INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Three wanted to be mayor, but the seat holds only one.
Indian River Shores Town Councilmen Tom Cadden and Gerard Weick and Councilwoman Fran Atchison gave heated campaign speeches before paper ballots were passed around and tallied.
Atchison and newly-elected Councilman Richard Haverland voted for Atchison; Atchison recruited Haverland to run.
Councilman Mike Ochsner voted for Cadden and Cadden voted for himself.
This all happened with Ochsner’s daughter, Kimberly Keithahn looking on and taking pictures.
Cadden was one of Keithahn’s biggest supporters in her primary and then failed runoff for school board, going so far as hosting a fundraiser in her honor at Quail Valley River Club.
Gerard Weick was left the odd man out, voting for himself on the first round.
But that turned out to be a lucky stroke, as it put Weick in effective control.
Weick’s changed vote for Cadden on the second round apparently earned him the favor of being elected Vice Mayor with Cadden and Ochsner voting for him opposed to Atchison, beating her 3-2 for second in command.
The stump speeches for mayor revealed that there’s no love lost among the council members and former and again Mayor Tom Cadden.
Atchison, whose opinions as the only female viewpoint on the council are routinely and summarily brushed off, used military and sports analogies to present two types of leadership styles — the pilot, which was a thinly veiled description of Cadden, and the quarterback.
“The pilot likes to fly solo and stay under the radar,” Atchison said, adding that the pilot-type leader simply debriefs the team after the mission is over and the team “doesn’t enjoy the ride.”
The quarterback, Atchison said, is an equally strong and qualified leader, but takes a different approach.
“The quarterback works with everyone to reach the goal line and at they all have input into the end product,” she said. “It takes twice as much effort to get everyone involved.”
Cadden started out his speech by saying that about six or seven months ago, he was “requested to run for the council.”
Cadden served on the council from 2002 to 2009 and was mayor all eight years before he was term limited out.
“Any one of the five would be an effective mayor, but the reason why I would ask for support for me as mayor is that for the past two years I’ve worked on utilities – electric, water and sewer – and I’ve spent a lot of time and energy on those issues,” Cadden said.
Cadden said he would “be here to interact and respond” and had no plans to travel over the next 18 months – a dig at Atchison – and he also said later in the meeting that she’s gone during the summer and she quickly corrected him, that she’s a year-round resident.
“I have an established relationship with elected officials within the county and with Tallahassee and we might need Tallahassee before this is over,” Cadden said.
Weick presented a less-scripted but just as direct argument for leadership in the Sunshine, and cooperation and consultation with every member of the council getting to have a say.
“The leader should be a consensus builder, not a dictator,” he said.
“It’s important that we have more backup and more information from (Town Manager) Richard ( Jefferson) and not run by the seat of our pants,” Weick said.
He underscored that he is a fulltime resident and would work fulltime for the Town.
“I too have experience and relationships with the elected officials in the county,” Weick said. “I too would love to bring this whole situation on water-sewer to a conclusion ASAP, but I believe we have to give both sides a shot.”
The Shores must decide sometime in the next seven months whether to purchase utilities from the City of Vero Beach or Indian River County and how to hammer out the best long-term deal for residents.
After taking the mayor’s seat, Cadden admitted that there had been a breakdown.
“Unfortunately we did not have good communication with the council in the past two years. That will not happen again.”
He added, turning to Weick, “There will be no surprises, Gerry.”
With two voting blocs of two in Cadden-Ochsner and Atchison- Haverland, Weick might very well be the most powerful man on the council this year, at least when the sides disagree on something.
When the council divvied up committee assignments, Cadden said he didn’t much care what committees he got, as his sole reason for coming back to the council was to handle the water-sewer issue.
“I don’t want to serve on committees,” Cadden said. “I’ll take what’s left.”
It appears that a franchise and purchase agreement with Vero Beach could be a foregone conclusion, as Cadden has made it clear that he thinks the complete package Vero Beach can offer exceeds what the County can do for the Shores.
Councilwoman Fran Atchison stated in February that Vero Beach is the only provider that could ensure the water from her kitchen tap is clean and pure.
All Cadden and Atchison need is one more ready vote to count to three.
Ochsner voted for Cadden on the first round for mayor, having heard Cadden’s utility advice for two years.
Weick and Haverland have been skeptical on the issue and say they want to see some firm, long-term rates before committing constituents to a marriage with Vero Beach.