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: Khalid Muneer (1st) and Amy Mercado (2nd).
Who is Khalid Muneer?
Khalid Muneer has been an active and visible business and community leader for the past 27 years as a Florida resident. Having earned a Bachelor’s degree, with honors, in Behavioral Science from the University of Aston in Birmingham, UK, and a diploma in Banking while in London, Muneer has continued to expand his professional development through the years. He was a graduate of Leadership Orlando (1997), Political Leadership Institute (2017), Leadership International Drive Chamber (2019), and the Nomura Leadership Institute in Tokyo, Japan. He completed his Property Appraiser’s course, and for the past 20 years has held his Real Estate Brokers’ license.
While centering himself for 17 years in Banking and Finance, he took on the role of Real Estate broker and founded his own company, Jupiter Properties, Inc., that focuses on commercial, residential and business brokerage. Muneer’s experiences in both finance and real estate arenas have enabled him to excel in today’s rapidly changing and ultra-competitive business climate. Inclusiveness and diversity have been values lived out in his work ethic and seen as a strength on his real estate team that includes agents from 18 different countries speaking 17 different languages.
In addition to his career-focused service, Muneer believes in contributing to his community through voluntary leadership and support as well. He has served as President on a variety of chambers in Central Florida, has been active in Rotary, minority advisory boards, and foundations. He has served on the Executive Committee of the Orlando Economic Development Commission, and on the Board of the nonprofit organization, Harbor House.
Building trust by being transparent and accountable to you is Muneer’s campaign slogan and mission. Inspired by President Barak Obama, and concerned by the issues that have plagued the current Orange County Property Appraiser’s Office as reported in the Media, he believes his experience and values will bring the integrity the office needs in the following ways:
Trust – “Honest and fair appraisals must be calculated to a level of pristine accuracy. A property’s appraisal could be the difference between the beginning of a new family or the loss of community members.”
Transparency – “All office activity should be freely available to the public without reservation. When the well-being of our community is rooted in the local market, this becomes the responsibility of the appraiser’s office.”
Accountability – “A thorough understanding of our local market is essential in making key decisions that affect our community. The highest level of accountability is needed at the appraiser’s office to accomplish this.”
Muneer has been married to his wife, Shabnam, for 39 years and together they have five children.
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?
“The Covid-19 situation has changed Orange County as indeed the whole world. Every individual and business has been effected and almost 25% of the businesses have closed down permanently.The Orange County tourist development tax revenue has dropped from $23 million a month to $700,000 creating additional issues for the Tourist marketing agencies such as Visit Orlando.
With these challenges it is important that we work hand in hand with other Government and business leaders to see how the financial burdens of the taxpayers can be alleviated so that we can get our economy moving again.The hospitality industry has been hit very hard and needs special help, as with 290 hotels and 15% occupancy in Orange County, we will need to revisit the appraisal practices used by the OCPA to make sure their biggest life investments, home and business, are being appraised accurately so they are not overpaying on their taxes. We don’t want to face another situation like with the Disney’s recent case where the OCPA is facing possible claims for hundreds of millions from the hospitality industry for using the appraisal practices that the judge concluded were illegal under the Florida law.”
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)?
“It has been a challenging time since mid March due to the Covid 19 situation, but there again, I have been serving the Orange County residents for over a decade in various roles, as business and community leader, and so they are very familiar with my track record. The new method of communication via zoom has given us a sense of normality as participation in Board meetings etc has been excellent. I have been communicating with the voters via digital marketing and social media in addition to phone conversations. But at the end of the day, being social animals, we do miss the physical contacts and communication using body language.”
What has been a highlight during your experience running for this position?
“I have been serving Orange County residents for a long time, but the issues created by COVID-19 has changed the outlook on life for many people. It is no longer about making a decent living or having affordable housing, but protecting yourself from COVID-19 so you are still around to take care of your family and loved ones. The health issue has been the primary focus, as without this there is no economy.”
What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the Property Appraiser’s Office?
“The greatest challenges facing the OCPA is the loss of trust and credibility created by the lawsuits against employees and taxpayers which have wasted the taxpayers millions of their hard earned tax dollars in legal fees. And with the recent Disney case where the judge ruled the appraisal practice used by the OCPA was illegal under the State law, [it] will cost hundreds of millions more as the hospitality industry requests refunds. Revisiting the appraisal methods used has to be a top priority on my first day at the office, to make sure properties are being appraised accurately and others are not overpaying on their property taxes.
Just this week, the credibility issue for OCPA was in the news again as the state attorneys office found official documents were altered for an audit by the comptroller to avoid political criticism.
In addition, the wastage of taxpayers’ hard earned money on lawsuits against employees and taxpayers has to be stopped, with a more amicable approach of sitting and talking to the concerned parties, with results that are beneficial to both parties.
In short, the leadership shortcomings of the OCPA has to be addressed, and that can only happen with the change in that position.”
What is your #1 hope for Orange County that you would love to make a reality if elected?
“My hope is that I can contribute to the number 1 issue in Orange County, which is affordable housing. The Orlando area is one of the worst in the country with only 20 affordable homes available for every 100 low income renter households.The Sadowsky fund for this has been raided and the solutions have to come at the local level and quickly. The OCPA can help by identifying parcels of land that have been vacant for a long time and see if owners are willing to donate or come in as joint partners with the city to build more affordable units. Related to this is the homeless issue where the numbers are 10,000 and can easily get worse with the COVID-19 situation.”
What would you like to say to voters who have not decided who they will vote for yet?
“I would say to the voters, please do make sure you vote for a candidate who has the right experience and skill set for this office. Your home and business are your biggest lifetime investments and you want to make sure they are appraised accurately so you are not overpaying on your property taxes. I am the only qualified candidate in this race with 23 years in commercial and residential real estate, as well as integrity established with over a decade of serving the residents of Orange County working with business, government, and community leaders. I am not a career politician but a business man, and I know how hard it is in the current COVID-19 situation. We need leaders who are experienced, trustworthy, transparent, and accountable to you.”
Notable endorsements / support:
#Latinos4Muneer; Miami Latino Magazine
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.