Cowan, Harrell take over property appraiser, clerk of court roles

From left: Marion County Tax Collector George Albright, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods, Marion County Property Appraiser Jimmy Cowan, Marion County Supervisor of Elections Wesley Wilcox and Marion County Clerk of Court Greg Harrell pose for photos after Cowan was sworn in as Marion County Property Appraiser and Harrell was sworn in as Marion County Clerk of Court at the Marion County Commission auditorium in the McPherson Governmental complex in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

Following in the footsteps of people like Villie Smith and David Ellspermann is a double-edged sword.

Filling the shoes of Smith, who served as Marion County’s property appraiser for 24 years, and Ellspermann, who served as the county’s clerk of court for 24 years, is easier said than done.

But, Smith and Ellspermann were able to teach their successors a thing or two, as both worked for the men they replace.

On Tuesday morning, Jimmy Cowan took the reins from Smith, while Greg Harrell relieved Ellspermann as the two new public officials were among the five constitutional officers sworn into office.

Harrell and Cowan were the joined by Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods, Marion County Tax Collector George Albright and Marion County Supervisor of Elections Wesley Wilcox who were all incumbents starting new terms.

Accompanying Cowan during Tuesday morning’s ceremony was his mother, Jean Cowan. With his mother holding his late grandmother’s bible, Cowan was sworn in after over 28 years with the property appraiser’s office.

After graduating from Forest High School in 1987, Cowan has only work at two places in his lifetime: the bowling alley, where he was a nighttime manager, and the property appraiser’s office, where he has worked his way up the ranks under Smith and the late Rudy Muckenfuss.

“I have worked from the bottom, basically up to management,” Cowan laughs. “And now I’m here.”

Aside from his duties at the property appraiser’s office, Cowan is also involved with the Marion County Youth Football League, where he’s a coach.

“I’m deeply rooted in the community as far as people, and I’ve always just tried to treat people with respect,” Cowan says. “And I’m not really a politician – just like Villie said – I’m a public servant. That’s what I am.”

Cowan said many of his goals will continue what Smith started.

However, Cowan admits he will have to shore up the foundation his predecessor helped build.

“Villie built an excellent foundation. We’ve got people in the right positions,” Cowan says. “We’ve had a lot of people leave because of retirement… So, when you get that institutional knowledge that’s walked out of the office, you gotta build a little more depth again.”

As for clerk of the court, Greg Harrell won an uncontested election to take over Ellspermann’s seat.

Before winning the seat, Harrell served as the general counsel at the clerk’s office.

“I was excited and tremendously honored to be sworn in today as the next Clerk of Court and Comptroller for Marion County,” Harrell wrote in a text. “I am grateful for this opportunity. I appreciate everyone who helped me get here, and I will do everything I can to serve and protect the public’s trust in their records and finances.”


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