Realtor, business group president joins race for Vero Beach council

UPDATE – Sept. 3 5:10 p.m.

Al Benkert, who originally filed for a two-year term, changed his filing within the last half-hour of the qualifying period, according to City Clerk Tammy Vock.

Benkert will now be in a three-way race for the one-year seat between Vice Mayor Sabe Abell and Tracy Carroll.

VERO BEACH — Realtor Al Benkert, who serves as president of the Oceanside Business Association, has decided to run for the Vero Beach City Council.

Benkert is now the tenth person to file for the municipal race, and the second one to file today. Benkert said prior to announcing his candidacy that he was concerned that the next city council would need strong negotiators and, if he saw a shortage of those types of people in the field of candidates, he would run.

“Last year the city was stonewalling and that’s what people saw,” Benkert said. “They’ve failed to be proactive and to get out there with their own numbers and data. You need someone in there who can negotiate and who can analyze the information.”

Benkert calls the proposed sale of the electric utility to Florida Power and Light an “outsourcing of jobs and dollars outside Indian River County.”

He added that he believes if the city would cut its expenses so the rate disparity was within 10 or 15 percent of FP&L that a sale would not be necessary.

“The city council does not represent the Vero Beach area or the county, they represent the citizens of Vero Beach. If they’re doing their job, they need to make decisions that are going to be good for the city residents they represent,” he said. “I would consider selling the electric utility if it made sense for the citizens of the City of Vero Beach.”

Benkert generally aligns himself with Mayor Kevin Sawnick, and he said he is a consensus builder.

“You can question things, but the group has to make progress,” he said. “You can question everything, but you’re not going to get anywhere. You need to come up with a solution and move forward.”

Four seats currently held by Mayor Kevin Sawnick, Vice Mayor Sabe Abell, Tom White, and Ken Daige are up for election.

Councilman Brian Heady is the only member who will not face voters in November.

Both Sawnick and Abell have completed their paperwork to run again. Sawnick is seeking a two-year term while Abell has opted to run for the one-year seat currently filled by Daige.

Daige was appointed to fill ousted Councilman Charlie Wilson’s seat until the municipal election this November.

Daige has not yet filed to run for office again. White has announced he will be taking a break from the council and is not seeking another term this go-round.

Benkert will be running against fellow Vero Beach residents Tracy Carroll, Craig Fletcher, Dean Heran, Richard Kennedy, Jay Kramer, Michael Thomas and Pilar Turner.

Online Editor Debbie Carson contributed to this report.

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