Tax Collector Doug Belden, who has made his office one of the best in Hillsborough County government, deserves another term.
Belden, a Republican first elected in 1998, brought an eye toward customer service honed through his years in private industry. It is easy to renew a tag in the office or online. His branches are clean and conveniently located. Clerks are polite and speed customers through the process using a computerized tracking system.
Belden was rewarded this year for his efficient operation with the Governor's Sterling Award, which honors outstanding business practices and customer service. His was the first government agency in the county to receive the award, and the first among the state's tax collectors. Belden has worked with other government agencies to streamline costs. He is accessible to the public and good to his staff, which makes the experience of handing money to the government as pleasant as possible.
Challenger Beverly P. Harris is a former employee running on an "ethics" banner. That is a reference to an incident in 2006 when Belden drank too much and made advances on a woman at a downtown bar. Belden, 54, publicly apologized, and his work has not suffered. Harris, 50, a no-party candidate, fails to make the case that the incident invalidates Belden's record. She has no specific plan for managing the office or improving operations, and for a former senior clerk she is weak on the details of the budget and staff needs.
For Hillsborough tax collector, the Times recommends Doug Belden.