Flagler County

Tax Collector Suzanne Johnston Will Not Seek Re-Election


BUNNELL, Fla. - Long-serving Flagler County Tax Collector Suzanne Johnston will call it a career next year. Having first been elected in 2004 and serving continuously ever since, Johnston will finally hand the reins over to a successor after the 2024 election cycle.

Johnston launched her first campaign in 2004, running as a Republican against one competitor: Kerry Ellis. Four years ago Ellis had lost the general election to Democrat Suzette Pellicer, and was trying once again. Pellicer was retiring at the end of her term, making for an incumbentless race. Johnston beat Ellis in the Republican primary with 80.1% of the vote, and then went on to defeat Democrat Rick McGraw in the general with a 64.6% majority. In each of her subsequent re-election bids, Johnston has been maintained with no opposition, a claim very few elected officials in Flagler County can make.

Johnston during her initial 2004 campaign for Tax Collector.
Johnston during her initial 2004 campaign for Tax Collector.

The news of Johnston’s incoming retirement was first reported on FlaglerLive, who noted that Johnston felt she was at the point in her life to bow out from public service. She’ll be 75 years old when her term expires, and would therefore take a potential additional term almost to octogenarian status. Still, Johnston remains a sharp communicator and well-regarded community leader regardless of her age.

"When I started in 1970, that was the first year the tax roll was not hand-typed," Johnston said, referring to the 50+ years since she first began work in the tax office. She specifically spoke of the rapidly progressing technology as one of the most memorable changes since her career began.

Along with to her own foray into elected office, Johnston’s family has a long history of leadership in Flagler County. Her grandfather, E.W. Johnston, was the county’s first sheriff from 1917 to 1925, and then its sixth from 1937 to 1941 and at another point its first tax collector. Johnston’s mother-in-law, Ria Johnston, was a School Board member. Ria’s father and son (the son being Suzanne’s husband) both served time as county commissioners, and Suzanne’s daughter Suzie has been the Mayor of Flagler Beach since 2021.

Johnston will reportedly be campaigning for Shelly Edmonson, a current employee of the tax collector's office who is expected to run for the seat in 2024. Edmonson has not yet filed as of Friday, nor has anyone else, but any candidate with Johnston's wholehearted blessing is sure to enter the election with a distinct leg up.

"My mom had been such an inspiration for me to run for public office," said Suzie Johnston of her mother. "Like any position when the political environment got hard it was nice to reach out to my mom who could always offer hands-on advice, something not everyone has an opportunity of. I'm excited to see what she has in store for herself during retirement, as we all know her so well, she won't sit still for long."