Left to Right - Kerri Ward, Mimi Murray, Frankie James, Angie Ford, Sara Ackley, and Kathi Seger on May 16, 2014

Left to Right – Kerri Ward, Mimi Murray, Frankie James, Angie Ford, Sara Ackley, and Kathi Seger on May 16, 2014

I had the distinct opportunity to share today at Mimi Murray’s celebration service at Bible Baptist Church in Palmetto:

First of all, I would like to thank Mimi’s family for the honor to represent the Tax Collector’s office today. Mimi served with excellence for nearly 32 years at our office. She came on board in 1978, 14 years before I was elected Tax Collector; and if you know Mimi, she was already well in control by that time!

Mimi was dedicated public servant who treated everyone with kindness, integrity and respect every day. She truly cared about those she worked with; and even more importantly, she was devoted to Gabriel and Marlena and her family who always came first in her life.

We begin every meeting by reciting our mission statement, something Mimi did hundreds of times. I’d like to ask both present and former Tax Collector’s staff to stand and join me as we honor Mimi by reciting our mission statement – “The mission of the Manatee County Tax Collector’s Office is to perform our duties with integrity and respect, focusing on innovation and serving with excellence.”

Thank you, staff.

Our office framework is built on that mission statement. Mimi performed her duties with integrity and respect; she focused on innovation and most of all she served with excellence.

Her life encompassed each of our 7 core values. Let me show you how she lived:

First – Customer Focus. Her Director, Ray Williams, used to say they had a different style of customer service in Delinquent Collections. He referred to Mimi, Frankie, Sharon and Vicky as “Ray’s Angels” – because they went into the field as commandos. They were quite proficient in obtaining funds from folks, who let’s say, had no intention of paying their taxes until they were “encouraged” to do so. They were good – really good.

Mimi’s understanding of and appreciation for our customers was truly remarkable. Back in the day when she served on the counter, she always looked for ways to help each customer achieve their desired result. We call it “exceeding expectations.” That practice went right along with her as a Field Deputy in delinquent collections.

Second – Innovation. Mimi and the Field Deputies were always looking for ways to improve service. They implemented “red tags” to alert tax payers that they were in arrears in property taxes. This “red tag” best practice has been adopted by Tax Collector offices around the state who appreciate this innovation.

Third – Future Focus. Although not professionally related, I’d like to tell a time when Mimi was afraid that Gabriel might consider choices that would ultimately harm him. Being proactive, Mimi and Ray arranged for him to visit the Sheriff’s Port facility where the always tough Col. Johnny Potts gave him a personal tour of inmate life – up close and personal. After the visit, Col. Potts told Ray, “At lunch, I dug into my plate and he just sat there. I looked up and he said we couldn’t eat until we’d said the blessing. Listen, there ain’t nothing wrong with this boy.” Mimi raised both Marlena and Gabriel right.

Fourth – Integrity and Respect. Mimi personified the Golden Rule. Whether you were a colleague, vendor or delinquent taxpayer — she treated everyone with the same kind demeanor and compassion. Vicky said she could not remember a time when Mimi ever raised her voice to anyone in frustration. She was always willing to listen to your problems and pray with you.

Fifth – Teamwork. You don’t consistently achieve 99% mobile home compliance without teamwork. Mimi was a team player who came to work and gave 100% for 32 years. There are few who achieve this longevity with the same passion as when they started. Her loyal partner Frankie, who were nicknamed “Salt & Pepper,” served right alongside her. Probably no one knew the kind of pain that Mimi endured to get the job done, but she persevered with Frankie’s help. They were teammates, friends, sisters who had each other’s backs.

Sixth – Excellence and Accountability. Mimi was recognized as an Employee of the Quarter because of her determined pursuit of being the best along with her willingness to help others succeed. Years ago as a new employee, one of our managers, Carmen, was welcomed to the old Palmetto office and was seated next to Mimi. It was the first day of hunting permits and Carmen was pretty terrified of the “muzzle loading permit” the customer demanded. Mimi quickly showed her the intricacies of hunting permits – even “muzzle loading permits” – and they became fast friends. She taught another new employee named Coco, now a manager, how to operate the vessel computer. But Kathi has the most legendary story – when the “Tag” Office on the main drag in Palmetto was robbed – Mimi took off chasing them! She was destined to be a field deputy!

Mimi was a great mentor, confident and friend. And even as her health deteriorated, she could be counted on to do the best she could with the strength she had. Dependability was in her DNA.

