Lober elected Country Commission chair, Pritchett elected vice chair
Bryan Lober has been chosen to lead the Brevard County Commission for the next year. County Commissioners unanimously voted — as is tradition — to elevate the vice chair, Lober, to the leadership position.
Lober will succeed District 5 Commissioner Kristine Isnardi as chair of the all-Republican, five-member County Commission.
Lober nominated District 1 Commissioner Rita Pritchett to be vice chair for the coming year, which commissioners also unanimously approved.
During his first year as District 2 commissioner, Lober’s focus has included improving the condition of the Indian River Lagoon, increasing funding for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office to accommodate “critical needs,” implementing term limits for county volunteer boards, refocusing the county’s tourism operations and strengthening regulation of pet stores.
More: County commissioners seek changes in rules affecting pet store sales of dogs, cats
More: Commission to consider rules changes for its meetings, including on civility, citizen requests
But Lober also has generated controversy, stemming from run-ins with critics during commission meetings and on social media. The County Commission and members of the public had discussions about civility that in part were related to Lober’s words and deeds at meetings and on social media.
How Lober runs the commission meetings and conducts himself as the chair is certain to be closely watched by critics and supporters alike.
His election generated immediate criticism from Brevard Democratic Executive Committee Chair Stacey Patel, who posted on Facebook after Tuesday’s vote that Lober’s social media attacks against her and others — including saying he supported abortion when it came to Patel ever having children — should have led to a censure from the County Commission, not a promotion.
“My heart hurts for this community,” Patel wrote. “I went to high school at Satellite like my mom before me, and I’d hoped I’d made my home here. But, on days like today, it doesn’t feel like home at all.”
While Lober’s social media posts have indeed generated much controversy over the last year, there has been noticeably less social media activity by Lober in recent months. Prior to his lower profile on Facebook, Lober defended his right to free speech, and said he was responding to social media comments by Patel that he said were sexist and racist.
Lober told the other board members after his election as chair that he would strive to move the meetings along “a little faster.”
“One of my goals this year is to try to move the meetings as efficiently as we can,” Lober said.
That was a bit of irony, as some other commissioners have said publicly and privately that Lober’s extended comments was a key reason why some commission meetings have dragged on.
But, true to his word, Lober did try to speed up debate during Tuesday’s County Commission meeting. He allowed commissioners to make motions to approve agenda items as they came up — even before they were formally introduced and explained by county staff — as long as no member of the public had signed up to speak on the item.
Lober’s County Commission District 2 includes Avon by the Sea, Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Kennedy Space Center, Port Canaveral and Snug Harbor, as well as most of Merritt Island, and portions of Cocoa, Rockledge and Patrick Air Force Base.
During the meeting, Pritchett complimented Isnardi as outgoing County Commission chair.
“You’ve done a great job this year chairing,” Pritchett told Isnardi. “You’re very professional, and you really moved us forward with all of our items.”
District 3 Commissioner John Tobia seemed to have a bit of a problem getting accustomed to having a new chair, twice seeking to be recognized by “Madame Chair” when he was trying to get Lober’s attention to speak on an agenda item.
When he corrected himself the second time, Tobia told Lober that “you have big shoes to fill,” after succeeding Isnardi and, before her, Pritchett, as County Commission chair.
Lober was clearly prepared to assume the chairman’s role: He had a list of board assignments for himself and the other four commissioners prepared for distribution at the meeting.
Among the more high-profile appointments:
• Isnardi will replace Lober as the County Commission’s representative on the Tourist Development Council.
• District 4 Commissioner Curt Smith will replace Lober on the Indian River Lagoon Council.
In all, Isnardi, Pritchett and Smith each were appointed to five boards. Lober and Tobia each were appointed to four boards.
Here is the full list of board assignments. Some boards include all five commissioners and some include two commissioners:
• All five commissioners: Florida Association of Counties, Transportation Planning Organization.
• Pritchett: Art in Public Places, Together in Partnership, Value Adjustment Board.
• Tobia: Election Canvassing Board (alternate), Value Adjustment Board.
Dave Berman is government editor at FLORIDA TODAY.
Contact Berman at 321-242-3649