No one should mistake Eric Zwayer for just a former jock. His basketball prowess earned him a scholarship to the University of Richmond, where he earned a master's degree in business. Since then he hasn't wasted time finding his professional future.
As director of operations for the Highlands County Clerk or Courts office, he manages a large staff and deals with a variety of official duties. He points to that experience, his young age and his education as factors that set him apart from other candidates.
Why do you want to be Highlands County's next Tax Collector?
I believe my gifts, talents, skills make that office a perfect fit. I have the relevant education and experience that's needed to run that office efficiently and effectively. It's not a decision I came to easily. My wife and I prayed about it. I decided it was an opportunity I wanted to pursue. God's got me where he wants me right now.
I know I can be an effective office administrator, which I believe that office needs. I can reduce the cost of government, which there is no doubt that office and every office in the county needs. Those are going to be my goals in that office. I oversee 40 employees, I oversee the budget, so it's similar to my current office in that regard. That's what we're electing here. We're electing someone with that relevant skill set to run the office efficiently and effectively. I'll run it like a business.
What would the public notice about the office if you are elected?
I don't think right away they'd notice a difference. That office is being run very effectively. When the customers came in under Charles Bryan's tenure they were the top priority. When they walked through those doors they were taken care of. I want to keep that in place. I want to continue that customer service level. So from their perspective they might not notice a difference right away.
There are some changes coming where they will see a difference. We have to take on the issuing of drivers licenses and have a plan in place by 2011. So right away we have got to start working to get this transition plan in place by June of 2015. That will make the office different because different people will be coming through. That will be a tremendous challenge.
We've had an office that's been outstanding in customer service and another office that's been very poor in customer service. The challenge is we have to bring that office to this level without bringing this office down to their level. It's also a tremendous opportunity to take a formerly state-run office and make it local because citizens will have a lot of say as to how it's run. We'll improve service.
Technology is great but it's tremendously expensive. Want to seek out duplication. The Clerk of Courts is the chief technology officer of the county. My thought is that some constitutional officers have their own mini IT departments. Let's take our duplication of equipment and combine it. That's a six-figure savings right away.
How would you describe your management style?
I'm very hands on but not a micromanager. I'm a boots on the ground worker. I'll be in that office every day and work very hard for the people in this county. At first I'm going to be in every part of the office to learn it. The people in that office are the experts. Not one candidate in this race has experience in that office. I need to dive into every part of it. You hire people and empower them to do their jobs effectively.
Why are you the best person for Tax Collector?
The best candidate does not have certain skills in one area. I believe that my relevant experience, my education from the University of Richmond, my age is also an asset. You must understand Florida statutes. I know for a fact that I'm going to reduce the cost of government. I know other candidates have talked about it, but I've done it in my current job. That's just my mindset. The education is critical. You need someone with the business background. You have working knowledge but you also need those valuable lessons in school.
I believe my age is an advantage in this race. I'm not looking at going into this office and retiring after a term or two. I'm looking to go into this office and make it the best office I can do every single day. I'd want to stay in as long as the voters want me. This is something I want to make a career. I want to serve the people of this county. I'm active in this community and I would love nothing more than to serve them as a career.
I want voters to know that I didn't grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth. Everything I've done in my life I've worked extremely hard for. I put my heart and soul into everything. I also want them to know it will be my privilege to serve them. It's going to be your office, the citizen's office. I want to do that transparently and stand up for them. My door will be open always.