Volusia County Tax Collector Will Roberts takes office after 2020 win

DELAND – Volusia County’s first tax collector in 50 years took over on Tuesday, starting a one-year transition to take on all office functions from collecting property taxes to issuing driver’s licenses, deeds of birth and concealed carrying permit.

Will roberts sworn in on the steps of the historic Volusia County Courthouse, with a small crowd of somewhat socially distanced elected officials, staff and family. The temperature slowly climbed from an overnight low in the 1940s.

“For the guy with the most unpopular job in the county, that’s a pretty good turnout,” said a smiling Roberts after pasting a print of his new office logo over the Volusia County seal on his podium.

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Roberts said he was visiting every tax collector’s office on Tuesday to swear in his new staff of 56 former county employees, whose work has already started.

“I am so lucky to have a team of people who are ready to roll up their sleeves and work hard for the people of this county,” said Roberts. “In addition to our busiest time of year, our tag and title team worked overtime for two consecutive weekends to secure the transfer of over 900 tags and titles from our sheriff’s vehicles. “

The main office will remain in DeLand, and the tax collector has also taken control of the Daytona Beach, Orange City, and New Smyrna Beach branches. Roberts said putting an office in Deltona is a priority.

“It is the largest city in Volusia County. We really have to provide service to these people, ”said Roberts.

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The tax collector’s office took care of the vehicle registration and title work, the collection of property tax and the issuance of hunting and fishing permits.

Roberts has announced that they will take over the state driver’s license offices in Orange City and Daytona Beach by early 2022. This year, Roberts hopes to start issuing concealed birth certificates and transport permits.

“I see this as a huge opportunity for Volusia County,” said Roberts. “It’s convenient to do multiple things in one trip. “

Private label agencies can no longer provide services now controlled by the collector, although Jason Strochak, who runs three private label agencies in Volusia County, has sued Roberts in an attempt to stay in business.

Strohak wrote Roberts a letter offering to stop charging fees to individuals, while continuing to bill car dealerships, but Roberts said he would not respond given the ongoing litigation.

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Roberts said private tagging agencies are not included in his vision and surrounding counties are not for a reason.

“This model works in 64 of Florida’s other counties,” he said.

Roberts said his office will start soliciting customer service feedback in 2021 and asked for patience during the transition.

“As you can see, we have big plans. Big projects with big changes take time, ”said Roberts.

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Volusia County has not had an elected tax collector since 1970, when the County Self-Government Charter was established. Tax collection was the responsibility of the appointed county manager.

Two years ago, voters in Florida passed Amendment 10, which bundled several proposals, including a requirement that each of the state’s 67 counties elect five independent constitutional officers. Volusia County already had a sheriff, an election supervisor, a court clerk and a real estate appraiser.

The county has taken legal action to avoid the Amendments to Amendment 10, but a circuit court judge and an appeals court have ruled that Amendment 10 applies. They did not take the case to the Florida Supreme Court.

“Many county governments and those in the tax collection industry are closely monitoring this transition. What we do here in Volusia County will have a significant impact on how it works, ”said Roberts. “I am very aware that we are under the microscope and I am ready to take on this challenge and this responsibility.”

Miami-Dade and Broward counties had until January 2025 to complete their transitions.

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New County President Jeff Brower called it a historic day.

“I am delighted to be working with him in this transition. I am delighted to be his friend, ”said Brower.

He said the two met in the summer of 2019 when Roberts was collecting signatures to kick off his campaign. Brower said Roberts struck him as a man of integrity who genuinely cared about his job.

Roberts worked for the county Revenue Department for seven years before running.

“He actually loves what he does. He loves numbers and he wants to serve people, ”Brower said.

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Roberts won 60% of the vote in the August primary, beating former state representative David Santiago.

Several officials representing Volusia County attended Tuesday’s ceremony, including State Senator Tom Wright, New Volusia County Councilor Danny Robins, Election Supervisor Lisa Lewis, Real Estate Appraiser Larry Bartlett, the Mayor of Deland Bob Apgar and the Mayor of Port Orange Don Burnette.

Esther L. Steinbach