INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Economic growth, future development and electricity were among the issues nine candidates for the Indian River County Board of Commissioners fielded Thursday evening.
Eight commission candidates attended the Indian River Tea Party’s candidate forum in person, while one, District 4 Commissioner Peter O’Bryan, participated via telephone from a family function.
About 200 people from the county attended the forum, including elected Vero Beach officials, current county commissioners and other members of the community.
Among the questions asked was what – if anything – commissioners can or should do to alleviate the unemployment in the county.
Answers ranged from attracting manufacturing businesses and hiring local workers to diversifying the workforce and nurturing the current businesses.
“We, as a County Commission, have a say so” in the direction the county goes in, said District 4 candidate Kenneth Holmes (No Party Affiliation).
District 2 candidate Dale Simchick (R) said that it is her belief that it is not the government’s role to create jobs, but rather foster an environment that is conducive to businesses.
Hers was a position both incumbents O’Bryan (R-Dist. 4) and Joe Flescher (R-Dist. 2) agreed with.
The issue of support for charter government came up during the forum, of which candidates were asked to respond with a simple yes or no. Both candidates Carolyn Corum (I-Dist. 2) and David Snell (D-Dist. 2) answered yes and no but did not clarify their positions.
All other candidates were emphatic with a resounding “no.”
Candidates were again almost unanimous with their answer to their support of inter-local agreements as they are currently being used. Inter-local agreements are agreements between different agencies or governments.
All but O’Bryan and Corum said they do not support the agreements.
“It’s worse than charter,” candidate Tom Lowther (R-Dist. 4) said.
O’Bryan said that he believes the agreements are good for the county’s governments and residents and he supports them.
Candidates were asked what responsibility – as a commissioner – they would have to their non-City of Vero Beach residents who are on the city’s electric system.
“I have 90 seconds to cover the most complex” issue candidates are facing, said Charlie Wilson (R-Dist. 2), who has been an outspoken proponent of getting Vero Beach out of the electric business.
“You can’t be a passive commissioner,” he said, noting that as commissioners, they represent 40,000 Vero Beach electric customers who do not live in the city.
Steven Deardeuff, (D-Dist. 4) said he would make sure that the county’s residents were not on the Vero Beach electric grid.
He added that he would support the sale of the electric utility, if it were a good deal for everyone – including the current electric utility’s employees.
“They’re our neighbors,” he said.
Snell said residents are concerned about the basics – shelter, food, and clothes – and, while he supports working with the city on the electric issue, asked what good is electricity if people are living under a bridge?
Republican candidates for both commission seats will square off in the August Primary and face their Democratic, Independent and No Party Affiliation opponents in the November General election.
Toby Hill, of the Indian River Tea Party, moderated the forum, which was broadcast live on WTTB 1490. He told the audience that the Tea Party has not yet endorsed any county commission candidate and if or when the organization does, it would be announced.
The 2-hour commission candidate forum will be followed Friday night with another 2-hour forum for the Indian River County School Board. There are three seats available and nine people running, including two incumbents.
District 2 Candidates
Joe Flescher – incumbent
Dale Simchick – challenger
Charlie Wilson – challenger
David Snell – challenger
Carolyn Corum – challenger
District 4 Candidates
Peter O’Bryan – incumbent
Tom Lowther – challenger
Steven Deardeuff – challenger
No Party Affiliation