I was born in 1963 in Northern Illinois on our 1,200 acre family farm. We raised mostly corn, soy beans, and alfalfa. My family moved to Ocala in January 1970 when I was only six years old. My father went from farming to construction and became a general contractor (Herbst Construction), building and remodeling mostly residential homes with some commercial work for local horse farms. My mother was a house wife that raised me and my younger sister.
We grew up in a subdivision on the north side of Ocala off of Old Jacksonville Road spending a lot of time with the other kids in the neighborhood and riding our bikes everywhere. We attended school at Oakcrest Elementary, Howard Middle School, and Vanguard High School, go Knights!
In 1981, I was accepted at the University of Florida as an accounting major right out of high school. I could not afford to live in Gainesville on my own, so I commuted from my parents home in Ocala, however, at 18 years old, I lacked the discipline necessary to attend a major University, so I left UF after only a half of a semester and started exploring my options at Central Florida Community College (now College of Central Florida).
Over the years, I explored many majors and accumulated many credits without earning a degree. However, I could not seem to get away from my original passion for accounting and, in 2009 I started pursuing a degree in accounting and received my Bachelor of Arts in Accounting in 2011 from Saint Leo University.
In 2015, I was considering the option of becoming a CPA once I retire from the county, so I went back to school again and received my Masters of Accounting (MAcc) in 2017.
I started working in the summer of 1976, at the age of 13, for my father’s construction company, working some weekends and every spring break, Christmas break, and summer. I began as a gopher, “go for” a hammer, “go for” pliers, “go for” a 2×4, but soon started to learn the trade. I started with rough carpentry, doing mostly framing and moved into finish carpentry, roofing, and some electrical work. Additionally, I also assisted our block mason. I worked for my father until 1984.
On June 6th, 1984, the 40th anniversary of D-Day, I entered the United States Air Force and attended basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. I was transferred to GoodFellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas to train as an intelligence analyst and completed my training in December of 1984.
I spent Christmas of 1984 with my family in Ocala before being shipped to RAF Chicksand, Shefford, England for my duty station in January of 1985. I spent three years serving at Chicksands with the 6950th Electronic Security Group and even though I loved my job in the Air Force, I decided not to reenlist and was discharged with an Honorable Discharge in 1988 when I returned home to Ocala.
I worked a few odd jobs around Ocala, trying out telemarketing and I drove a delivery truck for a local plumbing and electrical supply company, before being hired as a programmer/analyst by Thomas “Mac” Olson, the Marion County Tax Collector, in February 1989. I worked for the Tax Collector until 1994 when Rudy Muckenfuss, the Marion County Property Appraiser, hired me as their Senior Programmer/Analyst.
In 2007, I became the Director of Information Resources and then in 2016 the Chief Information Officer. I am one of four administrators for the Marion County Property Appraiser Office under Villie Smith. Don’t be misled by my job titles, I am not just an IT guy.
I am a Certified Florida Evaluator (CFE) and have dedicated my time at the property appraiser’s office to understanding every job, method, and process in the office to better provide appropriate technology to our employees. I have taken classes in the cost and income approaches to appraising real estate, multiple regression analysis, an advanced statistical method of appraising property, and cadastral mapping. I have designed and developed our computer assisted mass appraisal (CAMA) system (Merlin) that our office relies on everyday to do their job and produce each year’s tax roll. As well as other tools such as our new Desktop Top Review system that allows our field appraisers to assess some areas of our county using oblique imagery without leaving the office. Developing Merlin and other tools in our office, instead of relying on an outside vendor, has saved the county millions of dollars over the last decade.
I married the love of my life, Teresa Lawson, at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in 1996. We wanted to start a family, but had difficulty conceiving a child and lost our first baby after only 10 weeks of pregnancy due to miscarriage in 1997. We were devastated, and still mourn the loss of our first child, but God blessed us with four more children. Brenden in 1998, Sebastian in 2002, Cecilia in 2009, and Genevieve in 2011.
Our kids attend Blessed Trinity Catholic School and Trinity Catholic High School. Brenden graduated from Trinity Catholic in 2017, lives partially on his own by renting from his grandmother, and currently works as a host at Bob Evans. He wants to become a firefighter/EMT. Sebastian will graduate from Trinity Catholic in 2020 and wants to attend UCF and major in architecture. He is a competitive cheerleader and his squad recently won the American Open National Championships in Orlando. Cecilia loves to sing and wants to work in music, Genevieve loves animals and wants to work with horses when she grows up.
Beside my relationship with Jesus, there is nothing more important to me than my family. We spend as much time as possible doing family activities. We are Disney World Annual Passholders and spend a lot of time at Disney. We also go to many local farms that offer you-pick opportunities such as blueberries, strawberries, oranges, peaches, and grapes. We visit state and national parks, go to the beaches, and attend various festivals and fairs around the state. We love making new memories with and for our children.
Prior to meeting my wife, I had very little exposure to any faith even though I was baptized in a Methodist church as an infant and went to the Ocala First United Methodist Church occasionally until I was about 10 years old. I called myself Christian, but had no real relationship with Jesus.
My wife introduced me to the Catholic Church and I attended Mass with her while we were dating. I attended a Catholic inquiry class and fell in love with the Faith. I officially became Roman Catholic on Easter of 1997. Since then, I have been very involved with ministry at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church.
I have served on our Parish Council, edited our monthly newsletter, and worked on our annual volunteer dinner and the Bishop’s Annual Appeal for Service Enrichment. I am currently a lector and Eucaristic minister at Mass and a spiritual leader for our Men’s Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) retreat team.
I have been part of CRHP for more than 12 years and have been involved in putting on 24 retreats helping to bring the men in our parish to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ through sharing prayer, scripture, and witnessing on many spiritual topics such as discipleship, Christian community, and the love our Father in heaven has for each of us.
As a family, we attend many church activities and functions and our faith is part of every facet of our lives. We pray before all our meals, spend a lot of time with our extended faith family, and I pray over all of our children before they go to bed each night. I really believe the old saying, a family that prays together, stays together.
God bless all of you.