This appeared in the Manatee Chamber’s monthly magazine.  Our office has provided this service for many years.  We recently met with Chamber staff to make improvements. Every person moving to Florida seeking to become a resident has to visit their County Tax Collector to begin the process.


ThanksEvery year our office as a whole supports Adopt A Family during the Christmas holidays.  It lines up with our core value Community and Social Responibility – we take an active role in enhancing the quality of life both personally and as an organization.

What gets me excited is seeing staff doing additional team projects on their own.  This blog will focus on our Field Services and Collections and Operations Departments effort this year.

Supporting Our Troops One Box at a Time

Website –

Operations Department with their filled box.

Operations Department with their filled box prior to shipping.

As our Collection Specialist, Michelle Lesson, left the Veterans Day Parade in downtown Sarasota, FL she was asked to support our troops by taking a priority mail box with the name of a military service member on it. The request was to fill the box with “items from home” that would arrive to our service member hopefully by Christmas: she took two boxes. She then asked her fellow team members to take on the challenge and fill our boxes ASAP as we had to get them mailed out by November 22, 2013 to hopefully arrive by Christmas.

With little time to get it all together we reached out to our Operations Department and the Director, Marie Munford said “Count us in!” and their team took on the second box to fill. Both boxes will hopefully arrive to CSM Richard Wilhelmy and CSM Jake Werner in time for Christmas…we met our mailing deadline. We can’t say thanks enough CSM Richard Wilhelmy, CSM Jake Werner and to all our service members that continue to sacrifice, for us, every day.

We thank you for allowing us the freedom to spend the holidays with our families and please know the Manatee County Tax Collector’s personnel support you 100%.

Florida Baptist Children’s Homes / Guardian Angels of SW Florida


Every year they select an organization to support during the holiday season.  This year they selected the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes which recently opened up some homes in north Palmetto off Ellenton-Gillette Road.   The Homes indicated they were always in need of paper products and diapers for their homes.  The Department set a goal to raise $250.00 and will supply the following to each house:

  • 1 Case of Toilet Paper
  • 1 Case of Paper Towels
  • 1 Package of Paper Plates
  • 1 Case of Diapers.

Any remaining funds will be put towards Clorox or Baby Wipes.  They will be delivering the items on Wednesday, December 18, 2013.


Below is the state of Florida media release.  Manatee County is recognized as one of the top 20 priority Counties targeted due to the number of residents that are over the age of 65.

Target CountiesFlorida Focuses on Keeping Seniors Safe and Mobile

Manatee Crash Stats

Manatee Crash Stats

As retirees trade in their snow boots for sandals and head to the Sunshine State, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles offers these tips to promote safe travels for seniors living and visiting Florida:

  • Plan your day so that you do most of your driving when visibility is greatest and traffic is lightest, such as mid-morning and after lunch.
  • Plan your route to minimize left turns.
  • Look twice before making a turn or entering an intersection.
  • Minimize lane changes. When you change lanes, be sure to use your signals.
  • Turn the volume on your radio down or turn off the radio completely.
  • Have your vision and hearing tested annually.
  • Take your vehicle to a CarFit event to have technicians adjust it to get the right fit for you. (The Safety is Golden Mobility Fair in Tamarac Dec. 5 will offer CarFit and other resources. Click here for event details.)
  • Heed warning labels on medications. Even prescriptions drugs can impair driving and judgment.
  • Consider alternative transportation options.

In Florida, drivers must renew their driver license every eight years and take a vision test every time they renew their driver license in an office, which is at least every 16 years. When drivers reach age 80, they must pass a vision test every time they renew.  They may take the test in a driver license office or have a licensed physician give the Mature Driver Vision Test.  If the driver passes the vision test, the license is renewed for six years.

