Friday, May 25, 2018
Politics

Voters grant new terms to three Pasco constitutional officers

It was a good night for three of Pasco County's constitutional officers, including the lone countywide Democrat, who all clinched new terms Tuesday.

Mike Olson, 67, won an ninth term as the county's tax collector over Ed Blommel, a 63-year-old retired Tampa Electric Co. executive who gave Olson his first GOP challenge in 16 years.

Olson could not be reached for comment, but he held a commanding lead Tuesday night with about 68 percent of the vote, with just a handful of precincts out.

Olson and Blommel's main policy difference centered on regional one-stop centers that would include closed courses to give driver's license road tests. Olson said the county-owned buildings were necessary for safety. Blommel said the county should lease more strip centers to be nimble and save money.

Clerk of Court Paula O'Neil, 56, cruised to victory against no-party challenger Roberta Cutting, 53, with nearly 76 percent of the vote.

"I'm just so grateful to voters and so honored to continue to be the clerk, and I look forward to bringing us further into the electronic age," said O'Neil, a Republican seeking her second term.

Cutting, who was briefly an intern in the clerk's office, accused O'Neil of sabotaging her career and failing to grant her public records requests.

Property Appraiser Mike Wells, 65, a Republican, won a fifth and what he says will be a final term, defeating Democrat Allison Newlon, a 42-year-old San Antonio Realtor.

Early unofficial returns showed Wells leading Newlon with about 67 percent of the vote.

"I'd like to thank my friends over the years," Wells said. "You accumulate a lot of friends along the way, and that's the real reward of public office." He said he plans to spend his last term "taking the office to the next level."

"When I leave it will be the finest Property Appraiser's Office in the state of Florida," he said.

During the campaign, Wells pointed to the property appraiser's website, which has drawn 1.9 million unique visitors since it was created in 1999. He said over the years, more information has been available online and property owners are able to do more transactions there, such as apply for homestead exemptions.

Wells expects to save $10,000 to $20,000 with the service. He says over the years he has saved taxpayers money and expects to return more than $700,000 to the county this year. He also has downsized the office from 72 positions to 47.

Wells expects that trend to continue as technology improves.

Wells also said he has met with County Administrator John Gallagher to discuss returning office space from the appraiser's location on Little Road.

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