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Carroll wins; Winger ousts Brian Heady

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER, (Week of November 10, 2011)
Photo of Tracy Carroll.

With Tuesday night’s City Council victories by incumbent Tracy Carroll and newcomer Dick Winger, the focus quickly shifted to the man who will be in the middle – whether figuratively or literally – of two warring factions on the council dais.

That man seems likely to be Craig Fletcher.  Get used to saying Mayor Fletcher.

With Carroll and Vice Mayor Pilar Turner, who support barreling ahead with sale of Vero electric, lining up against the more circumspect Winger and Mayor Jay Kramer, Fletcher would seem to hold the key to whatever happens over the next year.

Fletcher said he wouldn’t support Kramer for re-election as mayor because he feels Kramer “turned pretty quick” from the tenets he used to get elected. That means Kramer seems unlikely to be able to get the three Council votes needed to hold the position for a second term.

“Jay Kramer will not be mayor next week,” said leading vote-getter Tracy Carroll.  “Jay has been a definitive disappointment to the ideals he ran on and to what he promised the city residents a year ago. He’s been a big disappointment.”

Newly elected Winger also said he does not want to be mayor.  With it hard to see where either Carroll or Vice Mayor Turner would get the votes to become mayor, that leaves Fletcher as the most likely possibility.

Fletcher has been an advocate of the sale of the electric utility from early on, once saying he favored selling off Big Blue for scrap at 18 cents per pound if that’s what was necessary.

But he hasn’t been the target of those looking to keep the utility. That may serve him well when the City Council elects Vero’s Mayor for the coming year next Monday.

With his ties to Vero Beach going back many generations and his close connections to Vero's “old guard,” Fletcher’s strong voice on the sale, as the consummate insider, has been more palatable to the city establishment than that of Carroll or Turner.

Both backers and opponents of the sale of Vero electric may rush to nominate Fletcher as mayor to curry his favor – and his vote on tough issues.

“I would love to be mayor again if they want me to. It is honorary, but if you do it right, you can control the meetings,” Fletcher said.

By control, he means keep the meetings to a reasonable length and prevent the circus-like atmosphere that has sometimes taken hold at City Hall.

“If I became mayor again, you would have a little more courtesy and decorum in the meetings,” Fletcher said, adding that “you would hear the gavel” when things got out of hand.

“’Can you tell me where you got those facts?’ is going to be a really strong statement for the rest of the year,” said Fletcher, referring to his belief there’s no room for unattributed or possibly misleading information to stay on the record.

The mayor, whoever he or she may be, normally spends more time with city staff than other council members. Fletcher said he would welcome the chance to work more closely with City Manager Jim O’Connor, but said he would not be co-opted or taken in by the staff.

“The chances of that would be about zero to minus 10,” Fletcher said. “I’ve never been intimidated by anybody on that staff and I think they’re aware of that.”

Carroll said that even with the loss of Brian Heady from the Council, she still feels there is a solid voting block committed to pushing through the sale of Vero electric to FPL.

“The three of us – Councilman Fletcher, Vice Mayor Turner and myself – still continue to stand staunchly in the sell crowd. Craig has truly supported most of my issues. He has really come forward strongly, especially lately on FPL,” Carroll said.

“I think whoever is the mayor would require that the Council follow the rules that we’ve instituted for ourselves,” Carroll said, referring to backup documentation the Council must submit to place an item on the agenda.

“I am all about efficiency and speakers at the podium are meant to get directly to their point and to be succinct with their comments,” Carroll said. “The mayor chose to never use the gavel and let residents and non-residents speak as long as they wanted.

"For the last two years I have received the top number of votes and I have never wavered in support from what the voters put me in office to do, which is to move forward on the sale to FPL and to represent the businesses and the families of the City of Vero Beach," Carroll said.

Winger said he felt buoyed by his election. “I care about Vero Beach and that resonated with the people. We have a very special place here and I think people trusted me to keep it special and if anything make it better,” said Winger, commenting on his key to victory.

In regard to the timing of a sale, Winger said, “All I can tell you is that it will take some time, because it is very complicated. I will have a better idea once I sit down and get the details from Jim O’Connor, who is the one who should take the lead on this. But I know it will take time to deal with all the contracts and negotiations.

Winger said he doesn't know who the next mayor will be. "It won’t be me,” he said.

At the beginning of Election Day, Councilman Brian Heady said via e-mail from Haiti that he would be disappointed should he not be re-elected. Upon hearing Tuesday evening that he would not be returning to his seat on the dais, he said simply, “My work load has been cut dramatically.”

Ken Daige could not be reached for comment Tuesday night. With three losses now under Daige’s belt, his distant last-place showing could presumably be his political epitaph.