The 2016 race for Gilchrist County tax collector pits incumbent Barbara Merritt against newcomer Donna Stacy.
Merritt, a lifelong Democrat who has lived near Trenton for almost 35 years, started working for the Gilchrist County tax collector in 1984, having previously worked in Pasco County. She said her early work there conditioned her into the “hands-on” tax collector she is today.
“I’m always at the front desk,” Merritt said. “Customers come first, and you do everything to the best of your ability… That’s the way I was brought up.”
Among the issues the county faces is the lack of resources necessary to build a facility to produce driver’s licenses. Merritt, first elected in 2012, said she has worked to expand her office’s physical space to include these facilities, but limited money from county commissioners has slowed this process.
Merritt said she takes pride in the self-funded, self-promoted nature of her campaign, opting to run on her record and her experience rather than on the endorsements of others.
“This year, I have not accepted any donations whatsoever,” Merritt said. “I don’t feel like I should count on [financial] contributors of any kind. I feel like this is something I needed to accomplish on my own.”
Her experience, Merritt said, speaks to voters for itself.
“I am certified as a Florida collector with the Department of Revenue,” Merritt said. “I have 32 years of experience here in Gilchrist County. I’ve kept up with the technology… I’m qualified [and] experienced.”
Challenger Donna Stacy could not be reached for an interview, but wrote in an email that she is running for office for the first time to represent the Republican Party on a local level. She wrote that she has worked in the travel and radio industries for over 25 years, gaining experience in bookkeeping, FCC compliance and various administrative practices.
“As [Gilchrist’s] tax collector, I will work to reduce the budget within my office,” Stacy wrote. “I also plan on looking into why we don’t have a local drivers (sic) license office in Gilchrist County.”