New St. Johns County Property Appraiser Eddie Creamer said the biggest challenge for his office is meeting the demands of growth and increased residential development.
“There are 3,700 new houses that were built last year in St. Johns County,” said Creamer. “Another 3,700 will be built this year. Another 5,000-6,000 lots have been permitted, and new roads are being built.”
Since the county is primarily funded by property taxes, which start with assessed values on property, Creamer said the buck stops with his office. He said his team’s ability to maintain inspections of new and existing homes and permits in an area that’s growing as fast as St. Johns County is critical.
“The challenge in the office will be leveraging technology and people to keep up with the growth of our county and making sure we meet our constitutional mandate and are ahead of the curve in doing that,” said Creamer.
The new property appraiser will work to address this challenge after 35 years of private sector experience in the banking industry. The former CEO of Prosperity Bank and regional president of Ameris Bank takes over for Sharon Outland, who retired from the property appraiser’s office at the end of her term.
“I think I bring to the office the ability to supervise large staffs and grow those staffs and provide leadership and motivation to the people who are actually doing the jobs,” he said.
Creamer ran unopposed for the position and was sworn into office Jan. 3. He jokingly said the job is going great so far since nobody has quit or thrown anything at him.
“I’m absolutely loving every minute of it,” said Creamer. “This is a fantastic staff within the office: a lot of people with a long tenure that understand what we do, and they do it well. It’s been an honor to join them.”
Hurricane Matthew, said Creamer, has also presented his office with challenges, noting his office typically begins its normal property assessment process now. But due to Matthew, his assessors are conducting damage inspections and reassessing homes, which have pushed the timeline for the start of normal assessments into February.
“Any time there’s a large natural disaster like that, it will put a strain on the office,” he said.
For residents who are unsure whether the damage to their homes from Matthew qualifies for reassessment, Creamer stressed that they contact his office so his team can help them determine what to do.
Creamer’s other primary responsibility in office is to manage homestead exemptions. He said residents who need to apply for homestead exemptions or change them need to do so by March 1. He said this is especially important in Florida.
“It lowers your immediate taxes, but it also puts a cap on how much your property can go up as we go forward,” said Creamer. “In this county with the growth, getting that cap on your homestead is going to be very important.”
Originally from Port St. Joe in the Florida panhandle, Creamer and his wife have lived and worked in St. Augustine for 25 years. The new property appraiser has been actively involved in the community as a member of the Rotary Club, Florida Highway Patrol Advisory Council and St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office promotion board, and as a trustee at Flagler College. He’s also served on the Betty Griffin House board of directors and as an active volunteer at Catholic Charities.
“Public service has always been really important to me,” said Creamer. “I’ve always believed it’s important that people get involved in every level to try and improve both government and the charitable sector.”