Sometimes, family members, friends or others notice that a driver’s fitness to drive safely has become questionable. Addressing driving plans before a crisis occurs is a good idea. When a heart-to-heart doesn’t address the issue, DHSMV has a process for reporting medically at-risk drivers who may be unsafe to drive.  In Florida, anyone can report a driver who may be unsafe to drive because of a medical condition.  The Department keeps the report strictly confidential. The Medical Reporting Form is available online. DHSMV reviews every report to determine the best course of action to take. The goal is not to revoke the driver’s license, but rather to ensure a medical condition is not interfering with safe driving.

Drivers who decide to surrender their license may obtain a Florida identification card. Whether getting a driver license or an ID card, Floridians of all ages should visit before going to an office. Those who served honorably in our nation’s military may choose to add a veteran designation to their license. Veterans should be sure to bring a DD-214 that proves their service and pay a one-time, $1 fee, in addition to the renewal fee. If a veteran’s license is not eligible for a renewal, he/she can pay $2 to get a replacement with the veteran designation on it.

Most seniors are good drivers, and there are a number of resources available to help them stay mobile and independent. The Safe Mobility for Life Coalition’s website,, is full of information and resources for aging drivers and their families. DHSMV is an active member of the coalition. You can learn more about DHSMV at and on Facebook.



Recent Mentor Program graduates Teresa Farrell, Sharelle Freeman, and Current Collections Assistant Director Ronda French

Recent Mentor Program graduates Teresa Farrell, Sharelle Freeman, and Current Collections Assistant Director Ronda French

For more in depth information on our Mentoring Team please read my March 22, 2012 blog.

From the public’s perspective my staff makes the job duties we perform every day look easy. That is the farthest thing from the truth.   Since 2011 in the hiring process we require all prospective employees to shadow a current employee for two hours and at least three have fold us no thanks.

Current Mentors Jennie Johnson, Victoria Hiestand, Teresa Farrell (grad), Sharelle Freeman (grad), Heather Alicky, and Lindsay Hoffman

Current Mentors Jennie Johnson, Victoria Hiestand, Teresa Farrell (grad), Sharelle Freeman (grad), Heather Alicky, and Lindsay Hoffman

Once a new hire starts they are provided a very systematic and comprehensive training regiment that takes anywhere from three to six months before they/we can feel comfortable to be on their own.  We keep telling them “the light bulb will come on – just hang in there.”  Some have shared they dream about processing work at night while sleeping.  The light bulb eventually comes on and then they are fine. I guess it is like a marathon runner hitting the wall at 20 miles and working through the last leg of the race.

This is where our mentors come in.  The mentors help offset all the training with third party encouragement and assistance along the way.  Thirty five employees have graduated from our mentoring program since its inception in 2007 and many have said in follow up surveys that the mentor program kept them from quitting at some point before the light bulb came on.

Long story short – the Mentoring Team is critical to the overall success to our organization.  You can have all the latest greatest technology in place and brag about how great your processes are but you still have to have qualified people to execute them properly.

Sharmaine Bridges hosted our booth at the 13th Ave Dream Center

Sharmaine Bridges hosted our booth at the 13th Ave Dream Center

I had the opportunity to spend the morning (Thursday November 14th)  at the 13th Avenue Dream Center Job Fair with fellow employee Sharmaine Bridges.  Another employee Tony Conboy was also there for a short while.  Ran into state representative Darryl Rouson who sponsored the event and met his aid Tennile Moore who runs his Bradenton office.

The job fair, which featured two dozen or so other employers, was a partnership with the Manatee Metro Action Plan, started by dream center director Patrick Carnegie to combat crime and promote economic development.  Prior to the opening of the Dream Center many years ago Patrick gave Tony and I an exclusive tour of the facility.


Manatee High Football

Manatee Coaches

WR Coach Chuck Sandberg, QB Coach Chris Conboy, and Head Coach Joe Kinnan. Not pictured is special teams coach Dennis Stallard

I had the honor to speak at the Manatee High School’s football team’s character meeting on Wednesday October 23rd  after practice.  This puts me in the same category with Tony Dungy who spoke to them earlier in the season.  To me this was a daunting task to speak to a group of players that are currently the top ranked team in Class 8A and are also nationally ranked. Thank goodness they came back and won their game that Friday in a tough match-up against nationally ranked University High out of Broward County.  Had they lost the game they could say the Tax Collector jinxed them.

