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.

Bauman Retirement

Bob Bauman Retires

In 1998  Bob Bauman a semi-retired industrial engineer and his wife Diana moved to Bradenton, FL  from South Dakota to be closer to his mother.  I do not remember how he found out about the office but he started his career on January 26, 1998 as a front line associate.

It wasn’t long before we put his engineering background to good use doing time and motion studies on some of of our processes to improve efficiency.  His data on one project was used on a driver license cost benefit analysis required by the Florida Legislature when talks began about shifting the duties from the State to the County Tax Collectors.  The transition eventually became law a few years ago set to be completed by July 2015.

Bob spent most of his career in our IT Department where he served on the help desk and as the project manager.  He had the perfect demeanor for resolving IT related problems and over the years solved thousands of them.

He was selected Employee of the Quarter in 2002 and was our lone and proud Minnesota Vikings fan.  He almost retired a few years back but agreed to stay on a little longer for us of which we are extremely grateful..

Bob and Diana will be moving to Utah to be closer to family.  We wish you all the best!

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.

It is Paralegal Week in Florida – May 27 – June 1

We have two paralegals  – Susan Profant and Michelle Leeson who both work in or Field Collections and Services Department.

Susan Profant

Susan Profant

Susan Profant is our office paralegal.  She is NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants) certified (CLA) and Florida Registered Paralegal (Florida Bar certified).  She has been with the office since 1989 and was selected Employee of the Quarter in 1997.

Michelle Leeson

Michele Leeson has been with our office since 1992.  She was selected Employee of the Quarter in 2003 and graduated in December 2009 with an A.A.S. in paralegal studies.

Parlegal Week

We are blessed with a fine group of part timers at the Tax Collectors office.  We call them our “OPS staff” which mean “Other Personal Services” which is what the Florida Department of Revenue calls them in our budget preparation documents.  They play an integral part to our office goals and objectives.

2013 current collections part timers

L-R Director Tony Conboy, Rebecca Bollom, Heric Fregonese, Tamia Mills, Ken Burton, Jr,, Assistant Director Ronda French, Sherrie Gerrits, and Carole Knestaut. Not pictured is Jashay Woodie and Sully Salinas

Our Current Collections part time staff are made up of greeters.  They greet the public when they first walk into an office and help get them started with their transaction.  As our duties have increased in recent years their job has become more difficult and now has a 3 day training.

2013 operations part timers

L-R Manager Jedidiah Brightbill, Greer Gambill, Zachary Zartman, Raegan Horne, Kim Alfonso, and Director Marie Munford

Our part time Operations staff process the mail and web payments in a timely manner so that these customers see a quick turnaround on their transaction to ensure they will use it again in the future.

2013 FS&C Part Timers

L-R Director Michele Schulz, Auditor Sue Sinquefield, Tanya Ranney, and Kristine Reeves

Our Field Services and Collections part time staff handle the collection of the local tourist development tax also known as the “bed tax” or “resort tax.”  We have seen record  collections in recent years and alot has to do with their collections efforts.

We recognize them every year at a luncheon at our Desoto office reminding them how important they are to the office.

The Big Game The Day After

Dedicated employees are the key to any successful organization.  Big events outside the office like the NFL Super Bowl can force some to take the easy way out and call in sick the following day.

For the Florida Tax Collector Mondays and Fridays are our busiest days of the week and if it is the beginning and ending of the month only makes it worse. Today being the first Monday of the month is one of those days.  It would be very easy for staff to call in sick due to a huge weekend event and for us  that translates into longer wait times.

After doing a quick survey, I am proud to report we are all fully accounted for today.  Below was an article published today about Super Bowl fallout.

By David Schepp
Posted Feb 6th 2012 @ 6:30AM

Online Story

In the lead up to this year’s Super Bowl XVLI, fans of the New York Giants and New England Patriots likely devoted some of their work time discussing or analyzing what is arguably America’s premier sporting event.

Yet employers are likely to see the greatest impact on productivity today — the day after the big game — as workers congregate around water coolers, chat over cubicle walls or otherwise gather to discuss it.

For each employee, companies lose an average of $3.16 for every 10 minutes of time used discussing the Super Bowl and activities related to the game, such as managing office pools, according to employment-services firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Super Bowl revelers find the Monday after particularly difficult to manage, Challenger says, noting that some devoted fans have even started a campaign to make post-Super Bowl Monday a national work holiday.

