Vero Council could reconsider private candidate interviews

VERO BEACH – The Vero Beach City Council could change its mind on how it will choose from the five-member candidate pool to fill an open seat on the dais.

Mayor Kevin Sawnick has requested a discussion on the process be placed on the Jan. 5 agenda. Part of that discussion could include asking the council to reconsider holding private one-on-one interviews with the candidates.

“It’s something I’m leaning toward,” Mayor Sawnick said Monday night. The council had originally approved holding the private interviews on Jan. 6 at the individual council members’ offices and then bringing back the top finishers for a public interview on Jan. 12.

Mayor Sawnick said he had supported that idea because he thought there would be a large number of applicants, like 20 or 30.

“It’s pretty slim pickings,” he said of the number of applicants the city has to choose from to fill ousted Councilman Charlie Wilson’s seat.

Councilman Brian Heady said that he supports and has supported having the interviews in the open instead of the private interviews.

“I think it’s doing the right thing,” Heady said of the possibility of having the interviews in a public forum. “I’m thrilled.”

Heady said that he had a plan for the private interview process – which is now a backup plan in the event the council decides Jan. 5 to proceed with the one-on-one interviews.

He said he planned to interview the candidates in the Council Chambers and invite the public and members of the press to watch him conduct the interview.

Both Heady and Sawnick believe that they can get enough information from the candidates during the public interview that they could decide who should fill Wilson’s vacant seat.

“I’m sure I can figure that out in one meeting,” Heady said, adding that he has a few basic questions to ask the candidates.

Mayor Sawnick said that the biggest challenge might be getting at least three members on the council to agree on the council appointee.

But, “we might all agree on one person,” he said.

Those who are in the running to be considered for the open seat include third place finisher in the Nov. 3 municipal election and former city councilman Ken Daige, Recreation Advisory Board member Tracy Carroll, Planning Commission member Richard Kennedy, and real estate agents Al Benkert and William Mills.

A sixth candidate, Finance Commission member Roger Rudd unexpectedly announced he was withdrawing his application Monday morning. He declined to provide a reason for his decision.

Circuit Court Judge Paul Kanarek removed Wilson from the council on Dec. 7, ruling that Wilson did not meet the city’s residency requirements when he filed to run for the city council.

Wilson announced Monday that he changed his mind about appealing the judge’s ruling and has instead decided he will file to run for County Commission District 2.

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