Vero's Jay Kramer seen turning attention to Tallahassee
STORY BY LISA ZAHNER, (Week of August 2, 2012)
Former Vero Beach Mayor Jay Kramer is on the Aug. 14 ballot for Republican State Committeeman, signaling he may be turning his attention to Tallahassee – and away from Vero Beach.
Kramer is running against Vincent Celano of Vero Beach, the Indian River County Republican Party’s membership chairman, for the post being vacated by Karl Zimmermann, who has served for the past 10 years.
The qualifying deadline for Vero Beach City Council falls about three weeks after the primary, so if Kramer prevails, he’ll need to decide whether he wants to remain on the council.
“I’m only going to run if I have to,” Kramer said. “If there are three good people running, then I won’t need to.”
In other words, if there are strong candidates for the three open seats who could be counted on to oppose sale of Vero’s electric utility to Florida Power and Light, Kramer suggests he will back off.
Just two weeks ago, Kramer tried to toss a monkey wrench into the delicate negotiations with FP&L by proposing the Vero council pass a resolution to send to the Florida Public Service Commission opposing FP&L’s request for a small rate increase.
“I am trying to do whatever I can to reduce rates,” Kramer stated as his reason for picking a fight with FP&L. “Instead of going after the City of Vero Beach to reduce rates, go after FP&L to reduce rates.”
The resolution went over like a lead balloon with the council. Three members – Mayor Pilar Turner, Vice Mayor Craig Fletcher and Councilwoman Tracy Carroll, slapped down the idea.
“We as a council invited FP&L,” Turner said. “This is, you know, fighting someone that you’re trying to get as a partner at this point. They are the lowest-cost producer in the state and that’s obviously what we’re trying to get to.”
Fletcher also expressed his dismay with Kramer’s pitch, saying FP&L is “the best chance we have for this sale.”
Kramer’s lone ally, Councilman Dick Winger remained silent as the council quickly moved on to talking about lifeguards on city beaches.
FP&L representatives were in the audience and Kramer’s proposal obviously embarrassed his colleagues.
With regard to the state Republican post, Kramer said he and wife Alla were looking forward to meeting people from around the state as they traveled to the various meetings and social events hosted by the party.
During his one-year term as Vero Beach mayor, Kramer said he enjoyed and gained valuable knowledge from participating in the Florida League of Cities’ mayors’ gatherings and exchanging ideas with peers from all over Florida. State committeeman would presumably be a similar learning and networking opportunity.
Zimmermann, however, said the state committeeman office is far from a glamorous or even a powerful job.
“You sit on the state committee and serve as a conduit of information from the local party back to Republican Executive Committee and essentially to assist the chairman,” Zimmermann said. “There is no compensation. You get to pay all your expenses when you travel.”
Both the Democrats and the Republicans have a state committeeman and a state committeewoman from each county. The Republican State Committeewoman is Elly Manov, who was unopposed for re-election.
It’s well-known in Republican circles that Manov has mentored Kramer and encouraged him to seek the post. There is also growing speculation that Kramer is being groomed to someday run for state Rep. Debbie Mayfield’s Florida House seat.