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In their own words: Adams County tax collector candidates address issues in election

Today The Natchez Democrat profiles candidates vying for the Adams County Tax Collector’s seat being vacated by Peter Burns.

Candidates Patricia S. Lozon, Rose Daniel Patterson, Samuel “Sambo” Thomas and T. Henry Watts are running as Democrats and the winner of the Aug. 6 primary will face independent candidate Jim Smith in the Nov. 5 general election.

The Adams County Tax Collector’s duties are outlined below as summarized from Mississippi state statutes by the Mississippi State University Extension service.

“The tax collector collects all taxes, including but not limited to, ad valorem (e.g., residential and automobile) and privilege taxes, charges, and fees of every kind.”

All candidates submitted responses to the same five questions given to them by The Natchez Democrat. Candidates’ answers were limited to no more than 150 words.

Candidate Lozon could not be reached for participation in this article.

Why should Adams County voters elect you to serve as Adams County Tax Collector?

Rose Daniel Patterson: The voters should elect me as Adams County Tax Collector because of my experience. I can hit the ground running, and I am knowledgeable of what the office needs. I understand the ins and outs of the office, and I have a genuine concern for the taxpayers and citizens of Adams County. I will ensure prompt, courteous and knowledgeable service.

Jim Smith: I am the best candidate for the Tax Collector position because of my 30-plus years of business experience in various industries and my ability to manage and lead others. My personality and skill sets will help create a work environment where employees and customers alike feel valued and appreciated. Additionally, I have researched and questioned the budget and other constraints under which the department currently works as well as the ways to improve the department if I am elected.

Most importantly, I have a very strong work ethic and moral foundation that I learned from my parents.

Samuel “Sambo” Thomas: Voters should elect me because I’m selfless, dependable, hard-working, dedicated, trustworthy and fair. I would continue to be this as Adams County Tax Collector in my dealings with all citizens. I was born and raised in Adams County; it’s my home, and the people of Adams County are like my family. I’ve been serving the public since I was 8 years old as a paper boy for The Natchez Democrat. I’m a proud Army veteran who has served our country honorably. I’ve served Adams County as a manager in fast food restaurants and as a security officer for Natchez-Adams School District. Also I’ve worked in the Tax Collector’s office serving the people of Adams County. I’m familiar with collecting property taxes, managing local revenue and serving in other state departments. If you want “the change we need and the voice we deserve,” elect me as your next Tax Collector.

T. Henry Watts: The Tax Collector should be a businessperson foremost and a people person. I’ve been in the real estate and homebuilding business over 40 years. To be successful in that business, you have to be knowledgeable, courteous, respectful and give friendly service with a smile. So should the Tax Collector. Above all, the Tax Collector should appreciate and respect the taxpayers, whom he works for and who owns the Tax Collector’s office! After serving eight years on the Board of Supervisors, I’m very familiar with the county budgets and how county departments function. Today, it takes about $1,000 a day to run the Tax Collector’s office, about $89,000 a day to run county government, about $115,000 a day to run the public school system. The Tax Collector is responsible for collecting the majority of that money. For 40 years, I’ve successfully managed construction, people and money.

What is the biggest issue facing the Adams County voters in the Adams County Tax Collector’s office?

Rose Daniel Patterson: The biggest issue facing the Tax Collector’s office is efficiency. The efficiency issue is not a result of poor leadership but a combination of issues not the least of which is resources or a lack thereof.

Jim Smith: The biggest issue in the Tax Collector’s office is the low pay and low morale of the employees. Because the Tax Collector’s office is the least funded department of all the departments in county government, the employees (most having 15-30-plus years of service in the department) are paid several thousand dollars less per year than their counterparts throughout county government. This, coupled with the general negative nature of the job (collections), as well as being understaffed by at least one person, creates an environment of negativity and low morale.

Samuel “Sambo” Thomas:  In my conversations with citizens, I discovered that the biggest issue facing the Adams County Tax Collector’s office is regaining the public’s trust. Taxpayers feel that they have been paying too much in taxes. They feel that their accounts are not being updated as they should be, resulting in them paying more money than they owe. If I am elected, I would make sure that each account is accurately updated and that each customer will be treated fairly according to the Mississippi laws of tax collection. Everything will be done by the book without exceptions.

T. Henry Watts:  Other than having to actually pay the annual ad valorem taxes, it would be electing a Tax Collector who is experienced in owning and operating a business. A Tax Collector who has experience with people and who has worked for people. A Tax Collector who understands the process of real and personal property evaluation, how the assessed value and the property millage is determined, that produces the final ad valorem tax bill that taxpayers will pay.

What are the two main objectives you would want to accomplish if elected as the Adams County Tax Collector?

Rose Daniel Patterson: I will make sure that we are adequately staffed at all times to reduce wait time and ensure we are providing the best service for you the citizens. When lines are long I will assist my staff.

