Sawnick in prime position to become Vero’s next mayor

By Debbie Carson, Online Editor

VERO BEACH — The day before two new Vero Beach City Council members take their seats on the dais, all are weighing in on who should be chosen to lead.

The “new kids,” as new Councilman Brian Heady now refers to himself and fellow victor Charlie Wilson, both agree it is time for a new mayor, but neither wants  the job. Mayor Sabe Abell and Vice Mayor Tom White both believe now is not the time to appoint a relative newcomer to lead the city.

That could leave 28-year-old Kevin Sawnick to bring the two sides together and take the gavel if the council selects him as mayor Friday at 10 a.m. Sawnick said he would accept a nomination for mayor if it meant that he could help push issues forward that are important to the people he represents.The mayor runs the meetings, sets the tone and helps shepherd discussion, but he is not permitted to make a motion to vote or take action on any matter unless he or she passes the gavel to the vice mayor. The mayor may second a motion.

“I wouldn’t mind being mayor again,” Abell said, noting that he has not given much thought to tomorrow’s decision.

“Everybody’s eligible,” White said of becoming the mayor and vice mayor. However, he said that whoever is chosen needs to have the time available to dedicate to the position.

“It’s like a full time job,” he said, explaining that the mayor has more meetings than anyone else on the dais – with residents, staff, and visiting dignitaries.

Incoming councilmen Heady and Wilson are considering Sawnick for Mayor, both confirmed to Both White and Abell, however, said that while Sawnick is smart and intelligent, he has a full-time job and question whether or not he would have the time needed to be an effective mayor.

“You have to be retired,” White said, so you have time to meet with people. “You need to be available.”

“Our city’s at a crucial time,” he added. “You need to have somebody strong in that position.”

Mayor Abell said that as mayor, he spends an extra one to two hours every day – seven days a week – on the city’s business that other council members do not.

“There’s a lot of hours involved,” he said.

Heady said that there are now two distinct groups on the Vero Beach City Council – the “old guard” and the “new kids.” Sawnick, he said, is “some place very much in the middle.”

“I think Kevin would serve the city well,” he added, noting that Sawnick could probably help keep the council operating smoothly and make it a cohesive body.

Wilson said that the voters expressed their desire for change when they voted out incumbents Debra Fromang and Bill Fish.

“I think tomorrow” is a good time to start with change, said Wilson, who added he does not want the seat.

He added that the mayor needs to be someone with experience on council and be someone who would make people feel welcome to address the members at the dais.

“I’m leaning toward supporting Kevin,” Wilson said.

Sawnick said that he too believes the mayor has the power to make the citizens feel welcome in the council chambers.

He said that many of the young people whom he talks to are intimidated about coming to meetings or speaking to council.

“People tell me all the time, ‘I’d like to get up and speak, but I’m not sure that they won’t talk down to me,'” Sawnick said.

“When people take the time out of their busy lives to come and speak to us, we need to hear them out,” he also said. “Even though most of the time, the stuff they say might not make us happy. We have to listen to what they say and to remember that it’s not that we’re doing a bad job, but that maybe we can do a better job.”

Heady said he would be happy to serve in whatever manner the council decides — whether that be as mayor or vice mayor or regular councilman. He, too, said that he would accept a nomination for vice mayor.

However, he also believes that either of the “new kids” could serve the city as Mayor but that it would not be a good move for the city.

Whoever is selected to serve as the city’s mayor will have plenty to deal with, considering that the first official council meeting will be Nov. 17, where the council will discuss the proposed base rate changes to electric bills as well as the proposed strengthened Utility Commission.Reporter Lisa Zahner contributed to this report.

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