SEBASTIAN — The city is set to grow by 20% if the annexation of the Graves Brothers citrus lands makes it through the City Council on Dec. 14.
And although the annexation is one of the most talked-about topics among residents of the city, it’s not the only issue the seven candidates for two seats on the City Council are concerned about.
Two non-partisans seat are up for election on Nov. 8 with the seven candidates vying for election. These candidates include: Kelly Dixon, 39; Ed Dodd, 75; Damien H. Gilliams, 61; Damien L. Gilliams “Junior,” 30; Louise Kautenburg, 77; Sherrie Matthews, 60; and Charles Saint John Stadelman, 55.
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Current Mayor Jim Hill, who has served on the council since 2008, decided not to run again, citing the need to devote more time to family and his business.
Incumbent Ed Dodd, who was first elected to the council in 2016 and has served several terms as the city’s mayor, is seeking re-election. A retired computer systems executive, Dodd also served as chairman of the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission for three years.
Dodd said he supports the Graves Brothers annexation because it provides an opportunity for commercial development, something that is not possible currently.
“This effort is a game changer for the city that will provide room for development of commercial areas which we are not able to at this time,” wrote Dodd in a questionnaire for TCPalm. “My first priority will be to annex the Graves property, including the production of an annexation agreement which protects the rights of both parties.”
Charles Saint John Stadelman, chairman of the city’s Natural Resources Board, wants to find ways the annexation can be a benefit to Sebastian.
“If it (annexation) happens, it is a unique opportunity to introduce new ways of doing things that will be equitable for all, including the owner of the land and the environment and the community it serves,” Stableman wrote in his TCPalm questionnaire. He would also like the city to complete its storm water master plan and complete swale restoration to improve water flow storage.
The most controversial candidate running for election is Damien H. Gilliams, who, along with two other council members, was recalled in 2020, and convicted of Sunshine Law violations and perjury. Gilliams has appealed the conviction and is eligible to run for office since two years has passed since he was stripped of his seat.
In his questionnaire, Gilliams wrote he wants to assist with the Grave Brothers annexation that he believes is being rushed through. He wants to get the city’s capital improvement and budget under control and stop what he sees as frivolous spending. As a local business owner, Gilliams said he would work with the Chamber of Commerce to bring more business to the community. His website, www.votegilliams.com has more of the platform outlined.
Also running for council is Gilliams’ son, Damien Lee Fey Gilliams. He said via text that his top priorities include refocusing how hard-earned community tax dollars should be spent; protecting the Indian River Lagoon and its longevity; improving the community for its residents; and supporting local businesses.
Newcomer Kelly Dixon said her top priority would be enhancing Sebastian’s community relations between the young families and retirees.
“More and more young families are moving here; they have discovered what a great place Sebastian is to raise a family. I would work with members of our community to be the voice of younger families and find ways to bring our seniors and youth together.” More of her platform can be found at www.votekellydixon.com.
Louise Kautenburg has served on a variety of city committees and boards over the past 26 years, and is currently chair of the Planning & Zoning Commission. She said her involvement in the city for so long will allow her to weigh-in on important issues on day one.
“(I want) to be a fully-effective participants on each and every issue the council is presented with, to be open to discussion and able to do what is right for the city even if it is not my personal preference.” wrote Kautenburg on her questionnaire.
The final candidate is Sherrie Matthews, a retired Indian River County Sheriff’s Office and School District employee. Matthews said in her questionnaire the issues she deems most important are smart growth, smart spending and having a safe community.
“Growth is inevitable,” Matthews wrote. “The city of Sebastian will continue to grow with or without our involvement. One of the top issues coming up will be annexation. Accepting that growth and development will occur, I pledge to be a strong voice for maintaining Sebastian’s beauty and small fishing village charm as our community continues to grow.” For more information, go to www.sherriematthews.com.
Sebastian City Council
Election: Nov. 8
Voters: All registered voters who live in the City of Sebastian
Term: Two years, sworn-in at first council meeting after election
Salary: $300 per month or $3,600 annually/Mayor $450 per month or $5,400 annually
Janet Begley is a local freelance writer for TCPalm.com. If you like articles like this and other TCPalm coverage of Treasure Coast news, please support our journalism and subscribe now.