Seminole County’s new Supervisor of Elections is a former Sheriff’s Deputy and Army veteran who wants to take the mystery out of the elections process
Hard work wins. That’s the motto of Chris Anderson, the new Seminole County Supervisor of Elections, and he’s been living it since his appointment to the post in January.
To get up to speed on Seminole’s elections procedures, Chris experienced a mock election staged by his dedicated staff.
“My head spun,” laughs Chris. “But what they did for me really brought me to a point where I can understand and intelligently speak about the process.”
That elections process is a very extensive operation which requires meticulous planning and accountability. But Chris says it matches well with his military and law-enforcement background.
“In law enforcement, we train constantly to minimize mistakes in the field,” says Chris, who previously served in the Army and was deployed to Afghanistan.
The Supervisor of Elections office is a year-round operation that works extensively ahead of election time to prevent any problems when votes are actually cast and tallied. As a hostage negotiator, gang investigator, field training officer, major crimes detective, U.S. Marshal task force officer, and background investigator, Chris is accustomed to being accountable for every action.
But, by his own admission, Chris’s upbringing gave him “every reason to be in the back of a police car and no reason to be in the front.”
Raised by a single dad who battled drug and alcohol addiction, Chris often spent time with his grandmother and recalls living in about 12 different houses and attending 11 different schools during his elementary and middle-school years. His grandmother spent most of her life in the segregated South, picking oranges with her sister when they were teens. Chris’s grandmother later cleaned houses and juke joints to earn a living while caring for a sick spouse.
“She was a strong woman who never complained about her lot in life,” Chris says of his grandmother. “And if I have any charisma, it certainly came from her.”
When Chris was entering high school, his dad contracted AIDS, which prompted Chris to move back to his dad’s home to care for him.
“My dad and I were very close,” says Chris. “He really tried, but he had a lot of demons. My dad had a great personality, and I learned a lot from him – how to treat people and how to work hard. He definitely taught me that.”
In high school, Chris met his wife, Ebony, whom he describes as a strong, principled woman. Following graduation, he joined the Army, and it was Ebony who encouraged him to continue with basic training after he became frustrated early on. Shortly thereafter, his dad passed away.
After his stint in the Army, Chris was given the opportunity to attend the police academy.
“I got to do a lot of great things,” says Chris, who served with the Indian River Sheriff’s Office and the Apopka Police Department before being hired by Dennis Lemma (Seminole County’s Sheriff, who was the Chief Deputy at the time) at the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. Chris eventually moved to the Seminole County Tax Collector’s Office where he served as chief investigative officer. The highlight of his service there was implementing a security program that included armed revenue officers and an active shooter training program, which was recognized by the County.
“I was very happy about that achievement, and I worked with a wonderful team,” says Chris.
Chris was at the Tax Collector’s office this past January when his phone rang.
“It was the Governor’s office,” Chris says, referencing his appointment by Governor Ron DeSantis to fill the vacant Seminole County Supervisor’s role, “and here I am.”
Going forward, Chris plans to create a more detailed, historically based tour of the elections office itself that will be open to all residents. He wants citizens to know that their votes are counted and then verified and reverified four times in a ballot room with concrete walls and surveillance cameras. Additionally, the only time the office’s network is connected to the internet is for the one-time transmission of verified results. Chris notes that the County has its elections systems and data storage assessed by the FBI, and it will soon be reviewed again by the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber-attack division.
Another new initiative is the Elections Academy, an eight-week course in which residents can participate in a mock election themselves to see the process in detail. Applications for the program are being accepted now.
“I only wish my dad was here today,” says Chris. “He’d be sitting here telling you I made it in spite of my upbringing. I want to show others that they can make it if they work hard. It doesn’t matter where you start, it’s where you finish."
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