In late June, Monroe County Tax Collector Danise “Dee Dee” Henriquez threw her name into the race for the District 1 seat on the Board of County Commissioners. With Henriquez moving on, two of her employees are stepping forward in hopes to lead the office.
Sam Steele (R)
The last five weeks have arguably been one of the busiest for Key West resident and County Tax Manager Sam Steele. A Florida State University graduate who was first introduced to the Keys by his wife 10 years ago, Steele announced his candidacy in late June following Henriquez’s announcement. Steele and his wife, Lauren, a sixth-generation Florida Keys resident, have a son, Carter, who will turn 2 in November, and a baby on the way.
With his official kickoff party set for Thursday, Aug. 15 at Southernmost VFW Post 3911, Steele it’s another exciting step in the long road ahead. Recently, he’s been moving up and down the Keys meeting with voters.
“I’ve been getting some suggestions and ideas about how we can make improvements to the office,” Steele said during a recent Weekly interview. “I want to continue to get out there and meet voters and let them get to know me as a person.”
As tax manager, Steele is in direct communication with the tax collector and works closely with departments to assist in daily operations. Before becoming a county employee, Steele was a commercial real estate appraiser for Cushman & Wakefield, one of the largest real estate firms in the world. As an appraiser, Steele forecasted income and expense statements and projected 10-year cash flows for multimillion-dollar properties daily.
From running the mailroom to balancing the $300 million annual property tax roll, Steele said he holds the knowledge needed to run the tax collector’s office. Steele’s served in the office for two years. Running the office was something he wanted to do from the first day he entered.
“I told the tax collector one day I’m going to run this office,” he said. “I’ve learned every inch of the office. I believe with my educational and professional experience, along with knowledge shadowing the tax collectors, it makes me the person to fill the big shoes. Most importantly, my entire career is ahead of me.”
Steele said he will be a hands-on tax collector who’s able to work the front counter, validate Tourist Development Taxes and process hunting and fishing licenses, concealed weapon permits, among other tax and title work. As tax collector, Steele said he will look to integrate new technology to provide timely access to information and a professional level of service to the public. Steele also believes in an open-door policy and encourages the public to approach him with any suggestions, questions or concerns.
More information about Steele is at electsamsteele.com.
Aileen Galvan (D)
At the moment, Aileen Galvan is the director of operations at the Monroe County Tax Collectors Office. She is Key West-born and -raised, and has worked in the office since 1993.
“I oversee the real estate tax department, as well as oversee the preparation and mailing of tax bills,” Galvan said. “I’ve sat in every chair and can do every job in all of our offices.”
On Aug. 5, she was present for the grand opening of the new driver’s license office on North Roosevelt Boulevard at the Searstown Shopping Center in Key West.
“It went very smoothly and I think the public is pleased,” Galvan said. “Customer service is a priority in our office.”
Galvan said her decision to run was prompted by her sincere desire to uphold the office’s high level of efficiency and service.
“This office is a well-run machine. I’m passionate about our work and the people who work here,” she said, adding that friends and acquaintances encouraged her to run for office upon learning that Henriquez was set to step down.
If elected, Galvan said, she will continue to update the office’s technology to keep pace, and continue to provide the efficient and friendly rapport Monroe County taxpayers expect.
“Right now, I’m out and about meeting people, telling them why I’m running for office and what I can do,” she said. A campaign kick-off party is in the works and will be announced later.
In addition to licenses, the tax collector’s office handles auto and boat registration, issues hunting and fishing licenses, birth certificates, and collects ad valorem taxes, non-ad valorem assessments, and tangible personal property taxes.