MAY VOTER GUIDE | Duval Property Appraiser 

Published on April 21, 2023 at 3:21 pm

One countywide elected office on the ballot May 16th is Duval County property appraiser.

The runoff is between former Florida state Rep. Jason Fischer, a Republican, and current Jacksonville City Council member Joyce Morgan, a Democrat. In the first election in March, Morgan netted 47.6% of the vote to Fischer’s 30.6%, as Republican Council member Danny Becton took 21.7%. 

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Morgan and Fischer are vying for a position that leads a staff that establishes “the value of your property each year,” reviewing and applying exemptions, limitations and classifications that may reduce a property’s taxable value, according to the Florida Department of Revenue. 

Current Duval Property Appraiser Jerry Holland says ideal skills include being an experienced manager of people with a staff of 110 in the office.

Fischer, a former state lawmaker and Duval County School Board member, says his business background “matches well with the office.” He is endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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“Over 52% of the people voted for Republican candidates; only 47% of people voted for the Democrat candidate,” he says about the March election. “It looks like folks are voting for the Republican candidates on all the ballots, including our race. We are very encouraged by those numbers.”  

For Morgan, a former journalist who’s served two terms as the District 1 City Council member representing Arlington, the results of the March election confirm she “was the choice.” She says she has “picked up the pace” of campaigning since March, trying to connect directly with the voters to get them out on May 16th after what she called a “dismal” turnout of just over 25% of registered voters on March 21st.

“We are just trying to meet them where they are, call and text them, just make those personal contacts with the voter to encourage them to exercise their right because as we all know, voting is a privilege,” Morgan says.

Both candidates spoke with Jacksonville Today in interviews and completed our questionnaire. 

Editor’s note: Candidate Q&As have been edited for brevity. Candidates are listed here in the order they appear on the ballot. 

Jason Fischer, REP

Fischer | Courtesy: campaign website

Jason Fischer is a Jacksonville native who worked for Florida Power & Light and CSX Transportation and was a civilian engineer with the U.S. Navy. He was on the Duval County School Board from 2012 to 2016, and then was elected to the Florida House of Representatives representing part of Jacksonville from 2016 to 2022. He also served on the city’s Value Adjustment Board. He announced a run for Florida’s newly drawn 4th Congressional District before dropping out last year to run for property appraiser. Last June, Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted that Fischer “has been a strong supporter of our Florida Freedom Agenda and I’m glad to support him” in the property appraiser race. According to his legislative bio, Fischer is married with three children. 

“I am the only candidate in the race who has professional experience that overlaps with the job,” Fischer said. “I am an engineer by background, and I have a specialty in technology, particularly with mapping systems, which is actually a major part of the role of a property appraiser. … And as a member of the Legislature, I helped property appraisers across the state, making it easier for their offices to operate, and make it more seamless between their office and the state.”

Q: Why are you running?

A: I am running for property appraiser because I believe I am the most qualified and experienced 
candidate to serve the citizens of Jacksonville. I’m an engineer and a problem solver. I am committed to using my knowledge, skills, and experience to ensure that property owners receive a fair and just appraisal of their property, while also instilling a culture of customer service and efficiency in the office. I am committed to defending property rights and limiting government to its proper role.

Q: What are your qualifications to run?

A: I have served in different roles, both public sector and private sector, that have prepared me to lead this office. My service on the Value Adjustment Board gave me direct knowledge of the process. My work in the House of Representatives where I helped the property appraisers with legislation and appropriations, gave me an understanding of the needs of the office, and my work as an electrical engineer prepared me for the major technology shifts that need to happen. I also happen to have the trust and support of elected and appointed property appraisers across the state.

Q: How will your previous civic and elected representative experience help you if elected?

A: I have the professional and civic experience necessary to hit the ground running. As I outlined in the previous question I have the trust and support of elected property appraisers around the state because I’ve worked them while I was in the House of Representatives to improve the efficiency of the process, to bring clarity to state law that streamlines and makes their jobs easier, and also secured funding for technology projects that bring the profession into the 21st century. I served on the Value Adjustment Board which handles the appeals process of the property appraiser, and I had a track record of siding with citizens who brought up valid concerns about the process. I have always been an advocate for citizens and taxpayers, and I plan to continue to fight for them as the next Property Appraiser.

Q: What issues do you foresee in the appraiser’s office that might need addressing?

