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2 on Vero council cite big projects in seeking re-election

Three Vero Beach City Council seats will be on the November ballot, but only two incumbents plan to run for re-election.

Vice Mayor Linda Moore and Councilman John Carroll both said they will seek second terms, and that they hope to stay on the council for essentially the same reason.

They want to make sure Vero’s five major projects – development of the Three Corners site, construction of a water reclamation facility, expansion of the municipal marina, relocation of the city’s wastewater treatment plant, and creation of a master plan for the revitalization of Vero Beach’s downtown – progress on schedule.

First-term Councilwoman Tracey Zudans, however, announced in September that she would not run for re-election and, instead, will challenge former Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss for her District 5 seat on the County Commission.

As of Monday, with the election less than six months away, no one had filed the necessary paperwork to run for City Council. Carroll and Moore said they had not heard of any likely challengers, or even a candidate for Zudans’ seat on the council.

“I keep asking: Is anyone else going to run?” Moore said. “There are three seats up for grabs, and with Tracey running for the County Commission, somebody’s got to step up.”

Despite being a strong advocate for improving the appeal of the downtown area, where she co-owns the Kilted Mermaid craft beer and wine bar, Moore said she was especially motivated to stay in office by her desire to see the much-anticipated Three Corners project move beyond the planning phase.

“Two more years won’t get us to completion, but it would get us to where all the planning is done and the project is underway,” Moore said. “I want to be re-elected so I can ensure that what’s built there is what the community wants and what the city voters approved in the referendum.

“It needs to be a gathering place for everyone – all age groups and income levels.”

Carroll, a licensed engineer and certified general contractor, also champions the city’s plan to create a dining, retail, social and recreational hub on the mainland’s waterfront at the west end of the 17th Street Bridge.

On multiple occasions, he has said of the Three Corners project: “That’s why I ran for City Council.” But he is also driven to see the other major undertakings move forward.

In addition, Carroll said he will continue to push for the city’s Comprehensive Plan to be amended to update the verbiage in the City Code to protect and preserve the character and quality of life in single-family neighborhoods, particularly on the island.

“When I first started, I thought I’d do one term and get everything accomplished, but I haven’t accomplished everything I hoped to,” Carroll said. “So I want to continue what I started – from changes to planning and zoning to making sure our major projects keep progressing and stay on schedule.”

Overall, Carroll, said, he’s mostly pleased with the council’s work since his election in 2022, though he laments the panel’s refusal in December to further reduce lanes of traffic along the Twin Pairs through the city’s downtown.

He was a staunch proponent of narrowing State Road 60 to two lanes in each direction along the half-mile stretch of roadway between the Florida East Coast Railway tracks and 20th Avenue. The council, however, voted 4-1 to approve a compromise plan with only minor changes that preserve three travel lanes both eastbound and westbound.

“That’s the way it goes in politics,” Carroll said. “You don’t always get everything you want.

But looking at all the other things I wanted to accomplish, we did pretty darn well.”

Both Carroll and Moore attributed the council’s willingness to simultaneously tackle so many major projects – ambitious undertakings that will shape Vero Beach’s future – to its makeup.

He also heaped praise on city staffers, particularly Planning and Development Director Jason Jeffries, Public Works Director Matt Mitts, and Water and Sewer Director Rob Bolton, all of whom have taken on additional duties to move the projects forward.

“You have to give them a shout-out for what we’ve gotten done,” Carroll said. “They’ve done yeoman’s work.”

As for the council’s contributions, Carroll said: “We’ve had people on the dais who wanted to get things done. If not, I don’t know how much of this would’ve happened.”

Moore echoed Carroll’s remarks, saying, “We have a really good team, and we’re getting a lot accomplished.”

Mayor John Cotugno – who is not up for re-election this year – also agreed, touting the council’s performance over the past two years and citing its ability to overcome individual disagreements and focus on the greater good.

He pointed out that this council has had few 3-2 votes, and often produces unanimous decisions.

“I’ve always thought we had a good dais,” Cotugno said. “We seem to work well together. And, when we do have differences on issues, we’re able to have a dialogue and focus on what’s best for the city.

“Each member has his or her say, then we coordinate the various opinions into a consensus, or at least a supermajority,” he added. “We’re able to do so because it’s a nonpartisan City Council that focuses results, not ideology.”

He paused briefly, then continued: “Just look at what we’ve done. We’ve become the Little City That Could. We just need to maintain our momentum.”

Moore and Carroll hope to make that happen.

The vice mayor said she has enjoyed her first term and believes the city voters value her input, which often gives voice to a sometimes-forgotten part of the community.

“It’s very rewarding, being part of so many monumental projects,” Moore said. “It’s an exciting time to be on the council, especially since I represent a different demographic.

“I’ve had a unique voice for the arts and downtown, specifically, and I think it’s important to have someone on the council who represents those concerns,” she added. “It’s also important that younger people have a voice, and in my business, I regularly engage with young people.

“That’s what’s makes this council so great – we represent a diverse slate of interests and different segments of the community.”

Carroll said he offers the council not only his engineering expertise, but he also provides a relentless reminder that schedules matter, particularly when decisions on major projects must be made by members elected to serve only two-year terms.

He sometimes gets frustrated, he admitted, with the length of time needed to turn ideas into actions. But he won’t stop pushing.

“When I got elected, my agenda was already thought out,” Carroll said. “I’m here to get things done, and I’ve gotten more aggressive in recent months – more demanding that we hold to timeframes. But I think that’s necessary.

“I wouldn’t have run if I weren’t ambitious.”

That won’t change if he’s re-elected.

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