Volusia County Chair Ed Kelley and Sheriff Mike Chitwood weren't on the Election Day ballot.
Yet when the results were tallied Tuesday night, they acted like winning and losing candidates. One immediately made a celebratory Facebook post thanking voters. The other met with a county attorney to learn how to best cope with a result that's seen as a pricey blow to the county's home rule government.
Both reactions were in reference to Amendment 10 — a measure approved by voters throughout Florida that will give sheriffs, property appraisers, court clerks and other elected department heads more control of their departments by making them constitutional officers.
[READ: Florida voters line up behind constitutional amendments]
Chitwood has wanted that authority all along. He feels he shouldn't have to work under a county charter that compels him to vet all budget requests through a manager and the council, even though they've yet to reject any of his proposals publicly.
"I feel vindicated," Chitwood said. "The voters have spoken."
[READ: Volusia sheriff, council clash over Amendment 10]
The measure, pushed largely by the Florida Association of Sheriffs, didn't get enough votes to pass in Volusia County, but that doesn't matter. Since it got more than 60 percent of the votes statewide, the county has until January of 2021 to make necessary changes to its operation before the new law goes into effect.
The county did not provide information about what's specifically required or a breakdown of cost. Kelley said the ramifications would be discussed in future council meetings. But after a meeting with County Attorney Dan Eckert on Wednesday, Kelley said he got a sense of what the county is up against.
Short answer: It won't be easy or cheap. Among the biggest revisions, the county will have to start electing a tax collector. That role is now handled by a nonelected department head who works for the county. Creating a constitutional officer to oversee those duties will require a whole new budget, extra staffing and a new workspace.
This will "destroy the county's charter" approved by Volusia voters in 1970, Kelley said. All told, the "convoluted process" to reconfigure current departments and add a new one could cost taxpayers more than $10 million, Kelley said.
Whatever it winds up costing, it's an unnecessary expense to other elected department heads who will also be impacted. Elections Supervisor Lisa Lewis and Property Appraiser Larry Bartlett see nothing wrong with the current charter-bound system they work within.
"I was against this," Bartlett said. "The way we are set up now is working fine and didn't need to be fixed. ... I didn't think it was necessary, but the voters (in Florida) have spoken and we will deal with it."
"I have not had any issue," Lewis said. "Whatever I’ve asked for or needed, the county has provided."
Fifty-four percent of Volusia voters said yes on Amendment 10, but Florida law dictates that amendments must have at least 60 percent to pass. Volusia's limited support for the amendment is an indication that voters here don't want it, said T. Wayne Bailey, a former political science professor at Stetson University who had a hand in drafting the county's charter the 1960's.
"I had a belief all along that if this were a sole issue in Volusia, it wouldn't have passed," Bailey said. But because it passed statewide, the county is now thrust into a state of "pandemonium" at the expense of taxpayers, he added.
"This reorganization will be an enormous one," he said. "And the consequences will be more than people would wish."
Yet if the vote had been taken only in Volusia — say, as an amendment to the county charter rather than the state constitution — the threshold for passing would have been just 50 percent, and Chitwood still would have had his win.
The county has fought against the amendment. Ahead of Election Day, Volusia filed a lawsuit arguing that the ballot language was misleading to voters since other, more appealing items related to veterans affairs and cybersecurity, were also lumped into it. The case was dismissed by the Florida Supreme Court.
The county could still challenge it, said Bailey, particularly considering that Broward and Miami-Dade County, which will be similarly impacted, were given a longer transition time until 2025. However, Kelley said he'd rather the county just let it go since challenging could wind up costing even more tax dollars.
"I say we just move on," he said.
The battle over Amendment 10 is the latest feud that pit Chitwood against county leadership. Shortly after taking office in 2017, the sheriff lashed out at former county manager Jim Dinneen for having too much say and input over his law enforcement decisions.
Per the charter, every new budget expense must be vetted through the manager and attorneys first, and then the County Council. Chitwood didn't like Dinneen — a point he's made very clear in profanity-laced interviews — and sought relief from this process.
[READ: War of words between Chitwood, Dinneen escalates]
After being unsuccessful in early attempts to get a charter change on a local ballot, he worked with the Florida Association of Sheriffs to get it on a statewide ballot in the form of a constitutional amendment that would give Florida elected and independent constitutional officers in all 67 counties.
Even though Dinneen resigned in June amid criticism, largely from the sheriff, Chitwood still sees the approval of Amendment 10 as a change the county needs.
"Change is good and it's desperately needed in Volusia County," Chitwood wrote on his Facebook page after the amendment passed. He also gave advice to the county council. "Don’t bog this down with any more court challenges. We can move forward to a more efficient, transparent government, and we can do it responsibly ... without dragging it out, inflating the cost and throwing up roadblocks."
With Amendment 10 passing, Kelley said taxpayers are especially fortunate that another ballot measure didn't get the nod from voters. Amendment 1 — which, at 58 percent, failed to reach the 60 percent threshold needed to become law — would have raised the homestead property tax exemption by $25,000 for homes worth more than $100,000. Local governments would have been forced to drastically cut services or — more likely — increase tax rates, shifting more of the burden on non-homesteaded properties, including apartments and businesses.
For Volusia County, the loss was estimated at roughly $7.3 million in operating revenue, Kelley said.
"We are very lucky that didn't happen, because it looked like initially it was going to be pass," Kelley said. "We could have lost $7 million, along with the $10 million" for Amendment 10.