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Ex-commissioner wins office again // PROPERTY APPRAISER

Former County Commissioner Mike Wells is headed back to the public life he gave up in 1992. He comfortably defeated Terry Schrader in the race for Pasco County property appraiser Tuesday night.

The winner of the GOP primary will take office in January because the Democrats did not field a candidate.

"I'm very excited," Wells said. "It was an extraordinary effort by many people. We had a story to tell. The story was that the property appraiser's office needs experienced leadership."

Schrader, 40, a political newcomer and member of a prominent east Pasco family with deep ties to agriculture, said he just couldn't compete with Wells' countywide name recognition.

"His strong west-side support really made a difference," Schrader said. "It's a hard thing to overcome. I ran a good, clean campaign. And I'm proud of that. I stand on my morals."

Schrader said the fact that Wells raised nearly twice as much money as he did hurt his ability to bring his name to voters.

The campaign between the two Republicans reflected the low-key nature of the appraiser's office. Schrader and Wells steadfastly refused to criticize each other and ran races primarily based on their resumes.

Both men have backgrounds in real estate. But it might have been Wells' track record as a county commissioner that helped make the difference.

Pasco came of age during Wells' eight, often-contentious years as a commissioner. The county virtually built a parks and library system from scratch and vastly improved its infrastructure.

Though Pasco's quality of life increased, the improvements didn't win universal praise, because property taxes increased to pay for the improvements.

Wells, 49, a native of Ohio who moved in Pasco in 1979 and now lives in Hudson, helped lead the charge for those improvements.

Wells was always an outspoken commissioner, a trait that didn't please everyone. In fact, Wells acknowledged he was a "lightning rod" for controversy.

The property appraiser's office will offer a striking contrast for the former commissioner. The office affects many county residents but generally operates out of the public spotlight.

It's been nearly three decades since anyone other than Ted Williams has held the property appraiser post. Williams, the godfather of Democratic politics, is retiring, with no announced plans about his political future.