Fortunately, I was blessed to play in a tradition rich football program like Manatee High School that not only contends for a championship every year but it is the expected standard.   I played on the 1983 & 1984 national championship teams at Carson Newman University which is located in Jefferson City, TN.  Three of the coaches I played for are still there including the head coach Ken Sparks who won  his 315th game last weekend which ranks him 7th all time among college head football coaches.  There are many similarities when comparing the programs.

I chose Proverbs 22:6 as the basis of my  message to them – Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.  I paraphrased it for the players  using football terms to say – Prepare a football player to give his all one play at a time and one game at a time; the lessons learned will provide the CHARACTER needed to be successful the rest of their life. 

I  have heard Coach Sparks say countless times that “the football field is a learning laboratory for life” and he is right on.   You may not realize it at the time but later on in life when opportunities arise you have something to fall back on to help get you through it.  When I ran for Tax Collector in 1992 I had no idea what I was getting into but realized I had a solid foundation to work off of.  I wish all my staff had the opportunity to play football (or a team sport).  There is so much to be gained from it.

In my research I found fifteen things that football teaches you:

  1. Football prepares you to work with a variety of people – people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and people with a variety of mental and physical abilities. You will have to do it every day throughout life to be successful.
  2. To play football you have to meet academic standards to be eligible – you have to meet high intellectual standards to be successful in life.
  3. Football teaches you how to deal with the bumps, bruises, and bloody noses that the game throws at you and life creates bumps, bruises and bloody noses too.
  4. Football takes an EMOTIONAL INVESTMENT from your heart and soul to help the team and teammates to be successful. So does life take an EMOTIONAL INVESTMENT to be successful.
  5. Football teaches time management – management for academic, athletic, and social needs. Time management is an important function in life.
  6. Football requires sacrifices – so does life – give unselfishly.
  7. Football develops an understanding of the concept of team. After you leave football you will be on a team for a long time.
  8. Football helps you to learn to take instructions. A necessity in football and business.
  9. Football requires accepting responsibility to win – blocking the right defender – covering the right receiver – helping teammates get better and helping them not to do something stupid. Responsibility is a lesson in LEADERSHIP.
  10. Football teaches you to play with aches and pains. You will have to do that numerous times as you go through life.
  11. Football challenges your brain – so work it overtime – pay attention to detail. Working overtime and paying attention to detail will help you climb the dollar latter.
  12. Football fundamentals make you a better player and fundamentals in the workplace will make you successful.
  13. Football teaches that hard work pays off – practice hard everyday to get better. You will have to work hard on the job everyday to be successful.
  14. It is important in football to learn to handle success and disappointments to maintain a positive attitude – win or lose. Don’t be an idiot when winning or losing. That could cost you a good job.
  15. Football creates lasting friendships – friendships and networking that can create job opportunities in the future.

Despite the life lessons that are learned we still see players making wrong decisions almost on a daily basis.  No one is perfect and it comes down to choosing to follow these lessons learned or not.

Credit – excerpt from “I Believe in Cream, Apples, and Football” by Larry Beckish. Larry considers this to be one of his best pieces of work, and he’s written a number of books and nearly 200 newspaper articles.

Nearly 1,500 customers were turned away at the Desoto Branch office from October 21st to 23rd because our connection (as well as 300 other Tax Collectors offices statewide) to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is connected with antiquated technology. None of our local  fiber based technologies were affected in the same time frame.

The letter is written to the state’s Department of Management Services not the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles because they manage many administrative functions for all the sixteen state agencies.

Although I have no control over the issue, I can say I am sorry to the 1,500 customers that were impacted and I can write a letter to the person in charge about and share an opportunity for improvement.

Craig Nichols Letter