Duval County Tax Collector election: Experienced officials battle for seat

Whoever is elected will bring years of public service experience to the office.

The office of the Duval County Tax Collector now sits empty. Michael Corrigan resigned May 30 to become the CEO of Visit Jacksonville, setting up a special election for the seat Aug. 28.
The office of the Duval County Tax Collector now sits empty. Michael Corrigan resigned May 30 to become the CEO of Visit Jacksonville, setting up a special election for the seat Aug. 28.
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With four candidates on the primary election ballot, it’s likely that whether Doyle Carter, Mia Jones, Jim Overton or Lake Ray will be the next Duval County Tax Collector won’t be known until voters go to the polls for the general election in November.

What is known is that whoever is sworn in to lead the county constitutional office authorized to collect city and state revenue will bring with them years of experience as an elected official.

One is a current City Council member (Carter), three are former council members (Jones, Overton and Ray), two are former state representatives (Jones and Ray) and one is a former constitutional officer (Overton).

Having a former council member or state legislator elected to a constitutional office, one established by the state constitution rather than a municipal office, is not unusual in Jacksonville.

Of the four incumbent constitutional officers, only Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams doesn’t have the council or the Legislature on his resume.

“Serving on the council gives you kind of a kickstart because you learn how the offices work,” said Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan.

He was a council member from 1991-99 and a state representative from 2000-03, when he was elected tax collector and then served two four-year terms. He was elected in 2015 to run the elections office.

Incumbent Duval County Property Appraiser Jerry Holland was a council member from 1993-2005; elected to run the elections office in 2005 and then was elected property appraiser in 2015.

He said having been a council member gives a candidate the advantage of name recognition when they appear on the ballot for another office.

“The public gets to know you before you run for a constitutional office and voters have had an opportunity to evaluate a candidate’s performance,” said Holland.

Hogan also said being familiar to voters can give a candidate an edge when campaigning for another office, but only “as long as your name recognition is favorable.”

Duval County Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell also has two terms on council before being elected clerk in 2012.

He said serving in the local legislative branch is a way to establish a relationship with the public, but just as important, council experience gives a constitutional officer insight into how rules and laws are made and how the annual budget process works.

While 85 percent of the clerk’s office budget comes from the state, the remainder is provided by the city, so Fussell has an appointment each August with the council Finance Committee while it’s studying the proposed spending plan for the next fiscal year.

“It’s important to understand the budget process and it’s very beneficial to understand how and why legislation is made,” he said.

The race for tax collector is a special election because Michael Corrigan resigned the post effective June 1 to become CEO of Visit Jacksonville, the convention and visitor’s bureau for Jacksonville and the Beaches.

Corrigan is a former two-term council member.

If one of the four candidates gets the majority of the vote in the Aug. 28 primary election, he or she will be the next tax collector. Otherwise, the two candidates receiving the most votes in the primary will face each other in a runoff election Nov. 6.

The winner will serve the remainder of Corrigan’s term, until June 30, 2019, and will need to qualify for election and campaign for the office again in 2019.