'It's a dirty secret': Seminole County Elections Supervisor says racism obstructing projects

Seminole County’s Supervisor of Elections is speaking out against what he describes as years of racist behavior. He says he understands his interactions at work and the way people in the public view him moving forward may be different as a result.

"But," Anderson said, "at no time in this country that change ever happen from a place of being comfortable. We have to get uncomfortable in order to be willing to change. And I'm okay with that."

In a video posted to his wife’s TikTok, Elections Supervisor Chris Anderson and his wife say they’ve experienced racism since the moment he took office.

"The day after I was appointed, my wife and I had a meeting with individuals in this county, white men, who told us, ‘Listen, white people consider you, as a Black person to be stupid, to be dumb, and that you’ll eff something up,’" Anderson states in the video.

In a sit-down interview with FOX 35, Anderson elaborated on what pushed him to create the video. 

His main points of focus right now are obstructions to his ability to effectively do his job and an incident where he says his wife was racially profiled by the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.

Chris Anderson is the first Black constitutional officer in Seminole County. He explains that fact is something he hasn’t been able to move past throughout his time as Elections Supervisor.

"When county commissioners tell you that not only that there's a sitting county commission and they believe it's racist and that there's a former county commissioner going around telling them not to support your projects, that's a problem," Anderson told FOX 35.

Anderson has been trying for years to get a new, bigger elections office to keep up with a growing population.

He claims a County official asked him to sign a letter that he felt would be a lie. Anderson described the interaction as a quid pro quo offer:

"’Hey, tell us you don't feel discriminated against, even though we think you are, and you shouldn't have a problem getting the building.’"

FOX 35 reached out to that County official for comment and is waiting to hear back.

Anderson also claims his wife was discriminated against by the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.

The couple says she was racially profiled and approached for simply sitting in her car and reaching into her own purse.

"She's sitting in her car and she gets this ominous stare. She can feel it. Someone staring her down," Anderson recalled. "And she's actually on her way to receive some test results because she's been very sick, so she’s already nervous."

Anderson says his wife decided to get out of the car, and the deputy approached, asking her if she’d dropped something, referring to a piece of paper on the ground that she says wasn’t hers. 

The Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the incident happened, and that it offered to investigate but didn’t receive a formal complaint. 

"Sheriff Lemma was informed of the concerns of Supervisor and Mrs. Anderson in November 2022 directly from Supervisor Anderson, which at the time was conveyed as being flirtatious or inappropriate. Concerned about these allegations, the Sheriff’s Office looked into the incident to determine what had occurred," the Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

He says she’s felt unsafe ever since.

The Sheriff’s Office confirms Sheriff Dennis Lemma met with Anderson about that twice. 

"Sheriff Lemma informed him that the agency would investigate the incident the same way they would investigate any other complaint if a formal complaint was received," the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office explained. "SCSO Executive Command Staff members attempted to contact Supervisor Anderson to walk him through the complaint process."

Anderson, who used to be a Seminole County deputy himself, says the meetings and the Sheriff's response ever since have been disappointing.

"If I don't do anything, I want to make sure that my wife realizes that her husband is going to make sure that he uses his platform to protect not just her. But I have two daughters and there's a whole lot of people that look like us that will benefit from it as well."

The Sheriff’s Office says Anderson and his wife never filed a formal complaint.

Still, the family is talking about it now.

"If you don’t say something, your size can be corrosive to your character," said Anderson.

Anderson has said he is going to run for re-election in 2024, but FOX 35 News confirmed with the Elections Office that he hasn’t filed paperwork yet to do so. 

Anderson says part of his motivation in speaking out is because if an elected official is racist, he feels voters have a right to know about it. For the time being, he isn’t naming any names. He explained he may in the future, but right now, he’d prefer for those individuals to do some self-reflection and potentially choose on their own to be better.