In an effort to help you make informed decisions during the General Election, ABC Action News has reached out to dozens of candidates running for office. The following statements have been submitted to ABC Action News by the candidate. Every candidate was given the same set of questions. These are their responses in his/her own words.
Two terms as Hillsborough County Property Appraiser (2013-present); Four-term State Representative (1998-2006) in the Florida Legislature; Hillsborough County’s Streets & Addresses, enhancing 9-1-1 program; Hillsborough County Planning Commission, assisting in growth management planning; Circuit Administrator, Pinellas and Pasco counties, for the Department of Children and Families; Secretary of the Florida Association of Constitutional Officers (FACO); second Vice President of the Property Appraisers’ Association of Florida (PAAF); Board Member of Directors for the Family Healthcare Foundations.
Why should voters vote for you?
I am the ONLY property appraiser in the race, and I have earned my designation as a Certified Florida Appraiser. I have eight years of experience running the office of the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser, taking over an organization that had been rocked by controversy in 2012 and returning it to respect, stability and fiscal responsibility. Along with this, our office has produced a fair and equitable tax roll each year, as mandated by the Florida Department of Revenue.
I have also modernized and financially streamlined the office by introducing new technologies such as our state-of-the-art website, co-developing a one-of-a-kind desktop appraisal software and replacing an aging fleet of conventional vehicles with a money-saving fleet of leased hybrid cars. Under my guidance, my office has improved customer service and has twice earned the prestigious Certificate of Excellence in Assessment Administration (CEAA) from the International Association of Assessing Officers.
If elected, what are your top priorities?
For my next term in office, my top priorities include:
- Continue to seek ways to address the effect COVID-19 has had on property valuation and assessment in Florida.
- Improve and upgrade the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s website by introducing live, online chat/help features, offering our online homestead exemption application in Spanish and
updating the site with more intuitive and transparent property search features.
- Improve customer service/assistance by reopening branches in a safe, socially responsible manner.
- Streamline and improve our statutorily mandated task of producing a tax roll with more efficient property review and analysis features, including the use of desktop appraisal and in-the-field
- Continue to connect with the citizens of Hillsborough County through mailings and our website to ensure they are receiving all the property tax exemptions entitled to them by law.
What are three key messages of your campaign?
- The duties of the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser are vital to the citizens of the county, particularly during the extraordinary circumstances produced by the COVID-19 pandemic. It requires someone to lead the office with experience, knowledge and credibility to appraise all of the property in the county, both real estate and tangible personal property, in the most fair, equitable and efficient manner possible and not be swayed by any political influences.
- The Property Appraiser prepares the tax roll, but statutorily cannot determine tax rates— as my opponent would have you believe— or collect taxes. This office needs an ethical, experienced leader who knows the legal responsibilities of this office and someone who has a detailed road map of how to implement them. This office does not need someone with vague ideas and no experience in the field of property appraisal. Ethics, experience and knowledge of this office is needed to ensure the seamless process of producing a tax roll to provide our citizens with the services they expect and deserve from their local municipalities.
- My office has achieved so much since I first took charge in 2013, including the introduction of a new website, modern telephone system, fleet of hybrid vehicles and a cutting-edge desktop appraisal system – all of which has saved thousands in taxpayer dollars. But there is still so much more we can do for the people of this great county. New technologies and new ideas are always being introduced and we should never rest on what we’ve achieved so far. We should strive to be more efficient, improve on what we do, how we do it and, at the end of the day, always keep our focus on what’s best for the citizens of Hillsborough County.
What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?
In my role as Property Appraiser I am sworn to provide a “Fair and equitable” tax roll. As a former legislator, I am focused on sound fiscal policies, education and children & families issues.
As it relates to the role you are seeking, how has that governmental body handled the Covid-19 pandemic? What would you do differently/the same in handling both the public health risk and the economic recovery?
I have already formed a task force of subject matter experts from both the private and government sectors and have held two round table discussions with these individuals to discuss possible actions that can be taken to assist both property owners and renters, as well as the citizens who have lost income as a result of the pandemic and have not been able to fully afford to live at their property.
Some of relief proposals I have suggested include:
- Reducing the tax impact equivalent to the number of days the business was closed pursuant to emergency orders at the state and/or local level. This measure can be applied to both real estate and tangible personal property (business assets). Similar measures have taken place previously for areas impacted by hurricanes.
- Extending the due date for the tax payment.
- Waiving penalties and interest for late-filed property tax payments.
In the role you are seeking, what will you do to address issues of racism and inequality?
First, I have expressed publicly my support for peaceful demonstrations and efforts to address systemic racism and inequality. More importantly, during my terms as Property Appraiser, I have already taken proactive steps to ensure that our office’s human resource policies and hiring practices address racism and inequality.
During my time in this office, we have added unprecedented diversity to our staff, including our management team.
What motivates you to run for public office?
I have a passion for service to others, including public service. Whether it be coaching and mentoring young people on the field or volunteering for a local charity or civic association, I have always been involved to help others. I believe there is a difference between being vested and invested in the community. As a 5th-generation native of Hillsborough County, I am committed to serving our community regardless of being in office or not.