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City Council member Neville says he’s undecided on re-election bid

STORY BY RAY MCNULTY (Week of July 13, 2023)

Vero Beach City Council member Rey Neville said last week he doesn’t know whether he will seek re-election in November, and he might not decide until shortly before the candidate qualifying period ends on Aug. 18.

“I’ve been giving it a lot of thought, but I haven’t completely made up my mind yet,” Neville said. “It’s a real commitment, and I’ve done four years of it. But my decision could depend – to some degree, anyway – on who’s going to get into the race.

“I want to see who else is running,” he added. “If somebody decides to run that I think would overturn some of the things we’re trying to do, I could jump in.”

Might the fate of the proposed Twin Pairs lane reduction on State Road 60 through downtown Vero Beach get him on the ballot for a third term?

Neville, who favors the controversial change and appears to be the swing vote on the current council, said he wasn’t expecting the question.

“Hmmm … You’ve caught me flat-footed with that one,” he replied, as he made a tactical retreat. “I can’t make a commitment one way or the other right now. I don’t want to say one thing and do another. Right now, nothing is certain.”

Besides, Neville added, there’s no need to rush into a decision.

Two seats will be on this year’s ballot – those now held by Neville and Mayor John Cotugno – and, as of Monday, only Cotugno and former council member Honey Minuse had filed to run.

Cotugno, who was the top vote-getter in 2021, filed to run for a second term on May 12. Minuse, who lost her re-election bid last year, filed on June 15.

“We’ve got plenty of time,” Neville said. “When I filed last time, it was close to the end of the qualifying period. I’ll probably wait until the end again this time. Even if I wait until the last day, there will be enough time to campaign.

“It’s a small town.”

Neville said he was “just being coy” when he waited until Aug. 31 – three days before the end of the qualifying period – to file in 2021. He would go on to win a second term by finishing second to Cotugno in a seven-candidate race for two council seats.

But Neville said he’s less certain he’ll run this year, and he’s not sure if he still has the political support that carried him to victory in his first two campaigns.

Also, Neville said he has a girlfriend and, still healthy enough at age 81 to enjoy his walks across the Barber Bridge, he’s tempted by the freedom to travel.

“It’s not so much the time commitment as it is the fact that you’ve got to be here every two weeks for the meetings,” Neville said, adding, “Other than during Covid, I’ve missed only one meeting.”

If no one else enters the race, Neville could face a difficult decision – because he and Minuse don’t agree on the future of the Twin Pairs. She opposes the lane reduction plan and is concerned that such a drastic measure will prompt motorists to seek alternate routes through adjacent residential neighborhoods.

She believes any changes to the roadway’s configuration should be part of the promised master plan for the downtown area and, in the meantime, the less-intrusive traffic-calming measures approved by a previous council should be implemented.

Neville, who was 8 years old when his family moved to Vero Beach from Connecticut in 1950, contends the lane reduction is necessary to create additional parking and make the city’s downtown more walkable – both of which he believes would help revitalize the area.

Neville, Minuse and Cotugno all support the approved Three Corners project to transform 33 city-owned acres on the west end of the 17th Street Bridge into a waterfront dining, social, retail and recreational hub.