Editor’s Note: The Apopka Voice is running a series highlighting several key 2020 election candidates running in the August 18, 2020 primary, and November 3, 2020 election. The races that will be covered for the Primary include: Orange County Sheriff, Property Appraiser, and School Board Member District 7.
For the Orange County Property Appraiser race, there are five candidates who qualified to run, incumbent and current Property Appraiser Rick Singh, and candidates S. Scott Boyd, Tim Loucks, Amy Mercado, and Khalid Muneer. Only Singh, Mercado and Muneer will appear on the August Primary ballot. Here is a brief snapshot of each of the candidate’s campaign finances as of August 10, 2020:
Meet the candidates for Orange County Property Appraiser
Rick Singh: Total contributions received: $205,811.94; Total spent: $61,342.55; Cash on hand: $144,469.39
Amy Mercado: Total contributions received: $66,521.55; Total spent: $32,493.22; Cash on hand: $34,028.33
Khalid Muneer: Total contributions received: $62,060.00; Total spent: $51,218.56; Cash on hand: $10,841.44
S. Scott Boyd: Total contributions received: $50.00; Total spent: $0; Cash on hand: $50.00
Tim Loucks: Total contributions received: $0.00; Total spent: $0.00; Cash on hand: $0.00
We reached out to all five of these candidates and requested responses to six interview questions. Candidates Mercado and Muneer were the only candidates who provided responses. The order of their profiles being published was determined by random drawing, with the results being: 1st – Khalid Muneer, 2nd – Amy Mercado.
Who is Amy Mercado?
Amy Mercado grew up in the Bronx, a proud daughter of both a New York City Police Officer and Transit Police Detective. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, with a concentration in Management, from the American Intercontinental University, and her Masters of Business Administration from the Jack Welch Management Institutes at Strayer University.
Mercado has called Orange County home since 1996.
The diversity of Mercado’s career has given her a vast array of leadership experience ranging in industries from management and operations, to healthcare and legal services. Starting out in healthcare as a registrar at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, she soon relocated to Florida expanding her career to include administrative and clinical critical care at Florida Hospital Orlando (now AdventHealth). She branched out from there, working as a project manager for several public finance attorneys in Central Florida, and most recently served as the Director of Operations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Mango Board. In this role Mercado is responsible for managing a multi-million dollar budget, overseeing a multinational board, reputation and crisis management, organizational leadership, vendor procurement, compliance and human resources.
In 2016, Mercado ran and won the seat for State Representative for Florida House District 48, and was successfully re-elected in 2018.
As a State Rep, Mercado was an effective and results-oriented leader, passing bipartisan legislation to better serve her constituents. Her committee 2016-2018 assignments included Ways & Means Committee; Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee; Health Quality Subcommittee; Joint Administrative Procedures Committee; Public Integrity & Ethics Committee; and Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee. In 2019-2020 she served on the Ways & Means Committee as the Democratic Ranking Member; Civil Justice Subcommittee; Judiciary Committee; and the Rules Committee.
Mercado proactively serves as a volunteer in her community, and is known as an activist that can be trusted. She currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Florida Democratic Party as well as the Vice Chair of the Legislative Progressive Caucus. She has also served previously as a Member of Orange County’s Membership and Mission Review Board (Dist. 3 Rep.); Chairwoman of the Orange County Democratic Executive Committee; President of the Orange County Democratic Hispanic Caucus; Interim Secretary of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement’s (CFL Ch.); Secretary of the Florida Council of the League of United Latin American Citizens; Board Member of Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando; Field Manager for Tiffany Moore Russell for Orange County Clerk of Court; Campaign Manager for Ricardo Rangel, House District 43; Campaign Manager for Victor M. Torres, House District 48 and Senate District 15; and the Florida Elector for President Barack Obama.
A variety of organizations have recognized and honored Mercado for her legislative and professional work, including:
- Fiambrera Award, Dedicated Community Servant, 2020 (Puerto Rican Bar Association of FL)
- Named one of Central Florida’s Most Powerful Politicians by FloridaPolitics.com, 2019
- Democratic Women’s Club of Florida (DWCF) Legislative Advocate of the Year, 2019
- Catholics in Public Life Champion Award, 2019
- Florida League of Cities, Legislator Award, 2018
- Florida Renal Coalition, Legislator of the Year, 2018
- True Health, True Champion Award, Community Champion, 2018
- Florida Democratic Party Disability Caucus, Upcoming Legislator, 2018
- Vamos4PR Action Líder Excepcional Refugiados Por Viviendas, 2018
- Florida Association of Counties, County Champion Award, Legislative Session, 2017
- Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and FWD.us, The Esperanza Award, 2017
- The National Congress of Black Women, Inc.
- Certificate of Appreciation for Co-Sponsoring HB 1199, 2017
- Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida
- Outstanding Community Service, 20th Anniversary of Puerto Rico Day
- Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, Defending Public Education
Mercado decided to run for Orange County Property Appraiser just a few months ago, determined to bring her professional background and public service experience to the work for local voters. She has been overwhelmed by the support she has received.
