John Emerson, 67, is a Florida native and was raised in Hernando County. Of his 40 plus years in the real estate appraisal field, 27 of those were spent working in Hernando County’s Property Appraisal Office.
He started in the office in 1988 as a commercial appraiser. He later became the chief appraiser and then chief deputy before he was elected as the property appraiser in 2012.
Emerson is a State Certified General Appraiser and a Florida Real Estate Broker. He also sits on the board of directors for the Property Appraisers’ Association of Florida.
“Any job like mine, Tax Collector, anything like that, I think it’s better to have somebody that at least worked in the office and understands it before they become the guy in charge,” Emerson said.
Jeff Huffman, 50, has been a Florida resident for 42 years and has 15 years of experience in the private sector of the real estate appraisal field.
He has past experience as a Florida real estate appraisal division manager for Wells Fargo. He oversaw a large operation of 90 staff appraisers and 240 contracted appraisers.
He is a State Certified Real Estate Appraiser and the owner of Appraise It Florida.
“I love talking about real estate and helping people,” Huffman said. “The job of a property appraiser is helping people and talking about real estate.”
Huffman said the job of a property appraiser is not about politics. Although, he is running as a Democrat, he does not take just one side.
“As a property appraiser, I’m not left and I’m not right, I’m Switzerland, I’m right in the middle,” Huffman said.
A property appraiser’s job is to keep track of all the parcels in the county, and for Hernando County there are about 127,000. This includes naming, locating and valuing all properties, real and personal.
The biggest issues facing Hernando County
The two candidates both agree that Hernando County will experience an influx of residents and businesses in the next couple of years.
“I think one of the biggest issue is getting the economy kicking up again, and probably bring in some industry, not so much residential units, to spread the tax base out,” Emerson said.
Emerson said the growth of New Tampa and Wesley Chapel would eventually bleed into Hernando County.
“The businesses in Hernando County are going to be the biggest impact because they don’t have a cap on property values,” Huffman said.
Huffman said the incoming growth to Hernando County would increase the government’s budget, which will increase taxes and put some small businesses out of work.
“You’ve got to make sure the business owners that own the land, that own the businesses know this is coming because the value is going to start going up, just like it did in 2007 and 2009,” Huffman said.
Connecting property owners with the office
The property appraiser’s office developed a Geographic Information System (GIS) to provide the county and city departments with custom maps that can contain layers of data.
For example, they created a map for law enforcement that shows any type of crime or activities that may have occurred at particular addresses.
“My office, I think, if you look throughout the state of Florida, most property appraisers don’t do all the stuff we do,” Emerson said.
The Hernando County Property Appraiser’s Office has taken over the IT needs for the Tax Collector and Development Department, which Emerson said saves the county money.
“I think my website is real transparent. I think you can see anything you need to see…everything’s out there, I think that’s one of the main reasons that we really don’t have much challenges now,” Emerson said.
Huffman disagrees and says the website is not modern enough for its visitors.
“The website is the portal to help people, it’s not user friendly – it’s not mobile, you can’t use it on a mobile app, everybody has to have mobile apps now,” Huffman said. “The interface has to change because it has to work for the people”
Huffman said he would improve the office by adding informative videos to their website and to build a social media presence in order to educate the community.
“Helping the people, that’s the biggest thing, concern, I think with property appraisers,” Huffman said. “You got to help people understand what services are available to them.”