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Mike Wells to ditch Pasco commission seat for property appraiser run

State law requires him to resign effective November 2020, opening up an election for the District 4 Pasco County Commission seat.

Pasco County Commissioner Mike Wells Jr. is again trying to follow in the footsteps of his father.

Wells Jr., 48, announced last week that he will seek the office of Pasco County property appraiser in 2020, challenging Republican incumbent Gary Joiner in a GOP primary.

Wells’ father, Mike Wells Sr., served two terms as a county commissioner and then 20 years as property appraiser, retiring in 2016.

Commissioner Wells Jr. won re-election to a second term for his District 4 commission seat last year. Under state law, he must resign his seat to run for another office and must submit the resignation letter at least 10 days before the start of the candidate qualifying period next summer. Wells said his resignation will be effective after the November 2020 general election.

RELATED: Pasco Commission 4: Incumbent Mike Wells wins big over Brandi Geoit

Wells’ planned resignation means four commission seats will be on the 2020 ballot. Incumbent Commissioners Ron Oakley, Kathryn Starkey and Jack Mariano already have filed paperwork and begun fund-raising for next year’s election. The winner of the District 4 race would serve the remaining two years of Wells’ term.

The property appraiser is responsible for determining the value of property in the county and six cities for taxing purposes and processing and reviewing applications for exemptions.

“I love my community, and I am honored to serve it,” Wells said in a released statement. “The property appraiser is absolutely essential to the overall economic health of Pasco County. The strength of the economy and the housing market hinges on an effective property appraiser. I want to do my part to make sure Pasco continues to thrive.”

Wells also is a real estate agent and a licensed boat captain.

Joiner, the first-term incumbent, pointed to his work modernizing the office’s technology, reducing homestead fraud and bolstering customer service.

"Customer service when I got here was atrocious,'' said Joiner, in a direct poke at Wells’ father. "We’ve worked very hard to put the customer first.''

Ferreting out fraud, he said, ensured fair treatment for everyone.

''We’re pretty proud of that. We’re proud of being fair,'' said Joiner, who worked more than 30 years in the Pasco County Tax Collector’s Office before running for property appraiser in 2016. His father, Gary "Buck'' Joiner, is an elected member of the Pasco Mosquito Control District governing board.

RELATED: In contentious race, Pasco voters to pick just third property appraiser since 1968

Joiner, 55, defeated former Commissioner Ted Schrader in a bruising Republican primary in 2016 and then won the general election over Democrat Jon Sidney Larkin. He acknowledged that Wells, who is not using "Jr.'' as part of his campaign, may have name recognition among voters that should be attributed to his father.

"Some people may confuse it,'' said Joiner. "He (Wells Sr.) hasn’t been property appraiser for a while, but some people may think he’s running again.''

"I’m proud of the name,'' said Commissioner Wells. "I’m proud of my dad, I’m proud of my dad’s career. I hope I can serve half as well as he did.''

Wells’ 2018 commission salary was $87,038, and Joiner was paid $151,609, according to their most recent financial disclosure forms. The primary election is Aug. 18, 2020. The general election is Nov. 3. As of yet, no Democratic candidate has filed preliminary paperwork to run for property appraiser.