After 32 years as Pasco tax collector, Democrat Mike Olson, 67, still has challenges ahead. The most immediate is to be re-elected to a ninth four-year term, and voters shouldn't hesitate to do so. Olson is opposed by Republican Ed Blommel who is making is first run for elected office.
Blommel, 63, who retired after a 40-year career with Tampa Electric Co., has a varied background in management, customer service and community relations that would translate well to the duties of a constitutional office. Still, he displays no burning desire for elected public service, saying he was looking for something to do after retirement and running for office "was on my bucket list.''
Much of his platform has focused on bolstering efficiencies and service. But, suggesting you can improve on the current tax collector's customer service is akin to telling Emeril Lagasse you can make his food taste better. The work effort by the tax collector's staff is top-notch and even Blommel acknowledges that Olson is doing a good job.
In the Tax Collector's Office, it is easy to conduct business in person, via mail or on-line. Clerks are polite and speed customers through the process. Olson's recent innovations include e-payment to allow property tax notices and receipts to be obtained on-line. And to keep trained staff at the counter assisting customers, Olson hired retired law enforcement officers as part-time driver license examiners to administer road tests away from the office environment.
One of the major tasks ahead is to establish new service locations to replace two offices: a former office in Zephyrhills that closed due to water damage from a storm and the poorly-situated central Pasco office in Land O'Lakes. That one-time bank building, now owned by the county, is fronted by a cramped parking lot that serves as an inferior staging area for motorists' road tests. Olson said the site has reported 30 parking lot fender-benders over the years.
Olson, who formerly operated a branch office in a Land O'Lakes retail center, says such a set-up is no longer workable because of the safety concerns connected to road tests. He advocates building two government-owned regional offices to serve the central county population.
Blommel favors leasing office space in privately-owned buildings. For road tests, he says the tax collector should consider a partnership with the school district. It would be difficult to implement. School security concerns could limit the availability of road test sites to late in the afternoon or on weekends, and the idea also raises questions about liability and maintenance.
This is a testimonial to Olson's experience and longevity. He knows what works and what doesn't. He has administered an exemplary operation for more than three decades and Pasco voters should allow him to continue. The Tampa Bay Times recommends the re-election of Tax Collector Mike Olson in the Nov. 6 general election.
Opportunity to reply
The Times offers candidates not recommend by its editorial board and opportunity to respond. Replies should be sent by 5 p.m. Monday to C.T. Bowen, Pasco/Hernando editor of editorials, Tampa Bay Times, 11321 U.S. 19, Port Richey, FL 34668. By fax to 727-869-6233 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Replies are limited to 150 words.