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CITRUS PROPERTY APPRAISER

IN SCHULTZ'S SHADOW: The longtime property appraiser's second-in-command is running to succeed him; her opponent suggests electing her will only bring more of the same.

AMY WIMMER SCHWARB
Published October 26, 2004

Ron Schultz, Citrus County property appraiser for the past 16 years, isn't running for office this year. But his name keeps coming up nonetheless.

Melanie Hensley, chief deputy property appraiser, is the Republican candidate for property appraiser. John T. Barnes, a Realtor who has long opposed Schultz's management of the property appraiser and lost to Schultz in a bid for the office in 2000, is the Democrat in the race.

Barnes has portrayed Hensley as a younger, female version of Schultz, and suggests her operation of the Property Appraiser's Office will mirror Schultz's. "I see Melanie as almost a carbon copy," Barnes said, "with her own touch."

Hensley discounts Barnes' portrayal and says that while Schultz is a mentor and supports her candidacy, she will approach the office differently. "I have the utmost respect for Ron Schultz," Hensley said. "I'm just not him."

Already, she says, she has taken steps to repair the relationship of the Property Appraiser's Office with the County Commission. Schultz's traditionally rocky approach to dealing with the commission has been replaced with a softer touch, Hensley pointed out.

The Property Appraiser's Office has helped the county organize its post-hurricane assessments, Hensley noted.

Barnes said he would work to improve the property appraiser's record-keeping. Many details on file at the office are out of date or simply incorrect, he said. "Half the property cards don't have the size of the property," Barnes said.

Barnes believes his long record in the real estate business in Citrus County would help him run the office. Hensley, meanwhile, touts her from-the-ground-up knowledge of the office and points to her expertise in property appraisal. Hensley began her career in the Property Appraiser's Office 18 years ago as a secretary, working her way up to become Schultz's second-in-command.

Barnes said he considers Schultz his main opponent but is running against Hensley because he sees her as an extension of Schultz. Had the longtime property appraiser run again this year, Barnes said, he would have challenged him again, despite Schultz's victory in 2000.

"There's that much animosity between the two of us," Barnes said of his relationship with Schultz. "I just don't agree with anything since the day he walked into this county."

THE JOB

The property appraiser determines the taxable value of land and buildings throughout the county. The term is four years and pays an annual salary of $107,118.

REPUBLICAN

MELANIE HENSLEY , 49, of Inverness, has worked for the Citrus County Property Appraiser's Office for 18 years, starting as a secretary and working her way up to chief deputy property appraiser, a position she has held for five years. She is second-in-command to Property Appraiser Ron Schultz, who is not running for re-election this year. Before joining the property appraiser's office in 1986, Hensley worked for the county tax collector's office for eight years. She graduated from DeLand High School. Hensley is a member of the Inverness chapter of Beta Sigma Phi; the Rotary Club of Inverness; the United Way Board of Directors; and a director of the American Cancer Society. She is married and has two daughters. ASSETS : home, time-share. LIABILITIES : mortgages, bank loan. SOURCE OF INCOME : salary.

DEMOCRAT

JOHN THOMAS BARNES , 57, of Homosassa, has been a real estate consultant for the past 14 years. The Atlanta native came to Citrus County in 1970 to manage a Crystal River drug store. The county hired Barnes in 1976 as the first Parks and Recreation director and in 1982 he won a seat on the County Commission. He lost his bid for re-election in 1986 and started his own consulting business. Barnes was also elected to the Citrus County Mosquito Control Board in 1977 and 1988. He lost a bid for property appraiser in 2000, when he ran against current Property Appraiser Ron Schultz. Barnes was also director of the Homosassa Area Chamber of Commerce for 25 years and has served on a score of community organizations, including the Board of Directors for the Realtors Association of Citrus County. He is married and has a grown son. ASSETS : home and land. LIABILITIES : mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME : work for a real estate agency and a consulting firm.

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