Election Day in Alachua County may be more than a year away, but five Democrats have already filed to run for the position of property appraiser for Alachua County.
The increasingly crowded candidate pool comes less than two months after longtime appraiser Ed Crapo announced he won’t seek re-election in 2020 after 39 years in the seat.
The elected candidate will be in charge of supervising land parcel and property information across the county.
Here are the candidates so far:
Kelly Suggs, of Jonesville, is an Alachua County native and Vietnam veteran. Suggs worked in the Property Appraiser’s Office for more than three decades as a senior commercial analyst, overseeing company revenues and expenses.
Upon leaving in 2010, he started his own property tax consulting firm, Kelly Suggs Property Tax Consultant, in Gainesville.
Suggs said his decision to run for property appraiser was a natural progression in his career.
Implementing an open-door policy will be the first order of business.
“In fact, the doors won’t even be on the hinges for the taxpayers to be able to come in and get the assessment they need,” he said.
State law allows property tax exemptions for education, fire protection and government services. Suggs says he will continue to examine exemptions to ensure land owners are following the law.
“In my 20 years of experience, I have heard over and over again from the taxpayers that they did not mind paying their fair share,” he said.
Wendy Sapp is an Alachua County native and mother of two, and has clocked over 18 years in the Property Appraiser’s Office.
She now works as the office’s tax roll compliance coordinator, essentially making sure all property values are correct and follow state requirements for tax roll approval. She also serves as the second vice president of Florida’s chapter of the International Association of Assessing Officers.
Sapp promises to save taxpayer's money through better use of technology and reducing replicated positions in the office, either through eliminating or combining dual jobs.
“Taxes are high enough in Alachua County, and I will do my part to run a productive and efficient office,” she said.
Sapp also promises an open-door policy for property owners to discuss their values or exemptions.
“I understand that the most important thing the office does is produce a tax roll that is fair and equitable,” she said.
For the past 18 years, Matt Geiger has been in charge of billing and collecting property taxes in the county as executive director of tax operations for the Alachua County Tax Collector’s Office. He has worked in the office for 27.
He said the relationship between the tax collector and property appraiser offices has been positive, and the decision to run is largely because the job requires interacting with similar customers.
“My goal is for the public to know the possible tax resources available to them beforehand,” he said. “I’ve dealt with seniors who don’t know they qualify for certain exemptions, and I’ll do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
He says the Property Appraiser's Office is a well-run machine and hopes to continue smooth operations with his management experience.
“The role of the property appraiser is a lot more than assessing properties,” he said. “It’s a few systems working together.”
Ayesha Solomon has worked as an administrative manager in the Property Appraiser’s Office for the past 18 years, having a hand over daily operations.
Solomon is also actively involved in a number of other community initiatives, including Gainesville nonprofits, the Alachua County Elections Office and Leadership Gainesville.
“I am part of the community, and I’m here to give back,” she said.
Solomon said she’d like to continue the efficiency of the office, and enhance certain areas needing improvement.
New technology, fair tax rolls and community outreach are the key focuses of her campaign.
“I’ve seen our growth and I see where we’re going,” she said. “Now I want to make sure we broaden our efficiency.”
Susan McQuillan is vice president of the property management division for Watson Realty Corp and has dabbled in property appraisal in her past.
Originally from Orlando, but a Gainesville resident for the past 24 years, McQuillan has worked in the real estate industry for the past 30 years. She says the property appraiser position opens an opportunity to flex her leadership skills and experience in other industries.
"My expertise of development, title, appraising, sales and property management in the real estate industry that spans over the last 30 years makes me a well rounded candidate," she said.
She said her main goal is a standard of fairness first, ensuring everyone's properties are assessed justly.
McQuillan said she wants to improve communication coming from the office and that, if elected, she’ll be a good connector to the public.
“The public doesn’t even know what a property appraiser does,” she said. “With my leadership skills and expertise, I’ll ensure we have a fair system.”
Election Day is Aug. 18, 2020.
Sarah Nelson is a Gainesville Sun staff writer.