Von Fraser often came up to customers outside the tax collector’s office in the Alachua County Administration Building, extended his hand and asked, “How’s the service?”
“This let the public know that he was serious about helping them, and it reminded the employees that service was paramount to him,” said John Power, the chief deputy tax collector.
Fraser, who died at the age of 76 on April 17, kept true to his pledge that he would die in office; he was in the office on the day that he became ill and went to the hospital for a three-week stay prior to his death.
Fraser was 62, an age at which some people retire, when he took office as Alachua County tax collector in 2001, winning the election after his predecessor, Jim Bishop, retired.
“Public service was his hobby; it’s what he enjoyed. He didn’t want to retire to fish, golf or travel,” Power said.
In line with his sense of service, Fraser always asked everyone, both his staff and the public, to call him “Von,” not “Mr. Fraser.”
Fraser had previously worked for 19 years as Bishop’s assistant. Upon election, he hired Power as his deputy.
“We had a great partnership; he worked with the public, and I managed the office,” Power said.
During his time in office, Fraser upgraded overall service and greatly enhanced the office’s computer and online capabilities, Power said. Today, half of the office’s transactions are done online.
The office took over issuing driver’s licenses in March 2013.
“Before, there was just one driver’s license office, and now we issue licenses at all three of our offices,” Power said. “In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for the process to take two to three hours. Now, the average time is 15 minutes.”
Cynthia Chestnut, a former state legislator, county commissioner and city commissioner, admired Fraser.
“He truly embodied the concept of servant leader,” she said. “He was the most dedicated public servant I’ve ever seen.”
Fraser was dedicated to helping people who were behind on their taxes save their homes.
“He worked with them up until the last hour. He worked until late at night, calling them and knocking on their doors,” Chestnut said. “He knew what they had gone through to get their homes.”
Many politicians seldom attend community functions after they are elected until they’re up for re-election, Chestnut noted, adding, “That was not the case for Von Fraser. Every day, every hour, he was trying to help people.”
Retired Supervisor of Elections Beverly Hill recalled that Fraser would hold up signs for multiple candidates. “He showed enthusiasm for everybody,” she said.
Gerri Singleton, who served as Fraser’s administrative assistant the last five years of his tenure, noted: “His calendar was laden with appointments every weekend. He would have four to five events on Saturday and four or five on Sunday. I envied his energy level; I couldn’t keep up with him.”
Fraser had a passion for promoting education by supporting scholarships and mentoring local youth
Joanne Williams worked with him in providing scholarships through the Ebony Appreciation Awards Committee and the Lincoln High School Alumni Association. When he was ill prior to his final hospitalization, Williams visited him.
“He said, ‘I have so much more to do, and I don’t think I have time to get it all done,’” she said.
Fraser, who served in the Army, befriended Reginald Griffin as Griffin made the transition from military to civilian life. They met at VFW Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2811.
“I told him I had been in the military 28 years and said I was kind of old to go back to school,” Griffin said. He told me, ‘You’re never too old.’”
Griffin enrolled at Santa Fe College and interviewed Fraser for a class assignment.
“I expected to get a half hour in his busy schedule,” Griffin said. “We ended up talking for five hours.”
Since then, Griffin has graduated from Santa Fe, and he is now enrolled at Strayer University. He is also working as an intern in the tax collector’s office.
At a May 17 memorial service at Mount Carmel Baptist Church, speakers recounted Fraser’s many contributions to community, which included the A.L. Mebane High School Alumni Association, Duval Elementary School, the Micanopy Historic Cemetery and the Pleasant Street Historic Society
Roberta Lopez, a former Archer city commissioner, recalled that Fraser traveled to Tallahassee twice to lobby for a $320,000 appropriation for the Archer Community Center
“I think it was because of Von that the appropriation was made,” Lopez said.
At the memorial, John C. Rawls lauded Fraser’s work as a fellow member of board of Florida Credit Union.
“He will be severely missed,” Rawls said.