Gill: Voting in Citrus ‘safe, organized’

Susan Gill, Citrus County elections supervisor.

Susan Gill enjoys working behind the scenes before stepping out in front to enjoy what she helped create.

It is a strategy that she has employed since she was a child growing up outside Boston, one of six children in a Catholic family.

She was first elected as Citrus County’s supervisor of elections in 1996 and modernized the elections process here as many other Florida counties struggled to get voting results right and out on time.

But it is for the work she’s done quietly behind the scenes for nearly a dozen local charitable organizations, and the organizational skills she brought to bear, as well as her work at the elections office, that made her the Citrus Chronicle 2020 Citizen of the Year.

Gill has worked tirelessly to make Citrus County a better place to live and to help people in need.

She doesn’t want to just make donations to worthy charities. She likes to get her hands a little dirty, Gill said.

“What if everyone just wrote a check and no one actually did anything? Where’s your sense of community?” she asked. “(Volunteering) draws together the community.”

Gill was a successful real estate broker in Citrus County after moving here in 1984, but saw an opportunity to do something else.

Then-Supervisor of Elections Wilma Anderson was retiring. Gill was a Republican but not well connected in the party. Despite that, she ran in 1996 and won her party’s nomination and beat her opponent in the general election.

“I do like politics, but the process part of it. I like to organize stuff,” she said of the job. “It’s a very important position. It’s our democratic process. I’ve always really loved it.”

As for leaving her real estate job behind.

“I liked it but I liked this (supervisor of elections job) a whole lot more,” she said. “And I didn’t have time to miss it.”

She ran unopposed again in 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. She announced earlier in 2020 she would not seek re-election after this past year.

Of the job she said laughing, “No one ever grows up saying they want to be a supervisor of elections. It just doesn’t happen.”

“But I liked the structure. Government has to hold things together. Without government there’s chaos,” she said.

She recalled saying to her elections staff, “We just keep our noses to the grindstone. We don’t want to see my smiling face in the newspaper because that would mean something went wrong. We just want to see the (voting) results in the newspaper.”

The job also allowed her to utilize her knack for organizing and showed how she could play a role in the community outside her election walls.

Gill said she joins organizations not for the social and political networking that comes with it, but the sheer pleasure of belonging and a place her organizing skills can be put to good use.”

“I’m a joiner,” she said.

“I ran for vice president of my senior high school class because it meant I organizing the prom and that was very attractive to me,” she recalled for the Chronicle.

The class president didn’t organize the prom so she wasn’t interested in that post.

During a recent Citrus County commission meeting, elected officials had this to say about Gill.

“The integrity is hands down, the best in state of Florida,” said Commission Chairman Scott Carnahan at the Board’s Dec. 15, 2020, meeting in which it recognized Gill. “We appreciate her for everything she’s done. Citrus County, we definitely know our elections. We appreciate all you’ve done and where you’ve taken us.”

Former Commission Chairman Brian Coleman said, “We’re very proud of Susan Gill. You, as citizens, could not ask for anything better from a supervisor of elections. If you want integrity, this is what integrity is all about.”

“We are very blessed to have such an efficient election operation,” Commissioner Ron Kitchen said.

Gill joined the Altrusa International of Citrus County in 1985 and is the local branch organization’s longest serving member. The organization, which formed nationally in 1917, focuses locally on literacy, women’s issues and education.

She was new in the county and wanted to get to know like-minded people, Gill said

She also joined the local American Heart Association here and helped the organization put on heart walks and balls to raise money.

“I learned a lot about heart disease,” she said, smiling.

She also joined the College of Central Florida Foundation Board as well as the Citrus Memorial Health Systems Citizens Advisory Council.

Gill and others raised money for local nursing and dental programs and helped fund the construction of the YMCA in Lecanto.        

She served as the United Way campaign chair in 2005-2006 and 2013-14.

Gill also attends events held by the Key Training Center and the Citrus County Educational Foundation and financially donates to each of them.

She also belongs to a national organization to help supervisor of elections to keep up with the latest ways to operate their departments and best address voter issues.

Gill also contributes to the Citrus County Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity and attends their fundraising events to help drum up more money.

“I don’t have too many causes that aren’t good ones,” she said.

She encourages other people to also take part and help.

“When you go to these events you see a lot of the same people and they become your friends,” she said.

As for retirement, “I’d like some time to get my head straight,” she said, laughing.

Since 1996, she said she’s been committed to her job and that took dedication.

But when she turned 71, she said she had to ask herself hard questions about why she still wanted to remain in office. She won’t ease up on being part of the community and participating in organizations that help make people’s lives better.

As for not running for office again, she said, “It was a hard decision. But once I make a decision I never look back.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Fred Hiers at fred.hiers@chronicleonline.com or 352-397-5914.