32963 Homepage

Want to purchase reprints of your favorite 32963 or photos?

Copies of Vero Beach 32963 can be obtained at the following locations:


Our office HQ: (located at 4855 North A1A)
1. Corey's Pharmacy
2. 7-Eleven

(South A1A)
3. Major Real Estate Offices


1. Vero Beach Book

2. Classic Car Wash
3. Divine Animal
4. Sunshine Furniture

5. Many Medical

Graves wants more pay, longer terms for Vero City Council

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER | NEWS ANALYSIS (Week of December 10, 2020)
Photo: Vero Beach City Councilman Joe Graves.

Vero Beach City Councilman Joe Graves announced last week he won’t seek re-election in 2021. Not running for a second two-year term, he says, puts him in a unique position to tackle two issues he feels need to be addressed – council pay and term length.

Being on City Council is a full-time job, according to Graves.

But it shouldn’t be a full-time job.

If serving on the Vero Beach City Council seems like a full-time job, in our opinion, you’ve greatly inflated your own importance, or that of your lofty position in city government, and you need to either forgo City Council service or learn some serious time management skills.

Apart from budget hearings in July and occasional special workshops, the council meets twice per month, typically for three to four hours. Yes, there is backup material to read through but nothing insurmountable.

Graves said council members get paid “pennies per hour” for their work, so we checked. According to City Clerk Tammy Bursick, “the Mayor receives $1,125 a month and the City Council receives $900 per month.”

So even if, by a wild stretch of the imagination, a council member spent 90 hours per month on council business, that still comes out to $10 per hour. A small cost-of-living increase might be in order every few years, but not a huge jump in council pay at a time when the city has so many other pressing priorities.

On top of that, council members are eligible for a benefit that, depending upon their age, could be worth more than their $900-per-month salary.

Elected officials can enroll in the city health insurance, and can also enroll their spouse and dependents, for a monthly fee lower than they would pay in the open market. Former mayor Laura Moss availed herself of this benefit, as have previous council members.

Also, if council members travel on official city business, they can be reimbursed for travel expenses and conference registration.

The argument that better pay would attract better council members seems silly. Indian River Shores, which consistently has an incredibly well-qualified slate of council members each year, pays exactly zero dollars for time spent in service to the town.

The two-year terms are too short, Graves says. Wrong again.

In two years’ time, it typically becomes apparent whether or not council members have what it takes in terms of aptitude, enthusiasm, attention span and temperament to serve successfully on the Vero Beach City Council. If so, they are typically re-elected. If not, they are rightfully booted out.

Campaigning for city office is not an onerous task and a huge campaign war chest is not required to successfully compete. Elections every two years keep council members out in the community and in touch with the voter – not just with the dozen or so people who show up at council meetings, or the special interests who call and email all the time.

The retail politics of knocking on doors, meeting voters face-to-face and asking for their support is an important part of the job. Recruiting volunteers to help you campaign is part of the job.

At the same time, there is no requirement that candidates run around town getting hundreds or thousands of petitions signed to qualify to run, and the filing fee is a nominal $158. If paying that fee is a hardship, candidates can file a hardship form and the city waives the fee.

City officials say they want more young people to get involved in city government, but a four-year city council commitment would hinder that effort. Two years is a more manageable length of time to commit for someone who might be upwardly mobile in their career or planning to get married or to start a family or expand a business.

Graves did not get much vocal support for his proposals from his colleagues on the dais, and it’s not likely that four-year terms would get voter support if a referendum were floated.

Keeping the terms at two years, and the council compensation where it is, prevents people from staying way too long in city office.

Turnover on the city council is a good thing. It brings fresh ideas and fresh enthusiasm to the job and allows voters to reward their elected officials for good service – or punish officials who perform poorly – in a timely manner, responsive to the issues of the day.