“I have literally been in the appraisal sector from the beginning,” said Monroe County’s Property Appraiser Scott Russell, who took an elective course in college. “I was hooked after the first class because it’s the perfect blend of desk work combined with the ability to get outdoors to complete property inspections.”
He was born in Key West and raised on the island. After high school, he started at Florida Keys Community College before transferring to Florida State University, where he studied finance and real estate. His first job in 1991 was appraising homes in the Keys. “I have to give credit to Kevin Talbott of Appraisers of the Keys,” Russell said, while also crediting his long-term predecessor Ervin Higgs. “Kevin gave me my first job and was a mentor of mine, teaching me the practical side of appraising.”
Along the way, the family man married his wife Dianne in 1993, and had three daughters, Kaitlyn, Amber, and Emily. “My middle child, Amber, has Down syndrome; she is truly remarkable,” he said, while boasting about all three of his daughters.
He is typically referred to as Amber’s dad. After she was born, the Russells thought about moving away from the Keys. “We quickly realized Key West was where we needed to be,” he said. “Key West is an amazing community when it comes to that, truly welcoming.”
And, we wanted to know more:
Nickname? Well, since taking office, I have been called many things, none of which we will talk about here. Just kidding, lately the names have been in reference to my casual Friday and event attire.
Speaking of which, you have undeniably impeccable style – tell us more! Ah, the attire. To be brief, it started on the golf course. The original attire consisted of knickers, yes, knickers, with argyle socks, matching bow ties and Gatsby caps. I walked out on the course the first time and the reaction from my golf crew was hysterical. Since, I moved to slacks that I can be seen wearing on most Fridays at work and the staff gets a kick out of it. With that being said, I do have a substantial collection of sweet outfits.
How long has your family been in the Keys? My great-great grandparents came to the Florida Keys via the Bahamas during the 1800s.
We hear after a hurricane, property appraisals actually go up overall; is that true? Can’t say I have heard of a direct correlation between hurricanes and property values going up, but I can say that the property appraiser’s office analyzes sales in the market and then bases the valuations on those sales.
What is the biggest challenge facing your office today? The biggest challenge is Monroe County is a very linear county; this translates into staff spending quite a bit of time traveling to inspect properties. Finding comparable sales is a challenge because there are very few, what we call, homogenous neighborhoods.
What percentage of homes in Monroe County carry a homestead exemption? Approximately 37 percent.
Best advice for Keys property owners? If you own your home and are a permanent resident of Monroe County, apply for a homestead exemption.
Dream meal: you are sitting at a diner counter eating, who walks in and sits next to you? This one is easy, my father George B. Russell, who passed away in 2005 from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare, degenerative brain disorder affecting about 1 in one million worldwide. His work ethic was instilled in me at an early age and it continues today.
Favorite Keysy thing to do? Boating would be the obvious choice; however, between being the property appraiser and the father to three girls, I have my hands full. I spent countless hours on the water when I was younger and my wife and I have vowed that this will change this summer.
Best piece of advice you ever received? Think before you speak. I have learned to sleep on it and I typically wake up with a different perspective. You can’t un-send that email or take back those comments made in haste.
What is your nerdiest passion? Excel; I am a junkie. I write spreadsheets for everything. Without putting your readers to sleep, the statistics needed in the analysis that comes with the job contain what seem to be countless variables, and Excel allows me to keep tabs on key statistical measures.
What was your first thought this morning? I need to answer those 20 questions The Weekly sent to me.
Favorite guilty pleasure? Eating. Someone once said that there are two kinds of people, those who eat to live and those who live to eat; I’m in the second camp.
If you could change the world, what would you do? That’s a loaded question; I’ll go with the pageant answer of “world peace.”
Favorite place you’ve lived? Well, I’ve lived here 46 of my 49 years, so I can’t imagine being anywhere else.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Sheriff’s Deputy. Seeing my dad come home in that uniform, there was nothing better.
Finish these sentences…
My wife Dianne would describe me as … a caring provider. There were lean times during my early years with the property appraiser’s office and I took several additional jobs to be able to provide for the family.
My daughters would describe me as … a big kid. Life is too short, we all need to laugh, hence my typical Friday pant attire; among the looks I get, most are smiles and giggles.
Monroe County is like … box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.
I live by the motto … God, Family and Friends.