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Incumbent Charles W. Thomas keeps seat as Pinellas County Tax Collector

The Republican faced tech business owner Joseph Saportas, a Democrat.
Republican Pinellas Tax Collector Charles W. Thomas and Democratic challenger Joseph Saportas.
Republican Pinellas Tax Collector Charles W. Thomas and Democratic challenger Joseph Saportas. [ Charles W. Thomas, Joseph Saportas ]
Published Nov. 4, 2020|Updated Nov. 4, 2020

Pinellas County’s tax collector will keep the job four more years, according to unofficial results Tuesday.

Republican incumbent Charles W. Thomas got 60 percent of the vote against his Democratic challenger, insurance broker and technology consultant Joseph Saportas.

“I am really honored to be able to continue serving my residents," Thomas said Tuesday night. “I have the best tax collector’s office in the state of Florida, and with them we can do anything.”

Thomas, 63, served as the office’s deputy for 16 years. When then-Tax Collector Diane Nelson retired in 2016, he was her successor for the job.

His challenger, Saportas, 72, is an agent and broker at Saportas Insurance & Consulting and also a consultant in commercial lighting and LED technologies. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Both candidates emphasized customer service for residents who rely on the tax collector’s office for driver’s licenses, car registrations, fishing and hunting licenses and other business.

Earlier this year, Thomas pointed to a 98.6 percent 2019 customer satisfaction rate, a score he said was reached by reviewing thousands of customer comment cards. The office won the Governor’s Sterling Award in 2013 and the Governor’s Sterling Sustained Excellence Award in 2016 and 2020.

Thomas has added mobile registration renewal kiosks for customers at several locations. He was endorsed by local Republicans including Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

Saportas' campaign emphasized “customer service first” and included goals of dramatically reducing wait times and streamlining for better efficiency. It also touted Saportas’ business management experience.

“Tax payments and long wait times shouldn’t be synonymous,” his website said.

Saportas has also worked in the Jacksonville mayor’s office, where he analyzed city federal programs.

Nelson, the former tax collector who recruited Thomas to be her deputy back in 2000, supported his 2016 run, but this time switched that support to his Republican challenger in the primary, former employee Joyell Bobala. Bobala said she ran against him partly because of a lack of trust and transparency and "a demoralizing internal culture.”

Thomas defeated Bobala in the primary election.

The tax collector’s office oversees more than $1 billion in tax revenues yearly.

The job pays $170,065.

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