TAVARES –Just a few days after losing his bid for a new term, Lake County’s longest serving property appraiser, Ed Havill, passes away on Saturday. He was 71.
Havill’s health had been an issue for some time now. It was known that he was fighting leukemia and receiving treatment at a cancer center in Texas. He died, however, after suffering a heart attack while mowing his lawn on Saturday. Although he was rushed to Florida Hospital Waterman, he died there.
Lake County’s Board of County Commission chairman, Leslie Campione, issued a statement on Saturday afternoon recalling Havill’s decades of commitment to public service.
“Ed Havill was an outstanding pillar of this community who dedicated his life to Lake County,“ Campione said. “We owe him a debt of gratitude for his many years of leadership and service. He will be deeply missed, and my sincerest condolences go out to his family.”
Havill, a Republican, had served as Lake County’s property appraiser for the past 35 years. He was also a Certified Florida Appraiser and veteran of the U.S. Army.
He was known throughout his career as a crusader against taxes. On his Web site, Havill reminded voters of his efforts to run his office as efficiently and inexpensively as possible.
“I am a fiscal conservative and have worked hard to make sure we are fiscally responsible with your money,” he wrote on the site.
Havill noted that the Florida Department of Revenue has approved Lake County’s tax roll each year as being in full compliance with Florida Law, and that his office had a lower cost per parcel than 65 other Florida counties – with only Washington County, which has just 23,000 residents, having a lower one. Havill boasted of his “fiscally conservative management” in an office with just 37 employees, compared to other counties that have three times as many employees in the property appraiser’s office, including Polk County (108 employees), Orange (138) and Volusia (99).
“When you look at this chart, you will see that you have some very competent, hard working employees in your property appraiser’s office,” he wrote.
Despite that, Havill drew several opponents this year in the Republican primary, including one particularly strong challenger in former state Sen. Carey Baker.
On his Web site, Havill hinted that this election could very well become his last.
“The final election for this very important office will be held on August 14th,” Havill wrote on the site. “It’s critical that we elect the most qualified candidate to correctly appraise all property in Lake County, so that it is fair and equitable for everyone. The assessment rolls must be correct to be approved by the state. My rolls have been approved every year, without exception, since I was first elected in 1976. I’ve been doing what my opponents are promising!”
On election day, though, Baker narrowly defeated Havill, and now becomes the favorite to win in November in this heavily Republican county.
Doug Guetzloe, founder of the anti-tax grassroots group Ax The Tax, fondly recalled Havill as an “outstanding public servant” and called his death a “sad day for taxpayers.”
“I’ve known Ed since my Young Republican days in the 70’s and 80’s,” Guetzloe said. “I was involved in all of his battles. He was a true Ronald Reagan conservative.”
Guetzloe blamed Havill’s defeat on his unwillingness to go along with the Republican Party establishment.
Havill, he said, “came under attack from the good old boy network on a regular basis, (and) beat them all until this last week.”
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.