Former Okaloosa County Tax Collector runs for Soil and Water Conservation district supervisor

The+Appalachian+Online

The Appalachian Online

Moss Brennan, Political Editor

Chris Hughes, former Okaloosa County Tax Collector in Florida, is running for Soil and Water Conservation district supervisor.

“For me, I have children and this is my home and I want to make sure we have clean drinking water for generations to come,” Hughes said.

Hughes said his family has come from a long line of farmers, dating back to the 1600s when his family moved from England.

“I have experience working on a farm which are the people we’re going to be working with a lot,” Hughes said. “But I also have experience in managing taxpayer dollars and being accessible to the people.”

His time as an Okaloosa County Tax Collector was not without controversy. On Nov. 21, 2006, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement officer received an anonymous complaint of official misconduct by Hughes for traveling to a funeral for the mother of the assistant Okaloosa County Tax Collector, according to the summary of the investigation.

“I mean if you want to do like President Trump says, that’s fake news,” Hughes said. “There’s really a lot more to that story.”

Hughes explained that the mother of an employee who wanted his job died and she needed a preacher for the funeral.

“I was out of town at a meeting already, her mother’s funeral was about an hour away, so it made no sense to drive nine hours back to my home, switch cars and drive back,” Hughes said.

The investigation filed into Hughes was for using a county vehicle to drive to the funeral. He said he paid back the travel fee to the IRS the next day. He was re-elected.

On July 30, 2012, Gov. Rick Scott filed an executive order after a conclusion from the Commission of Ethics in April 2012, according to the executive order.

“There’s an ethics board and anybody can file any kind of  — I mean they can say anything just like with the Kavanaugh stuff, and then you have a choice. You can let it fly and let it stick to you or you can fight it,” Hughes said.

He decided not to fight it because of the cost.

“It was really a lot to do about nothing and I was re-elected after that so not a big deal,” Hughes said.

Hughes said he wants to educate people about this position and start programs in elementary schools. He said he also wants to make sure farmers know the benefits, such as grants, which help farmers.

“I am already very involved in our community and I plan to work hard as a District Supervisor to educate the public and make these funds more easily accessible to all who have a need,” Hughes wrote in an email.

One of his goals is to help the bees. After noticing the high amount of beekeepers in the area, Hughes said he wants to help them.

“I have committed to the beekeepers that I have met that I will work with state, county and local officials to encourage our governments, businesses, Churches, and civic groups to plant the types of flowers on our roadways, on the Parkway and in our community that will attract bees and will provide the flora that they need to make more honey,” Hughes wrote in an email.

Hughes wrote that he would commit to holding town halls with local farmers and beekeepers to develop a formal Agriculture Economic Development Plan.

Hughes also has written three cookbooks, had a cooking show and has a ministry that focuses on disaster relief and preaching around the world.

“I have experience working with money and funding and with employees and working with staff,” Hughes said. “Nobody else in this position or running for this position has that experience.”

Hughes is running against Joey Clawson and Bill Moretz.

Story by Moss Brennan