Separate surveys conducted by employment-information website Glassdoor and Kronos Inc., a workforce management consultancy, show Americans are more likely to waste time or call in sick on the Monday following the Super Bowl than any other day.

The Workforce Institute at Kronos estimates that some 4.4 million employees will come to work late today, according to a 2008 survey conducted by Harris Interactive. The survey further shows that absences related to the Super Bowl are high among young adults, especially men aged 18 to 34; more in that group reported calling in sick than any other, according to the poll of more than 3,000 adults.

The findings were similar to those of Glassdoor, which found in a survey last year that about 3 percent of employees will take a sickday on the Monday following the Super Bowl, while three times as many plan to use a vacation day to avoid coming to work.

Among other findings, Glassdoor’s survey revealed that a fifth of employees surveyed say that morale is typically better in the office the day after the Super Bowl.

However, 22 percent of employees also said it’s commonly a less productive day than usual.

“[Today] is going to be a day of impaired productivity, for sure,” human-resource consultant Jack Milligan tells KTAR in Phoenix.

Many people are expected to overindulge at Super Bowl parties and then call in sick to work, says Milligan, principal at Leathers, Milligan & Associates LLC.

Statistics show that some 6 million to 9 million workers are expected to take the day off, he says.

For more results from Kronos’ 2008 Super Bowl survey, check out the infographic below:

John Marble Retirement

I first met John when I was 8 years old when I joined the Palmetto Boys Club. John was the Activities Director coordinating all the sports programs. At that time there was no Little League, MAYSO, or even hockey north of the river in Manatee County. John even wrote a sports column for the old weekly Palmetto Press covering the highlights of the games.

Later John joined the staff at First Baptist Church of Palmetto where I was a member and he served many years as the Christian Life Center Director. He started the King’s Kids program there that is still active today. While I was home for college in the summers John hired me to help with the summer program and he was a great boss. Working on a tight budget and donations John was able to turn a dollar any which way, but loose. We labeled him “Generic John” for buying the generic food to serve the kids snacks and if it wasn’t generic it was a brand name we never heard of. The kids never complained and there were never any leftovers.

I am privileged and blessed to have had John with me since I became Tax Collector. A high relator, he brought wisdom and concern to me on many occasions. He is intuitive and insightful and when combined with a pretty high analytic profile, it causes him to ponder issues before making a decision. That has been a great resource for the Senior Team when charting courses for the office.

When we created the Operations Department in 1994 with John as their Director, their purpose was to handle all the behind the scene transactions so that we could better serve the public that comes into the office.  As this evolved, we began encouraging people to use the mail (and later internet).  This required our Operations Department to turn around the work in a timely manner which caused our mail in rate to sky rocket and our wait times to drop.

During John’s tenure as Operations Director, our office joined up with the California based company RTL and was the first Tax Collector in Florida to process high speed payments using software that could read customer handwriting and signature. Today as many as two dozen counties now use the same system.

Also, we are one of the first Tax Collectors to process utility bills behind the scenes as a lockbox processing Manatee County, City of Bradenton, Town of Longboat Key, and even Pinellas County’s city of Dunedin. Others are following that same practice to offer that service in their Counties which is cheaper and provides a much better service. In Manatee County alone processing the utility bills for Manatee County has saved them millions of dollars and eliminated many unnecessary steps making them more productive.

We refer to John as our Renaissance Man. He paints, enjoys music, sings, constructs everything from bird houses to furniture. His knowledge of weather is more revered than the National Hurricane Center and a lot of us consult John when making plans to be outdoors. It was John who introduced LYNDA.com to the office and initiated the usage of pdf documents. The Operations scorecard was so excellent the folks at PBL use it as an example of excellence.

I can honestly say that John has touched each person in this office. He hung out in the break room just to get to know all of our employees personally. His love for the ducks and squirrels is legendary. His facilities management is the stuff of legends. How he worked with so many builders and construction teams and kept them all on target and budget was spot on. Just as when he left FBC Palmetto, his responsibilities have been delegated to a few to carry the load.

John you lived out every core value, but the ones that I appreciate so much are Integrity and Respect, Excellence and Accountability and Teamwork. I wish you and Jo a joyous retirement and may God give you good health and long life. Don’t be a stranger here!