Who will be the first?

Volusia County will receive its first elected tax collector in its first county-level partisan race in at least 50 years on August 18.

Following a statewide amendment vote in 2018, the county was required to create a new elective office, the Tax Collector. This and four other existing offices – sheriff, clerk of the courts, real estate appraiser and supervisor of elections – will all now be partisan races. And while none of the incumbents of the other four offices faced a challenge, two Republicans are vying for the position of tax collector.

And all of that could potentially be reversed if the county wins a legal challenge. But for now, the election is proceeding as if the changes required by Amendment 10 would take place.

THE RACE:David Santiago, a Deltona State Representative, is in his eighth and final year in the Legislature and wants his next job to be Volusia County Tax Collector. Will Roberts, supervisor at the county revenue office, is also organizing a campaign. Because both are Republicans, they face each other in the primary, and since no other candidates have entered the race, the primary will be open to all voters.

THE POSITION: Santiago and Roberts argue over a job that involves sending tax bills, collecting tax payments, approving deferrals, and selling tax certificates on properties with delinquent taxes. The Volusia tax collector will start in January and earn around $144,000.

CANDIDATE BIOS

NAME: Will Robert

AGE: 46

CITY: New Smyrna Beach

JOB: Volusia County Tax Supervisor

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: First-time political candidate

ROBERTS’ THREE MAIN PRIORITIES: Serving the people of Volusia County first. Leading a team of experienced professionals – no nepotism or special favors for jobs or contracts. Offer multiple services under one roof to provide efficiency and convenience to citizens.

NAME: David Santiago

AGE: 49

CITY: Deltone

JOB: Financial services and insurance

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Municipal Commissioner and State Representative

SANTIAGO’S THREE PRIORITIES: To ensure a smooth amalgamation between the current services provided by the county and the current state-run driver’s license division. Assess new office locations to maximize ease of customer service. Set a new bar for providing excellent customer service.

THREE QUESTIONS:

1. What best qualifies you to serve as a tax collector?

ROBERTS: I am the experienced, educated, and ethical tax collector nominee to be the first elected tax collector in Volusia County in 50 years. In addition to my service in the US Air Force and seven years as a Volusia and Seminole County Corrections Officer, I have: been certified as an Assistant Florida Tax Collector; tax collection experience – over seven years with the Volusia County Tax Office; a master’s degree in public administration; and refused campaign contributions from special interests who want to contract with the tax collector. I work for the people of Volusia County, not special interests.

SANTIAGO: My leadership and business experience in starting a new military department at JP Morgan Chase, where I managed over 100 employees, starting and selling 2 small businesses, and the relationships I created with state agencies to ensure a smooth and successful transition.

2. What opportunities have you identified to improve tax collection in Volusia County now that the county is adding a charter holder in charge of this function?

ROBERTS: I think our revenue teams with Volusia County are doing a good job, but there are always opportunities to improve customer service. The area that I think is causing the most concern for residents right now is the driver’s license bureaus, which are run by the state. Some are closed due to COVID-19. Many Volusia residents visit nearby county tax offices to have their driver’s license needs processed. Under the guidance of an elected tax collector, we can make this a friendly and convenient experience for our community.

SANTIAGO: As outlined in Priorities, I will be conducting a comprehensive review of our sites to maximize ease of customer service and overall customer service.

3. What is the most significant accomplishment you have had in public service?

ROBERTS: As a servant leader, I believe team accomplishments are most important. I have been in the public service for 21 years in positions that require teamwork to be successful. I repaired electronic systems on F-15 fighter jets in the military. Every day our pilots landed safely was a good day. I supervised 150 inmates daily as a corrections officer. When our agents returned safe and sound, it was a good day. Now I oversee the team that collects $680 million in tax revenue. When residents have positive experiences in our offices and governments have the funds to run their operations, those are good days.

SANTIAGO: My greatest achievement in public service has been my focus on serving constituents while fighting for proper representation for Volusia County in the Legislative Assembly.

Esther L. Steinbach