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  1. Opinion

Hillsborough tax collector: Here’s who the Times editorial board recommends

Continuity is key for an office that works well already.

Since being first elected in 1998, Doug Belden has turned the Hillsborough County Tax Collector’s office from a dated bureaucracy to a model operation. As he retires, that progress can continue with Nancy C. Millan, a longtime member of his senior staff who seeks the Democratic nomination for the job. Millan has the experience and personal skills to further the office’s reputation for excellence. She is clearly the Democrats’ best choice in the Aug. 18 primary.

The tax collector is just that — the county officer charged with collecting the various revenue streams that fund the government. Though selected in a partisan election, the tax collector is largely a ministerial officer whose chief obligation is to get the details right. Whether renewing a driver’s license, paying property taxes or remitting business receipts, the public needs the office to be dependable and accessible. Belden, with Millan’s assistance, has vastly improved customer service over the years, while making the operation a hallmark of efficiency.

Nancy Millan [ Courtesy of Nancy Millan ]

This didn’t happen by accident. Millan, 53, who joined the office in 1989, quickly worked her way to Belden’s senior management team. She was appointed in 2001 as director of community relations, responsible for the office’s public outreach efforts. Her communications strategy was key to educating the public about an array of service improvements. The office became a one-stop shop for many government services, and its branch locations were lauded for cleanliness and speedy service. The office was the first agency in Hillsborough and the first tax collector in the state to receive the Governor’s Sterling Award for excellence. The office’s customer satisfaction ratings have been sky-high for years.

Millan vows to continue the customer-centric focus. She wants to expand online services, and provide more personal assistance through virtual means to help taxpayers navigate any specific problems. Millan recognizes that the coronavirus will create long-term demands for safer ways to interact with the public. She’s also interested in expanding a pilot project that provides some services at self-serve kiosks in retail locations. And Millan would make cyber-security a priority.

April Griffin

Her opponent, April Griffin, is a former three-term Hillsborough County School Board member who was first elected in 2006. Griffin, 51, was a driving force on the board for raising the district’s graduation rate and expanding its career and technical programs. She wants to wring more efficiencies out of new technology and explore the use of mobile units to provide services to far-flung constituents. Griffin also wants to seek broad public input in how the office could improve. As a school board member, she was an indefatigable worker who took constituent service seriously. Griffin has a solid grasp of county government and a record of addressing under-served communities.

Millan, though, has already shaped the office’s success story, and she won’t need a learning curve after the election. She has an open, consensus-building style that fosters morale and teamwork. Her decades of professional commitment have made the office measurably better and more responsive to taxpayers. There’s no need to experiment now when a capable manager is looking to take the reins. Millan is uniquely prepared and the strongest Democrat for the general election in November. The Tampa Bay Times recommends Nancy C. Millan in the Democratic primary for Hillsborough County Tax Collector.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news

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