow Republicans Dale Simchick and Carolyn Corum, both of Sebastian, and Democrat David Thomas Snell, of Vero Beach.
The seat is currently held by Flescher, a retired police officer. He has yet to declare whether he will seek reelection.
Simchick is a former member of the Sebastian City Council, an employee of the Indian River Sheriff’s Office and is known to be the favorite candidate of the Indian River Neighborhood Association.
Corum is a former Mayor of Sebastian who once ran for School Board. She is an avid environmentalist and currently works as a Realtor for Thorpe-Sotheby’s International Real Estate.
Snell is a longtime member of law enforcement who ran in 2004 for Sheriff in Indian River County.
District 2 encompasses parts of northern Indian River County including some of Sebastian and the northern barrier island, up to and including the Town of Indian River Shores. It also spans parts of Gifford and the Grand Harbor area along Indian River Boulevard just north of Vero Beach.
Debbie Carson contributed to this report.