A lot of people know Russ Albritton either through his car or marine businesses. He's been a fixture in Highlands County since 1958 and says his business experience sets him apart from other candidates running for the Highlands County Tax Collector office.
He worked in the citrus industry after leaving college with a degree in agriculture, but found himself owning the local Chevy dealership for years. He also worked in real estate and then opened a marine dealership and operated it for 10 years. He sold it in 2007 and now works for his son, who owns All-Star Car Sales.
Why do you want to be Highlands County's next Tax Collector?
First of all, I know that office better than most of the other candidates because of my background. Having been in the Chevrolet business, with a marine dealership, I'm familiar with titles, tags, this type of thing. I've been in and out of that office hundreds of times. Deep down I think I'm the most qualified person for that job.
I classify this office as a business office. That's how I look at it. The main thrust of that office is to bill and collect taxes for our local and state government. Then the diversification comes in selling license tags and hunting and fishing licenses. From that point on they collect that money and then disperse it to various entities. I know the workings of all of that having been in that kind of business.
What would the public notice about a Tax Collector's office that you manage?
I would attempt to continue along the lines of Charles Bryan. He aligned his people for service and customer satisfaction. That's what I did in my businesses. It's in good condition but there's always room for improvement. I would continue to upgrade the customer satisfaction. God bless Charles Bryan. He did a marvelous job.
People ask me why I want the job because people say everyone hates the tax collector. No one wants to pay taxes. Deep down I don't think that's true. I have stood at the door where the young lady sits there and also been behind that counter. I watch people and the treatment they got there, I cannot help but believe that people leave with a little better feeling of having been there, because of the realization that they have paid their dues. They think, "Now let me go out and enjoy this county and what I paid for."
I would also look at the overall picture. You've got to analyze everything to find cost cutting and improvements. The only problem I see with the DMV is that for us to assume that position the state would either give us the property or lease it for $1 a year. The problem would be the money to buy the equipment in the office. There is nothing in their brochure about us getting the equipment without buying it.
How would you describe your management style?
Hands-on. I enjoy looking over people's shoulders. I think in that office, knowing that there are five department heads, people have a good grasp of what's happening. But I asked how long it would take me to learn that job and I was told, "A long time. Every month is different." You'd have to be hands-on to learn what everyone's doing with each employee. Have to pay attention.
Why are you the best candidate for the Tax Collector?
Business experience. My history shows that I have 28 years in business. This office is truly the business office of Highlands County. That's what I've been the last 28 years. It is my business background that sets me apart.
Anything you'd like to add?
I look at this office differently than all the other candidates. The people running for this office are all friends of mine. We're all different. It just boils down to they're all good people but none of them have the business experience I've had in 28 years.