Two Brevard County commissioners plan to remove their appointees from the Tourism Development Advisory Board midway through their terms.
The decisions come following a rift between the county commission and the TDC over the commission’s 3-1 vote to approve a $30 million marketing grant to hotel developer Driftwood Capital. The grant money would come from tourism development tax revenue generated by the Westin Cocoa Beach Resort & Spa that Driftwood plans to build on State Highway A1A.
TDC members objected to the use of the 5% resort tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals to help Driftwood market the Westin Hotel and its conference facilities as part of a 30-year contract of up to $1 million per year. At a July 27 TDC meeting, some TDC members slammed the county commission for its vote on the Driftwood grant — with Commissioner Rita Pritchett sitting there listening to criticism that was partly directed at her.
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County Commission Vice Chairman Curt Smith and Pritchett say their plans to remove their appointees from the TDC have nothing to do with the TDC’s opposition to the Driftwood grant. They say they are making the move because they want to appoint people to the TDC who represent tourist sites in their own county commission districts.
Smith said he plans to replace his appointee, Julie Braga, general manager of the Residence Inn by Marriott in Melbourne, with Donald DeDonatis III, chief executive of the US Specialty Sports Association. This youth and adult amateur sports organization operates the USSSA Space Coast complex in Viera, which is in District 4 of the Smith County Commission.
Pritchett said she plans to replace her appointee, Tom Hermansen, owner of a hotel in the Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral area and current chairman of the TDC, with Therrin Protze, chief operating officer of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor. Complex. The Visitor Complex is in Pritchett County Commission District 1 and is considered Brevard County’s most popular paid tourist attraction. A hotel operated by Delaware North, which manages the visitor complex, is also in District 1.
Nominations should be approved by a majority vote of the county commission.
Acting County Attorney Christine Schverak said county commissioners should also approve a conflict-of-interest waiver for DeDonatis because the USSSA has a contract with the county and receives tax money. stay.
Pritchett is the county commission’s representative to the nine-member TDC and was appointed to the position by county commission chairwoman Kristine Zonka.
At Tuesday’s county commission meeting, Pritchett praised her fellow TDC members before telling county commissioners she planned to replace Hermansen — without mentioning him by name.
“They’re all wonderful people in there and they’re so smart. They do their jobs,” Pritchett said. “It’s not a reflection on the people that are there. I think they’re really, really smart. I really appreciate them.”
But Pritchett maintained that some of the TDC members are focused on the Cocoa Beach area, and she wants to have someone focused on her North Brevard District 1 on the TDC.
“So I take the blame for that, because I really didn’t think much of it” when Hermansen was nominated, Pritchett said. “But I really need to make this change for District 1, and it’s just about getting diversity there,” as far as geography goes.
Pritchett said Hermansen is “a wonderful person. It’s really hard to do. I’m not trying to hurt anyone or offend them. I have the utmost respect for these people. I do really.”
Hermansen said he was disappointed with the news.
“I heard while watching the commission meeting that Ms. Pritchett is planning to remove me from the TDC, assuming my businesses are not in District 1. It’s disappointing,” Hermansen said. “In my 15 years with the TDC and its subcommittees, I have always focused on what is best for the county as a whole when it comes to bed tax expenditures. My family works in tourism in this county for nearly 40 years and will be for decades to come.I look forward to serving with TDC again in the near future.
Pritchett said the addition of Protze to TDC “will be good for us because he’s going to focus on those (space) launches and those things that will bring more tourism from other parts of the country to that region. And we have a beautiful natural beach that probably also needs a little more love.”
Pritchett also told Smith at Tuesday’s county commission meeting that “the USSSA could probably use a little more representation as well” at the TDC.
Smith replied that he was thinking about it too.
Smith said he wanted DeDonatis on the TDC in part because the USSSA generates so much hotel business for the Space Coast through the baseball and softball tournaments it hosts at its Viera resort.
USSSA and Driftwood both employ the same lobbyist, Rockledge attorney Kendall Moore. But Smith said Moore had no role in Smith’s decision to replace Braga with DeDonatis.
District 3 County Commissioner John Tobia said while he sometimes disagrees with the votes of his TDC appointee, Brevard Zoo executive director Keith Winsten, he doesn’t has no intention of replacing Winsten. Tobia said it was good to have different perspectives on the TDC and the other County Commission advisory boards.
Tobia was the only county commissioner to vote against the Driftwood grant, so he and Winsten were in agreement on this issue.
County commission chairwoman Kristine Zonka, who represents District 5, said she “doesn’t plan to change my appointments at this time.”
Current TDC members named by Zonka include Christy Galzerano, general manager of the Doubletree/Hilton Garden Inn Oceanfront Hotel in Cocoa Beach; and Giles Malone, a partner at media company Space Coast Daily, as well as a partner in an event and sports management firm.
The Chairman of the County Commission is responsible for appointing three more people to the TDC – a County Commissioner, the seat now held by Pritchett; an elected official from Brevard County’s most populous city, the seat now held by Palm Bay Mayor Rob Medina; and an elected official from another county municipality in Brevard, the seat now held by West Melbourne Deputy Mayor Andrea Young.
The chairman of the county commission changes every November, so the responsibility for these appointments also changes every year.
The ninth TDC seat is held by Larry Jarnes, president and CEO of Northboro Builders, which develops commercial properties. Jarnes was appointed by then-District 2 Commissioner Bryan Lober, who resigned in April. The seat of the County Commission for District 2 remains vacant.
Members of the TDC – with the exception of the county commission representative – generally serve a four-year term. They are appointed by commissioners, subject to the approval of the whole departmental commission.
The county commission may remove an appointee with or without cause by a simple majority vote, so long as the district commissioner who originally appointed the appointee has a majority.
Braga chairs the beach committee of the TDC. Her current term at the TDC expires on December 31, 2022. But Smith is expected to replace her before then, as he steps down in November.
Hermansen’s current term expires on December 31, 2023.
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