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Weick, two newcomers elected to Town Council in the Shores

STORY BY MEG LAUGHLIN, (Week of March 14, 2013)
Photo: Candidates (from left) Mike Ochsner, Brian Barefoot, and Jerry Weick wave signs before the polls close.

Two John’s Island candidates – Tom Slater and Brian Barefoot – along with incumbent Jerry Weick were elected Tuesday night to fill three available seats on the Indian River Shores Town Council.

Incumbent Mike Ochsner was defeated along with John’s island candidate Chuck Wurmstedt.

Slater, who spent the least on his campaign ($45), received the most votes: 998, which was close to a third of the votes. Barefoot, who spent the most on his campaign ($3,556) received 984 votes – also about a third. Weick, who spent $418 campaigning, received 375 votes – just over 12 percent.

Ochsner received 338 votes (or 11 percent), after spending $137 on his campaign. John’s Island candidate Wurmstedt received one more vote than Ochsner and spent $1,925 campaigning.

Poll watchers estimated that more than 1,250 people voted in the election. Each Shores resident could vote for three candidates, which explains why the total vote hit 3,044 votes.

Issues in the campaign ranged from whether the town should have a cell phone tower for better connectivity for residents to what to do about retiree monthly pensions and whether the age of the candidates mattered.

The three winners all wanted a cell phone tower for residents, but were sensitive to concerns that it not be placed in an area that upset residents.

Wurmstedt agreed with them, but Ochsner thought a cell phone tower for residents' personal calls was not necessary as long as cell boosters in police cars worked.

Currently, two locations for a cell tower to improve residents’ reception are under consideration: one next to the CVS on A1A on county property, the second north of there in Indian River Shores at a location that has yet to be disclosed.

Another election issue on retiree pensions focused on three former employees, who stand to have their monthly pensions replaced by a lump sum payout, equal to about nine years of their monthly checks if the vote to do so is not rescinded by the council March 21. The retirees clearly are upset by the possible replacement – though one said she would consider an increased lump sum payout.

Both Slater and Barefoot said that they would vote for lump sum payouts if the amounts could be increased from what was already suggested. If the amounts couldn’t be increased, both said they wanted the retirees to keep getting the monthly checks.

 Weick favored keeping the monthly checks along with Ochsner and Wurmstedt.

Age became an election issue when Wurmstedt tossed his hat in the ring right at the time the pope resigned, saying his advanced age (85) made him unfit to continue.

Wurmstedt, who just turned 90, repeatedly said he felt he was as sharp and fit as ever, and should be elected. Whether age ultimately mattered is debatable because the youngest candidate, Ochsner, 65, was also defeated.

As for the future of the town, winners and losers had comments:

Barefoot, retired president of Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., said he believes his extensive business knowledge – as president of a top business school and also as an insurance executive – will help the town make wiser financial decisions in the future.

Slater, a retired Cleveland CEO, said he thought he could contribute to the council because of his strong belief in being informed and thoughtful as opposed to “cramming decisions down people’s throats.”