VERO BEACH — The four new Vero Beach City Council members who will be sworn in at 10 a.m. promised to do things differently and they plan to start this morning with debate of and public input into the question of who should be Mayor.
Since before Election Day, when it became clear that there would be a “clean sweep” of the incumbents out of office, two people — Councilman Brian Heady and former Mayor Craig Fletcher — have, personally and through various emissaries, been jockeying to control the gavel.
This was troubling to Councilman-elect Jay Kramer.
“One of the things we wanted to do was to get rid of all the back-room deals and start doing everything out in the open,” Kramer said. “So I felt very strongly that we should choose the Mayor that way, too.”
Traditionally, nominations are made swiftly, even strategically, and voted on that way and a Mayor is elected in minutes or even seconds. Kramer said he saw what happened last year when Kevin Sawnick was chosen and he felt like it was a “done deal” before the council members walked into the room.
Since there is no Mayor currently, City Attorney Charlie Vitunac will run the meeting, swear in the council and oversee the nominations and votes for Mayor and Vice Mayor.
Kramer said he visited with Vitunac on Friday and asked if if would be possible to have a debate about the issue and even to ask for input from the public.
The response Kramer said he received from Vitunac was that he didn’t see any reason why not, and that he would brief the other council members on their options.
“If they want to be Mayor, then let each one tell us why they want to do it and why they think they would do a good job,” Kramer said.
It is unclear whether or not the other members will agree to explore Kramer’s debate idea, or if the nomination and voting will be swift and final as usual.
Since the election, people on the inside of local politics have speculated that a City Council with two known, long-standing arch enemies on it — Fletcher and Heady — will be interesting to watch, especially if one of them has the power of the gavel to squelch the other’s agenda items and statements.
While Mayor, Fletcher had then-gadfly Heady carried out of City Council meetings several times and taken to the police station. Then-Mayor Fletcher also sued then-candidate Heady for elections violation and obtained a judgment against Heady. There is no evidence that the two have since made peace with each other.
Once cohorts in the utility movement, activist and CPA Glenn Heran has said he’s supporting a Heady Mayorship, while former Councilman Charlie Wilson has pleaded for either Tracy Carroll, Pilar Turner or Jay Kramer to do the job to create a balance between the rivals Heady and Fletcher.
“I think Brian should at least be given the chance,” Heran said.
On his radio show “The Indian River Report,” Wilson commented Friday that the new seating arrangement should be sensitive of the prickly relationship.
“Well it’s kind of like when you have a wedding and you do the seating arrangements, you make sure you seat Uncle Harry at table 7 and Uncle Joe at table 22,” Wilson said.
The City Council also has business on the agenda of this meeting, which is normally only ceremonial and for organizational purposes. A variety of issues may come up, including discussion about the city’s intention to sell its electric utility to Florida Power and Light, should FPL decide they in fact want to buy it.
The meeting takes place at 10 a.m. Monday at Vero Beach City Hall in the Council Chambers. It will be televised live.