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Brian Barefoot: Epitome of an elected official


Indian River Shores Mayor Brian Barefoot is the epitome of what an elected official should be, and that’s why he’s stepping down next week after five years of service to the town.

He’s way overqualified for the job, so he’s not wrapped up in his office. He gets no power trip from being mayor of a town of a few thousand people. “This is not heavy lifting, there are other people who can do it,” Barefoot said.

A John’s Island resident since 2008 and local property owner since 2000, Barefoot is known locally for his work with St. Edward’s School Board of Trustees during an important transition period for the school community, and with the Indian River Medical Center Foundation Executive Committee.

A consultant and professional director, Barefoot is a former Executive Vice President and Director of Investment Banking at Paine Webber, and a current director of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, as well as President Emeritus of Babson College.

With the bit of time his resignation will free up, Barefoot said he plans to travel internationally with his family, including a long-planned expedition to Tanzania in July. He’s only backing away from Shores’ government, effective April 25 –  not from his other activities.

He underscored that his work with the hospital foundation continues to be a top priority. “We’re going to keep the band together as this Cleveland Clinic thing shakes out. The people who want to keep Vero Vero, I’m sure they view this with some concern because it will bring a bunch of people in here, moving here, but the benefits of the Cleveland Clinic coming here will be substantial over the next six to eight years.”

But when it comes to the Shores Town Council and being mayor, it’s time for someone else to take over, Barefoot said, as two of his major goals have been accomplished, or nearly accomplished.

The Shores cell tower is up and soon will be operational, and Vero electric is well on its way to being sold to Florida Power & Light for $185 million, bringing significantly lower electric bills to the town and most of its residents.

“I was hoping to step down way before now, but I needed to see this electric thing through. I’m competitive and I don’t like being taken advantage of,” Barefoot said. “And it was nice to get the cell tower done.”

Councilman Bob Auwaerter said he appreciates the knowledge, the professionalism and the leadership Barefoot has brought to the council and to the mayor’s chair, and in Barefoot’s stead he hopes that on April 13 the council appoints someone with substantial financial experience who believes in running the town pragmatically like a business – big shoes to fill indeed.

“He is to be commended for his years of service to the town,” Auwaerter said.

Former Vero Mayor Pilar Turner said she appreciated Barefoot’s dedication to the sale effort, especially during some of the darker days in 2014 and early 2015 when she was “the lone proponent for the sale of Vero Electric on Vero’s City Council.

“Mayor Barefoot’s perseverance boosted my spirits and resolve,” Turner said. “With the mayor’s leadership and the support of Indian River Shores, we are now about to be free from the FMPA! All of Indian River County owes a debt of gratitude to Mayor Brian Barefoot.”

People who know him say Barefoot is solution-driven, open-minded and an extremely good listener.

That last detail might seem like a simple thing, but it’s a rare quality in politics, local or otherwise. Despite the fact that he’s probably one of the smartest people in the room most of the time, Barefoot listens way more than he talks.

When he asks someone a question in a meeting or a private conversation, he’s not setting the person up for a stinging comeback, he genuinely wants to learn from what they have to say.

Barefoot always came to meetings prepared, but was never closed off to new ideas or innovative proposals. If there was discord on a contentious issue, he would let everyone else say their piece, then he would try to bring the divergent factions – or even disagreeing colleagues on the dais – together to strike a compromise everyone could live with.

“That’s a very tough skill under any circumstances, and in Florida with the Sunshine laws it makes it even tougher,” Auwaerter said.

Despite being a busy man, Barefoot seemed always able to carve out a few minutes or more to field a question or to chat about important issues, said County Commissioner Tim Zorc. “Brian has always been very accessible to take phone calls, even though he’s a really busy guy, he would always take the time.”

He will be missed, Zorc said. “It’s kind of sad because I had a good relationship working with him on several issues,” he said.

Barefoot was elected in March 2013 and re-elected in November 2016 after the town shifted its elections from March to November, and he would have been term limited in 2020.

The person council members appoint to fill Barefoot’s seat on the council at a special council meeting on April 13 will serve until this November’s election, when Councilman Richard Haverland will be term-limited, opening up a seat, and Vice Mayor Mike Ochsner will be up for re-election.

The remaining two years of the term for Barefoot’s old seat on the council also will be on the November ballot.