A: The property owners of Jacksonville deserve a property appraiser who will give them a fair and just appraisal of their property. The office needs significant technology upgrades, both in the office and the customer facing side. Personnel is an issue with any organization and it’s something that will be evaluated to make sure that the right people are on the bus and in the right seats. I plan to bring together an advisory team of property owners, developers, Realtors and others to help make suggestions on efficiencies and improvements that might be currently overlooked. 

Q: Is the current economic situation going to affect the way the Property Appraiser’s Office operates?

A: The economic situation always impacts the outcome of appraisals; in times of growth they grow and times contraction they should contract. As far as how the office operates, my goal is to maintain a fair and just assessment regardless of the economic winds. 

Joyce Morgan, DEM

Morgan | Courtesy campaign

Joyce Morgan has lived in Jacksonville for more than 30 years. She was first elected in 2015 to the Jacksonville City Council to serve District 1 in Arlington. Morgan is leading a Council initiative called “Safer Together” that brings together community and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office members. She also represents the Jacksonville City Council on the Florida Association of Counties Board of Directors.

Morgan was previously a news anchor on News4Jax and the CW. She has also worked as a freelance consultant for the North Florida TPO and served as Ft. Caroline Elementary PTA president. 

Morgan says she has “a clear understanding” of what the property appraiser’s office needs and believes she has the background for the job. If elected, she would be the first woman and person of color to hold the role in Jacksonville. 

“This is fresh, this is new, and quite frankly, it’s historic. It’s never happened in Jacksonville that anyone of my gender or my racial diversity has even looked at a position like this,” she says.

“Not only do I have these eight years as an elected official already. But I have a media background, public relations, communications,” she says. “I’ve worked in so many fields that I never even get to talk about because everyone knows me as the media person, but I have been in banking, insurance, Fortune 500 sales and independent cosmetic sales director. … I am going to be the kind of leader who can lead 110 employees that are currently at the property appraiser’s office.”

She is married to Richard Danford Jr., CEO of the Jacksonville Urban League, and they have three children. 

Q: Why are you running?

A: I am running to help raise awareness to the role, the importance, and the impact of the property appraiser’s office in all communities. This also allows me to continue my role as a public servant and to be able to provide opportunities for increased dialogue with taxpayers about their rights and possible exemptions.

Q: What are your qualifications to run?

A: I am a very unique individual with an extremely diverse background. From banking to insurance to sales and the media, I work consistently and diligently for the community without regard to race, ethnic background, gender, or political persuasion. I am a leader with very strong communication and research skills who has worked in a variety of positions, including management, customer service, and payroll. I have served with distinction on the Jacksonville City Council. I have been a liaison and a member on the Value Adjustment Board for three years, serving as chair for two of those years where commercial and personal property owners have a chance to dispute the amount of taxes they must pay.

Q: How will your previous civic and elected representative experience help you if elected?: 

A: I have maintained a very high level of accessibility, visibility, and transparency through my District 1 Town Hall meetings, which I have conducted monthly. I plan to further increase the community outreach the property appraiser’s office does using a similar model. I have led numerous community organizations and initiatives and have strong transferable skills to bring to the position and know how to leverage partnerships with the business and nonprofit community to create positive outcomes. My time as the chair on the Value Adjustment Board is also a critical component of my experience with the property appraiser’s office, as well as general experience as a homeowner who has used the services of our property appraiser’s website.

Q: What issues do you foresee in the appraiser’s office that might need addressing?

A: Continue investigating exemption fraud to assure proper exemptions go to the appropriate taxpayers. Technology upgrades of the systems are needed to sustain the office. And continued employee professional development to assure successful employees and a successful office for taxpayers.

Q: Is the current economic situation going to affect the way the property appraiser’s office operates?

A: It should not have an impact. The office, like every other city department, must submit its budget to the mayor’s office for approval. The role of the Property Appraiser centers around adhering strictly to state statute and getting out the tax roll out on time. Of course, if the City Council were to reduce or increase the millage rate, again, the property appraiser’s office has to follow the law and assess the property values accordingly. As the property appraiser, and part of community outreach, I would want to help disseminate information to taxpayers about possible help in the community including that of LISC, if they need assistance.

author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years of experience in radio, television, and print reporting. He has worked at various stations in the Northeast and Jacksonville. Prior to joining the WJCT News team, Dan spent 34 years at The Florida Times-Union as a police and current affairs reporter.
author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years of experience in radio, television, and print reporting. He has worked at various stations in the Northeast and Jacksonville. Prior to joining the WJCT News team, Dan spent 34 years at The Florida Times-Union as a police and current affairs reporter.

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