A Times Editorial
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 30, 2000
Ron Schultz's mouth gets him into trouble.
He routinely upsets the Citrus County commissioners when he steps outside his property appraiser role and inserts himself into commission business.
Corporations resent his scrutiny of their operations so much that they spend lots of money fighting his assessments -- usually unsuccessfully -- in court.
And just last week Schultz managed to offend an entire group of residents when he relied on a racial stereotype to make a point about how he operates his office.
Every person who has challenged Schultz for his job since the governor appointed him in 1990 has used the same word to describe him: arrogant.
Yet, Schultz survives challenge after challenge, both to his professional judgment and his personal integrity. With such a bad rap against him, the most plausible explanation for his resilience is also the simplest: Schultz is a very good property appraiser.
Despite being burdened with an oversized ego and a sometimes condescending attitude, Schultz has done as much as any property appraiser in the state to modernize equipment and methods employed by his staff, and to stay apace of a complex and growing tax roll.
Specifically, Schultz has upgraded the office's computer capabilities and made more information available to the online public. He also has helped the commission keep the tax rate down because of his dogged pursuit of revenue from corporations such as Florida Power, which operates the nuclear power plant in Crystal River.
Schultz's educational background and technical expertise are exceptional and cannot be matched by his opponent in this race, John Barnes. Barnes is not a certified real estate appraiser and, simply put, that should be a minimum qualification for this job.
Barnes is a former county commissioner and chamber of commerce executive who now owns his own real estate consulting business. He has been an untiring volunteer in the community for more than 30 years and his record of public service is admirable.
However, Barnes' campaign platform doesn't extend beyond Schultz's personality flaws and self-generated controversy. None of those criticisms are sufficiently compelling to oust Schultz from the job he has performed well for 10 years.
By virtue of their positions, property appraisers attract controversy. Schultz may have drawn more than his share, but his willingness to take a risk every now and then in order to ease the tax burden on residents should be commended, not condemned.
Schultz is nearing retirement age and he says that if he's re-elected he will complete his term and not seek another. We believe he has earned that opportunity and are confident he will continue to do all he can to improve the office before he leaves in four years. We recommend voters return Schultz to office on Nov. 7.
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