“The Property Appraiser is a vitally important job in Orange County, helping ensure our schools, libraries and public safety departments are funded,” says Mercado. “As your Property Appraiser, I will serve as the link between property owners, the real estate community and the Property Appraiser’s Office. I will restore trust in the office by prioritizing transparency, efficiency and service. I am committed to ensuring fair valuations of property, responsible department spending, exceptional customer service and clear communication with property owners.”
Improving the lives of Orange County residents is her priority and she hopes they will allow her to prove that by choosing her in the August 18 primaries.
If the July 31st Apopka Chamber of Commerce Virtual Straw Poll event is any indication, Mercado just might see her hope fulfilled. According to the Chamber results, Mercado won the poll with 60% of the vote, followed by 25% for Khalid Muneer, and 15% for the incumbent Rick Singh.
Besides serving her community through career, political office and volunteerism, Amy is a mom of six and a caretaker to an ailing grandparent. She and her husband, Fred, raised their blended family in Orlando, where four of their six children graduated from the Orange County Public School System.
If elected to this position, and if COVID-19 is still going strong, what would you do to make sure your vision for and effectiveness as a leader for and with the community stays on track and makes a difference?
“In these unprecedented times, it is important that we acknowledge our individual and collective struggles and work together to get through it TOGETHER.
This pandemic has affected all of us in different ways; the main impact for me has been taking extra steps to ensure that all my team members and family are SAFE.
As the daughter of two former law enforcement officers, wife to a former first responder with twelve years of experience working in critical-care medicine, I have a unique perspective of the short-term and long-term effects COVID will have on us as individuals, how we do business, and on how we move forward as a community.
As the next Property Appraiser, I will take great caution and follow the lead of public health officials as I develop responsible plans that balance the needs of the property owners and OCPA team. I am committed in both my personal and professional life to advocating daily for all their needs and well-being.”
What have you been doing that is unique to let voters know who you are and what you are about since campaigning during COVID-19 (mid-March to present)?
“I am always a proponent of staying close to the community, not just when there is an emergency or an election. I do not need to be in front of a camera or sharing my opinions publicly to help my community. Instead, I engage one on one, handling specific yet varied community needs (from housing, unemployment, healthcare, etc.).
During this time of crisis, I continue to share my campaign message with voters at their level and their time in various ways such as email, texts, and social media.”
What has been a highlight during your experience running for this position?
“With this being a Primary, I expected challenges to arise and some of my political allies to pause a bit. However, the reality has been the total opposite.
In fact, it has only been two months since I announced my run for this office, yet the outpouring of support has been amazing; and to be honest even a bit overwhelming.
All of the engagement I have seen and support I have received shows me that our community really does pay attention to what is happening, even during a pandemic, and that they want the next property appraiser to restore faith and trust in the institution that is the OCPA office.”
What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the Property Appraiser’s Office?
“The situation the incumbent has created for himself is unfortunate to say the least, but only he can answer to any of it.
What is important to me is the restoration of the public’s trust in the Property Appraiser’s office/role. The community needs to see and feel that their hard-earned money is being managed/used appropriately. We need full transparency within the entire chain from the elected appraiser to the customer service representative. We need to remove the veil of secrecy the office is currently under.”
What is your #1 hope for Orange County that you would love to make a reality if elected?
“We are living through some trying times of late; instead of viewing the OCPA office with suspicion and shame, our community should look at their property appraiser as someone with integrity, who treats property owners fairly and equitably. I hope to restore trust and confidence to the OCPA office and that is why I am running.”
What would you like to say to voters who have not decided who they will vote for yet?
“I would ask voters to research each of us running in this race and decide for themselves which one of us has consistently and effectively advocated for them and made long-term responsible business decisions.
The Orange County Property Appraiser’s office needs their help to ensure ethical, effective, competent, and efficient management especially as we embark in these uncertain economic times. They will need someone who has a proven track record of building consensus and bringing people of opposite worlds together. I welcome their votes on August 18th.”
Senator Linda Stewart; Senator Victor M. Torres Jr.; Representative Kamia Brown; Representative Anna V. Eskamani; Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith; Orange County Clerk of Courty Tiffany Moore Russell; Orange County School Board Member, Johanna Lopez; Former Orange County Chairman (Mayor) Linda Chapin; Former Orange County Property Appraiser Bill Donegan; Former Orange County Soil & Water Conservation Dist. Sup., Eric Rollings; Former U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Graham; Former Florida Supreme Court Justice, James E.C. Perry; Senator Janet Cruz; Senator Oscar Braynon II; Senator Audry Gibson; Senator Lori Berman; Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez; Senator Annette Taddeo-Goldstein; West Orange Political Alliance; Central Florida Labor Council; Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association; Orange County Rainbow Democrats; Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus; and many more listed on her website.
About the process: The Apopka Voice emailed the same six questions to all candidates running in the offices and positions outlined above, if their email address was listed. In cases where no email was provided, we left a voicemail requesting their email, and /or sent a message on Facebook requesting it if no phone number was provided. There were a few candidates that provided no contact information at all. The response time frame was given equally to all candidates. Biographical information and history was pulled from the candidate’s campaign website and / or Facebook page.