Jim Smith: My first objective, while working with the board of supervisors and the Legislature, would be to eliminate the position of Tax Collector within the first four-year term. After researching other counties around the state, I firmly believe the Tax Assessor and Tax Collectors offices should be combined into one office under the direction of the Tax Assessor. This would free up money to give needed raises to the current employees and hire a part time person that is needed to fully staff the department. Also, it would create opportunity to promote and cross train employees to cover when someone is out temporarily or leaves the department permanently. The Tax Assessor would manage the merged departments and simultaneously save the taxpayers money. My second objective would be to create an efficient way to pay taxes online thus making the department more efficient while saving valuable time for employees and taxpayers.

Samuel “Sambo” Thomas:  My first objective would be to regain the trust of the people of Adams County. I want to ensure them that the Tax Collector is not in office for self gain but instead here to serve and help them to understand their taxes. I want to make the Tax Collectors office a place where everyone will feel welcome every time they come by offering the best customer service. The second objective would be to put in place a new software that will allow taxpayers to view all of their accounts online and ensure that the amount they pay is accurate. This software is already being used by other states.

T. Henry Watts:  First I want to determine if the Tax Collector’s budget will allow a full-time or part-time employee during high peak tax collection periods. I also want to find a solution to shorten the waiting time to pay taxes and to make the process of paying the taxes, as taxpayer-friendly and painless as possible. Hopefully, the office reputation for being speedy, courteous and helpful will spread throughout the county. Again, all of this fact-finding, trial and error discovery, only can be determined after I get into office. Another issue that needs to be made clear to the public is currently you can pay taxes and vehicle tags online. But the renewal on the tags have to be during the month they are due and can’t be delinquent.

What experience do you have that uniquely qualifies you to be the Adams County Tax Collector?

Rose Daniel Patterson: I have served as a deputy clerk under three administrations. That 28 years of experience in all capacities has given me time to analyze and truly understand what it takes to improve the office.

Jim Smith: I have over 30 years of experience in the business world. The first five years of my adult life was spent working in collections for Ford Motor Credit in Raleigh, N.C. This job not only gave me valuable experience in collecting money from people that were behind on their car payments, but it taught me extensively about automobile title work. I found that an empathetic approach is always the best way to handle customers that found themselves in financial trouble. Furthermore, I will respect all employees and customers I encounter and try to understand their unique situations. State law requires every tax dollar owed be collected, and I intend to do this by providing the easiest and friendliest way possible. I am also a licensed realtor and very familiar with property taxes and real estate values and how they affect the community.

Samuel “Sambo” Thomas: I’ve worked in customer service my whole life. I have over 10 years of management, budgeting and inventory experience. I’ve never failed an inventory, and I always balance out on budgets. Also I have worked in the Tax Collector’s office here in Adams County.

T. Henry Watts:  My experience in the last 40 years of being a realtor, homebuilder, rental property owner, operator and manager, being an appraiser, a landowner, borrower of millions of dollars of construction loans, builder and remodeler of hundreds of homes, payer of tens of thousands of business, school, city and county ad valorem taxes, has certainly given me a valuable business background. My experience dealing with lawyers, insurance agents, real estate agents, bankers, mortgage companies, appraisers, lumber companies, appliance and lighting companies, hundreds of contractors and hundreds of homebuyers, makes me uniquely qualified to be the next Tax Collector. After paying ad valorem taxes for many years, I know, it’s not a pleasant experience. But I recognize, collecting taxes is a government-mandated function, in order to provide public services like law enforcement, fire protection, roads, bridges and public schools. But, I intend to make the process as taxpayer friendly as possible.

Do you think the Adams County Tax Collector’s office is adequately staffed?

Rose Daniel Patterson: I feel that the Adams County Tax Collector’s office is staffed as well as the resources allow. That being said, if elected I will come into the office fighting for more resources, however, if I am faced with the same budget constraints as past administrations, I will get the most out of the resources that we have to make sure we are faster and more efficient for the citizens of Adams County.

Jim Smith: No. See answers to questions 2 and 3.

Samuel “Sambo” Thomas: Yes, I feel that the office has enough employees but I do think that each employee should be trained on how to properly execute each transaction. Even if there are more employees added to the office, the transactions are all different and some take longer than others. If I am elected, I would ensure that every employee is properly trained to handle all transactions to better assist customers.

T. Henry Watts:  As a homebuilder, businessman and taxpayer for four decades, looking in from the outside. It appears at peak times of the year, the tax collector’s office needs additional help to service our taxpayers. To determine that, I would have to get into the office, get to work, have staff meetings, look closely at the budget and find out why there is a shortage of staff, especially at peak times, if that is the case. I know most of the staff that work there now. They are skilled and knowledgeable at what they do. One of the problems in county government could be their budget. The $370,000 budget, with any additional staff, has to be approved by the Board of Supervisors. Additional staff could be part-time people. The supervisors may or may not be approving additional staff. I don’t know. I will have to get into office to find out.


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