In the race for a new Duval County Tax Collector, voters are spoiled for choice: there are four qualified candidates seeking to replace Michael Corrigan, who left to head Visit Jacksonville.
In fact, each one has been endorsed previously for elective office by the Times-Union Editorial Board.
Most of those endorsements were for legislative positions, however, and there is a difference between crafting legislation and running a government bureaucracy like the Duval County Tax Collector office.
Three of the candidates for tax collector are:
- Doyle Carter, a business owner with a solid track record of two separate stints on City Council.
- Lake Ray, an accomplished former councilman and state representative who currently runs the First Coast Manufacturers Association.
- Mia Jones, an equally accomplished former councilwoman and state representative who is now CEO of the Agape Community Health Center.
But the fourth candidate, Jim Overton, is the only one with extensive experience running a government organization similar to the tax collector office. And it is this previous work that makes Overton the clear choice to serve as tax collector.
Like his three rivals, Overton has also served on City Council; his top public policy achievement was leading passage of the Riverside Avondale Preservation Ordinance.
But from 2003 to 2015, Overton ran the Duval County Property Appraiser’s Office — and he racked up numerous achievements like replacing an outdated computer system for appraisals.
“We were paying an out-of-town, part-time programmer to keep the system going on near life support,” Overton noted in his written statement to the Times-Union, adding that by “quick and effective action, we saved the taxpayers a great deal of money.”
Overton’s time as property appraiser wasn’t perfect, however, as Ray pointed out when all four candidates met with the Times-Union Editorial Board.
A clerical error in the property appraiser’s office led to a $186 million overstatement of the Jacksonville Beach tax base; Overton noted that the problem was fixed and said it was not “a big deal.”
Ray also suggested that Overton’s successor as property appraiser, Jerry Holland, has been the one who has dramatically stepped up the collection of property taxes.
But Overton won an award for his work to expand the property appraiser’s public outreach program. And during the Editorial Board meeting, it was Overton who posed this great question:
If you had a 226-person office with $2 billion in cash flow — one that does 1.8 million transactions per year and services 32 different taxing authorities with almost 100 different functions — which of the four candidates would you feel most comfortable hiring to lead it?
The correct answer, of course, is Overton.
“This is not a political job,” Overton told the Editorial Board. “It’s a public administration, neutral, bureaucratic office that needs to be run efficiently and effectively.”
Overton considers the position of Duval County Tax Collector to be “a great fit, a good use of my talent.”