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Vero Council incumbents Fletcher, Turner, Kramer all win re-election

STORY BY EILEEN KELLEY, (Week of November 8, 2012)
Photos of Jay Kramer, Bobby McCarthy with Craig Fletcher (center) and Pilar Turner (bottom)

The three incumbents in a seven-person race for Vero Beach City Council can forget about packing up their paperwork and cleaning out of the city offices because all retained their seats Tuesday evening.The race was expected to be a referendum of sorts on how voters feel about selling the Vero Beach municipal electric system. If that's the case, voters brought back two incumbents who favor the sale – Pilar Turner and Craig Fletcher.

Together with Tracy Carroll, who has a year remaining on her term, the three form a solid majority in favor of selling Vero Electric to FPL.

Voters also returned Councilman Jay Kramer, who opposes exiting the power business and favors a partial sale of county electricity users to FPL – even though FPL has never expressed even the slightest interest in such a deal.

Kramer also wants city voters to make the final decision on whether the plant should be sold in a referendum – an idea voted down a couple of months ago but sure to resurface in the days ahead.

By a mere 38 votes, Fletcher topped Mayor Turner as the biggest vote getter even though he raised less than half of what she did with $4,060 in campaign contributions.

In the race, Fletcher got 3,450 votes, Turner garnered 3,412 while Kramer picked up 3,318 votes.  In this race, the top three vote getters earn seats on the council. “It feels good. I really feel happy. We are really blessed,” said Fletcher. He said he was always confident but never 100 percent sure he’d pull through.

“Now we can get on with the business of the city,” Fletcher said.

“It is a privilege and an honor once again to serve the people of our city,” said Turner while celebrating with fellow Republican Women at a party in Grand Harbor.

With Turner and Fletcher retaining their seats, the prospects that the sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power & Light for $179 million will be consummated look pretty good.

But interestingly, the candidate that took the strongest position in favor of the sale – Dan Stump, a political newcomer but former president of the Indian River County Taxpayers Association – came in fifth trailing perennial candidate Brian Heady.

“I cannot understand it,” said Mark Mucher, who spent Tuesday standing along roads holding up signs with the names of the most ardent supporters of selling the electrical utility – Turner, Fletcher and Stump.

“If (city voters) know anything about the slate, why they would vote for Pilar and not for … (Stump) because they are like minded,” said Mucher, a member of the Indian River County Taxpayer’s Association.

The Council race was Heady's second in three months. He and Nick Thomas, who finished a distant sixth, both were soundly beaten by incumbent County Commissioner Bob Solari in August's GOP primary.  Thomas was one of the last to throw his name into the City Council race this year.

Fletcher, Turner and Kramer will be re-sworn in Friday morning and rejoin Councilwoman Carroll and Councilman Dick Winger when they select a mayor and vice mayor. 

The next regular City Council meeting is  Tuesday when Winger said he will ask his fellow city council members to vote on whether to bring the sale of the electrical utility to the voters in a form of a referendum. Considering that the makeup of the council has not changed, it is not likely that the referendum will pass next Tuesday.

Fletcher said he’s not totally against a referendum, but one cannot be held until voters can be told exactly what is at stake.

“The next thing to come out of the gate is a contract,” Fletcher said. “I am not going to vote on a referendum until we have a contract in front of me and know the terms. That is not very businesslike. It is like buying insurance and saying, ‘OK give it to me I’ll read it later.’ Hello?”

Kramer did not return phone calls.