Shores residents may have real Council election
Running for a seat on the Indian River Shores Town Council normally is a very polite, genteel endeavor with no heated debate or vigorous campaigning.
The past few election cycles, there have been exactly the same number of candidates as seats, with no voting necessary.
The March 2011 election could be shaping up differently.
Mayor Bill Kenyon and Vice Mayor William Ahrens -- both John’s Island residents -- are term limited after serving for eight years each. Major utility issues are on tap for the 2011 Town Council, in addition to a tighter than ever budget.
Qualified newcomers are beginning to emerge and one political veteran -- known to still pull the strings behind the scenes -- is rumored to be itching to get back into the game officially. People inside and outside the Shores are interested in who will join the council that will ultimately make long-term utility choices for town residents.
Councilmen Gerard Weick and Mike Ochsner, who could run again in 2013, have made it clear that they will leave no stone unturned in getting the best utility deals for the Town. At the risk of being scolded by Mayor Kenyon on the dais, Weick and Ochsner have forced the council to re-examine its actions, the staff and its hired engineers.
Councilwoman Fran Atchison, who is serving her last 27 months on the council, has also been engaged on the issues. She said she looks forward to getting an infusion of expertise in March to help her and the rest of the council take on the complex issues that lie ahead.
When asked if prickly politics might scare some people away from a Town Council seat, Atchison said whoever is elected should be prepared to dig in and get to work.
“I think all of these things will come out in the wash, but we need to get through them,” she said.
“What I think is really important this time around, whoever runs, is that they have experience, that they have the qualifications to do the job,” Atchison said. “A strong financial background is what we need going forward.”
With about one month until qualifying deadline, it’s impossible to tell from public records who is interested in running because candidates are not asked to sign out election packets from the City Clerk as in other towns and cities.
But at least one potential candidate has already opened a campaign account and filled out his papers, another is on the cusp of deciding to run and one veteran is rumored to be calling in chits.
Dick Haverland, a John’s Island resident and former corporate finance and insurance industry executive, said he now has the time and energy to devote to public service.
He wants to serve, but he admits that he’s not accustomed to or comfortable with the glacial pace with which government sometimes operates.
“I’m not a patient person. I am more patient than I used to be, but I’m still really intolerant of slowness and I’m really interested in getting things done,” Haverland said. “I’m still frustrated by indecision.”
Haverland has served on the John’s Island board for three years, working on the Finance Committee and heading up the Golf Committee. He also had some experience on nonprofit boards.
Haverland would bring a wealth of real-world, corporate and finance experience to the council, to help strike the right balance between cutting expenses and operating more efficiently.
“’I’ve always been interested in how government works, any government,” he said. “With what’s happening in the Shores, the excessive costs we pay for water and electricity and the overall tax bill, I see that this might be an opportunity to make things better.”
Since buying property in the Shores in 1990 and retiring in 1999, Haverland and his wife, Rosemary, who is known in philanthropic circles for her work with the John’s Island Community Service League, have spent winters in Florida and summers in Rhode Island or New Jersey.
Haverland said he thinks the Shores is a “wonderful community” and he appreciates the thoughtful way the leaders have managed growth over the years.
“The Town is very capably and quietly managed,” he said.
Haverland said he would be perfectly fine with being ushered into the seat after qualifying if there are only two candidates. The idea of campaigning he finds less appealing.
“I’m not running for the experience of running. I’m running because I think I can do a good job,” he said.
Once the Town Council race launches in earnest, Haverland said he looks forward to getting out and meeting more people outside of John’s Island and learning about all the issues facing the Town.
Locals know Brian Barefoot for his work on the board of St. Edward’s School -- most recently on the fundraising campaign to pay off the school’s debt -- and on the board of the Indian River Memorial Hospital Foundation.
Motivated by what he called the “utility fiasco” and a few other key issues, Barefoot, another John’s Island resident, said he is being urged to run for a seat at the table when important decisions are made about electric, water and sewer.
“Somebody’s got to step up and provide this area some better representation than what it seems they’ve had to date,” he said.
Barefoot, who said he had been planning to run next time in 2013 when three seats will be available, would bring a wealth of business and boardroom experience, as he’s familiar with both for-profit and non-profit entities and how committees of people work together.
Barefoot said residents of the Shores are very educated and politically savvy -- and recently at least, have been very tuned in to the issues.
“There’s an art to it, the metrics are different. In a company, the metrics are purely financial,” he said.
“People are fed up with arbitrary decisions and deals cut behind closed doors, if that’s what you want to call them.”
Barefoot is not retired and still has an active consulting business in the Northeast.
He admitted that he probably doesn’t have the time to be on the Town Council, but said he will weigh that and make a decision over the next couple of weeks.
Two other people who had been rumored to be interested in running – who currently say they’re not -- are John’s Island resident Nan Warner, who spearheaded the 2010 Census effort, and Dan Culumber, owner of the Seaside Grill at Jaycee Park.
Presenting an intriguing alternative is Former Mayor Tom Cadden, a Sea Colony resident, who served his maximum eight consecutive years on the Town Council from 2001 to 2009 but now could run again after sitting out two years.
Widely regarded as an effective mayor and a political powerhouse, Cadden for more than a year has been the architect of the Town’s policies in regard to utilities.
Cadden advocated strongly for hiring GAI Consultants and was a member of a tiny “steering committee” which met with GAI and knew that draft contracts were in the works.
Cadden is very tight with City of Vero Beach officials and has come out publicly supporting GAI’s recommendation that Indian River Shores should permanently obtain water and sewer services for the town from Vero.
Shores residents, however, have been paying attention to stories about the conflict of interest inherent in GAI advising both Indian River Shores and Vero.
Now that the Town has confirmed it is severing ties with GAI amidst outrage over the conflict, Cadden could suffer at the polls.
But if voters remember Cadden as a tough negotiator, an ambassador for the Town and a skilled leader at the dais, they might take a chance on a reprise.
Cadden did not return phone calls asking for confirmation that he intends to seek a return to the Council.
Whether or not Cadden runs and is put back into officce in the March, election, he will continue to be a force in Town politics.