Name: Al BenkertAge: 65How long living in Vero Beach: My family has been coming to Vero Beach since the 1950s. My godparents moved here and I honeymooned here in the 1960s; my parents moved here in the 1970s; my sister and nephew moved here in the 1980s. I lived here several different times in the 1990s and permanently settled here in the 2000s.Place of Birth: Queens New YorkOccupation: Real Estate BrokerMarital/Family Status: Divorced after 27 years of marriage
Please list Civic and Volunteer Leadership Experience including title & position and Organization including dates and locations.
Board of Directors for Vero Towers 2003 till 2010
Board of Directors of the Oceanside Business Association 2004 to current
Past President and Vice president of the Oceanside Business Association.
Current President of the Oceanside Business Association.
Past Member of the Board of Directors of Save our Shores.
Vice Chairman of the Government Affairs Committee of the Realtors association 2010.
Member of the MLS and GAC committees of the Board of Realtors since 2004.
What issues motivated you to run for this office and what do you hope to accomplish during your term?
We must lower the cost of electricity for our citizens and for the non-city customers of Vero Beach Electric to maintain them as customers. The same with the water and sewer situation. This is not an option or a nice to have. The cost of electric power is directly affecting property values and business in the city. The problem must be fixed. We cannot continue with a “business as usual” attitude or the city will end up in deep financial trouble and the quality of life here in Vero will significantly deteriorate.
Without sounding too egotistical the bottom line is I have extensive management experience having been an executive and management consultant for companies such as Ryder, IBM and Freightliner to name a few. I was known in the corporate world as a turn-around expert. I was the person who was called in when the job had to be done and an organization needed to be fixed.
I am running against two very nice and civic minded individuals. One candidate has regretfully been a part of the problem by not reacting to the situation and taking action. The other candidate thinks all we have to do is sell the electric company to FPL for any price and our problems will go away.
What is your position on the potential sale of the Vero Beach electric utility?
I believe the electric utility is a major source of revenue for the city from the 80 percent of the properties that call Vero Beach home but do not pay city property taxes. I believe however that we must bring our rates at a minimum within 15 percent of FPL by whatever means is necessary. I also believe that not having a long-term plan to remove the eyesore of an electric plant from the center of our cities skyline and waterfront is ridiculous.
If the price and conditions were right, would you support selling?
YES, definitely all or part of the operation to FPL or anyone else.
What would keep you from supporting a possible sale?
If we cannot come up with a replacement source of income for the revenues the city will be losing and the calculated impact of losing that many jobs by outsourcing the utility.
The bottom line is the sale must be in the best interests of the citizens of Vero Beach.
Do you support considering the possibility of merging the city’s water and sewer system with that of the county’s?
Yes, especially if it gives us the option of using the river front property in other ways for the enjoyment and profit of the citizens.
What factors would you consider in making a determination whether or not such a merger should happen?
The question is will it benefit the citizens of the city. The water and sewer system help pay for the city’s infrastructure. The profit from these enterprises includes significant revenue from non city of Vero Beach Residents who benefit from the city’s infrastructure but do not contribute to its maintenance with their property taxes.
The city is currently looking for a new City Manager to replace out-going Jim Gabbard. What qualities would you look for in a viable candidate?
The job facing the city manager during the next two years is much bigger than the job will be in the future. We need an extremely qualified executive to help the council make the right decisions and to implement them. I believe we should hire a very high-powered consultant on a one or two year contract if possible. Someone who can objectively make the right decisions regarding staff and the cities direction. Someone who does not have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo and protecting his future empire.
How do you plan to work with Councilman Heady if elected to the dais?
When I interviewed for the open position last January, Councilman Heady asked me who I thought the best and worst councilman was at that time. I told Councilman Heady he was the worst. I believe Councilman Heady has some very good thoughts and ideas but he has to realize that the reason he is on the council is to represent the citizens and do what is best for them not for his own publicity. We need a council that works together as a team and with the new team that will be elected I believe Councilman Heady will no longer have an excuse not to be a team player. We have some excellent experienced and intelligent people running. We will have a dynamic professional council. Here is hoping Councilman Heady wants to help the Council really serve the citizens and solve the problems facing the city and its citizens.