Sebastian Council candidates vow to improve economy, keep taxes low

SEBASTIAN – The six Sebastian candidates seeking two seats on the city council dais told the 50-strong audience that they would work to improve the city’s economy and keep taxes low.

The candidates, who include two incumbents and four challengers, squared off in a forum sponsored by the Sebastian Property Owners Association.


They fielded questions ranging from what they don’t like about the city to where they would cut expenses to keep the budget balanced.

Other questions included their thoughts on the city’s potential return on investment of the working waterfront project on Indian River Drive (watch related video) and if they believe the Sebastian City Council should sit as the Community Redevelopment Agency.

Over the course of the nearly 90-minute long forum, candidates told the audience on multiple occasions they want the chance to help jumpstart the city’s economy, help bring new businesses to the area and not hike taxes.

For each, those items were the candidates’ highest priority.

Harvey Wheeler mentioned his Sebastian Works 2011 plan, which would call for a “jobs summit” amongst the five members of council to devise a game plan for sparking economic stimulus.

“We can’t wait for Washington (D.C.)” to fix the city’s problems,” Wheeler said.

Among his other top priorities include making the working waterfront project “doable” and making the city more handicap friendly.

Damien Gilliams said that as a councilman, he would work to jumpstart the mom-and-pop shops in town and help stabilize property values.

“I can make change,” Gilliams said.

On the dais, Gilliams told the audience, he would make sure that all people have equal access to the meetings and be allowed to speak.

“I represent the people,” he said.

For Joe Scozzari, cutting the city’s discretionary spending and taxes are his highest priorities, and creating a framework to bring businesses to the city.

Incumbent and Vice Mayor Jim Hill said that his top priority is to continue the leadership that has cut government spending and taxes and yet has a vision.

David DeVirgilio said he’d like the City Council to better utilize its economic development coordinator – Airport Manager Joe Griffin – who serves as a liaison between incoming businesses and the city’s departments.

He added that, as a councilman, he would push to have the city look into the Growth Management Department to see why businesses are not coming in.

“Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. And how do we get them?” Incumbent and Mayor Richard Gillmor said, addressing the forum question about highest priorities.

Gillmor said that the city should contact businesses located in the northern states to entice them to move to Sebastian. He explained that many businesses are not site-specific.

He also said that the city should also work to bring retirees to the city – a measure he has suggested in the past – explaining that they would be bringing their pensions with them, which is new money for the city.

The Sebastian Property Owners Association is the first of two candidate forums for the Sebastian City Council candidates. The next one will be Oct. 28, at Sebastian City Hall, sponsored by the Sebastian River Area Chamber of Commerce. That forum will be held at 7 p.m.


Early voting has gotten underway. Before heading to the Historic Sebastian School, Main Library or the Supervisor of Elections Office to cast your ballot before Nov. 2, check out’s Elections 2010 Section.

There you will find profiles and questionnaires for each of the six Sebastian candidates, and on-camera interviews addressing Sebastian issues.

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