Suzanne Johnston

Flagler County Tax Collector (2005-Present)

Suzanne was born in 1949 at Halifax hospital in Daytona Beach, grew up in Korona until the seventh grade, then in Flagler Beach, dividing her time between home, school–at what is now the Wickline Center–and the area around the pier they called “uptown” back then. “We’d be up there from daylight till dark and then come home for supper and everything,” she said. “Everybody knew everybody when you went to the post office. You knew every person by name.”

Suzanne attended the University of Florida, got married, then went to work and raised her two children, deepening her local roots as she went. 

Suzanne Johnston had just returned from her honeymoon in St. Augustine with her husband Albert in 1970 when he stopped the car at a grocery store in Bunnell and went in. Suzanne stayed in the car. A stranger knocked at the window.

“When are you going to come to work?” the man asked her, startling her.

“I’m sorry sir. I don’t know who you are,” she replied.

“I’m Don Moore, the tax assessor,” the man told her. “Albert said you’d come to work  as soon as you’d get back from your honeymoon.”

“Well, I guess I’ll be there Monday,” she said.

“And that’s when I went and started work” in county government.

In nearly 54 years, she worked at what was then called the Tax Assessor’s Office when it was a three-person operation, including her, starting at $75 a week ($609 in today’s dollars, or $32,000 a year), and when computers were still something you saw on Star Trek, then in its final year on television, not on every desk in the office. Then in 1981, Gov. Bob Graham appointed her to fill out the term of the property appraiser for a year, even though he was a Democrat and she was a Republican: bipartisanship back then was not a heresy. But she opted not to run for elected office when it was over: her son Bart was just 4, her daughter Suzie was just seven months old, and for the Johnstons, family came first. Politics can wait.

For Suzanne , it waited until 2004, the year John Seay retired as Property Appraiser, clearing the way for Jay Garder. Suzette Pellicer retired as Tax Collector, clearing the way for Johnston. She drew Kerry Ellis in the Republican primary, dispatched her with 84 percent of the vote, then beat Rick McGraw in the general election with 65 percent of the vote.

She’d made three promises when she first ran in 2004: to put all tax records online, which she did. To open a satellite office in palm Coast in her first year, which she accomplished. (The Flagler Beach satellite office opened in 2017.) And to open a walk-up window for after-hours, which she also did once the new Government Services Building opened in 2007. “And I promised my mother that as long as I was tax collector, the phones would be answered by a real live persons,” she said. 

She didn't have to run a campaign again as she ran unchallenged four times for the rather obvious reason that her office, now a 42-person operation with two satellite locations, tended to run with Swiss watch precision and Magic Kingdom customer service.

“I’ve worked very hard for the people and tried to make it as easy and convenient for them as I possibly could,” Johnston said. “My office wouldn’t be what it is without my top notch team.”