Seventh – Community and Social Responsibility. For many years, Mimi and Gabriel rode with me in the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade. We would talk and joke throughout the whole parade route. I’m not sure who had more fun – but I know that riding with her was a blast.

Mimi had a heart for those who were in need and her sacrificial giving was an inspiration to all of us. Adopt-a-Family is one of our community projects. Each year we raise hundreds of dollars with our annual “penny drive,” and the Delinquent Collections now called Field Services & Collections contribution is always at the top. On their own they have supported Military and Veteran causes, Toys for Tots and other local charities with their time and money.

There are story after stories of Mimi’s great personality and her love of fun. Billy Manning often teased her mercilessly as he pursued “the love of his life” – Once he came into the office and burst into song professing his love for her. Another time, again in front of customers, he begged her to come back home to him and their kids. Of course there was no truth to it, but the looks on the customers’ faces were priceless. And on her birthday, Ray gave her a “photoshopped” autographed picture of Denzel Washington that decorated her office for years. She never let on that she knew it was fake.

But, the real essence of Mimi was that she was a solid Christian. She was the rock that others would cling to in crisis. She was the comfort and strength when her own heart was breaking at the loss of her precious mother and beloved sister Roz. She was the one who read her Bible during every lunch hour, sometimes chasing her Director around the office with it, if need be.

And in that last moment, she was prepared to meet her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; to spend eternity in glory, where there are no more tears and no more pain. And I truly believe that one of the first people to welcome her to heaven was Lillie Robinson.

Mimi’s loss has broken the hearts of my staff and my heart grieves right along with them. Psalm 34:18 says “The LORD is with the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Our thoughts and prayers for her family, her office family and for those who knew and loved her will continue.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to express my love and gratitude to my friend. Mimi Murray touched us in many individual and special ways. So we say rest in peace, we will see you again.

Angie Ford

Getting behind on my blog but congrats to Angie Ford for graduating with her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Safety in December .  She finished her degree with a 3.8 GPA and was a finalist for the Outstanding Graduate Award Winners, Winter 2013.

Angela Ford, a Bradenton resident, volunteered for Meals on Wheels, Manatee Players, United Way, Easter Seals and Florida Blood Services. She interned with Manatee County Emergency Management, assisting with updating the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan. She is a member of the Nu Zeta chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and received the 2012 Best Collaborative Project in German.

She has been with us since 1991 and works in our Financial Services Department. She graduated from SCF in December 2009 with an A.A. in Accounting.

Put It Down

Manatee County Tax Collector and AAA Auto Club
Promote “Delete Texting” with New Driver Signature Banner

The Manatee County Tax Collector’s Office and The AAA Auto Club have installed a “Don’t Text While Driving” banner in the lobby of the Tax Collector’s DeSoto office, 819 301 Blvd. W., Bradenton, where driver licenses are issued.

Put It Down Tyler Dyson, a student at Braden River High School,  is the first new driver in Manatee County to make the pledge.

Field Deputy Dominic Fragomeni, New Tyler Dyson, and Ken Burton, Jr.

Field Deputy Dominic Fragomeni, Tyler Dyson, and Ken Burton, Jr.

“We installed the banner for new drivers who have just passed their driver’s road skills test to sign, indicating their commitment not to text when they are behind the wheel,” said Tax Collector Ken Burton Jr. “To align with our core value of community and social responsibility, we take our role as driver license examiners and road skills testing deputies very seriously because of the risks these new drivers face.”

According to National Health and Safety Administration, two primary killers on the road are cell phones and other teen passengers. It is the foremost reason that the Florida Ban on Texting While Driving state law went into effect in October.

The Tax Collector’s Office conducts at least 2700 road skills tests a year. Once the student passes the driving test and is waiting to receive their new driver license, they will be invited to sign the banner to indicate their commitment not to text and drive.

“We want to do all we can to encourage these new drivers to think before they decide to pick up their cell phones in their cars,” Burton said. “Keeping them safe is our priority.”

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The mission of the Manatee County Tax Collector’s office is to perform our duties
with integrity and respect, focusing on innovation and serving with excellence.
Governor’s Sterling Award Recipient 2011

 

 

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.

ManateeChamber

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 – http://supportourtroopsmoas.com/

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

Website: http://www.gaswfl.com

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 www.GatherGoGet.com 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, www.safeandmobileseniors.org, 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 www.flhsmv.gov and on Facebook.

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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.