In an effort to help you make informed decisions during the General Election, ABC Action News has reached out to dozens of candidates running for office. The following statements have been submitted to ABC Action News by the candidate. Every candidate was given the same set of questions. These are their responses in his/her own words.
Name: Charles Thomas
Office: Pinellas County Tax Collector
Why should voters vote for you?
I have served as your Tax Collector for the last 3 and one half years and as Chief Deputy Tax Collector for 16 years prior to that. I am uniquely qualified to continue to serve as your Tax Collector and have a track record of proven success.
If elected, what are your top priorities?
I plan to continue to ensure customer-focused excellence for both our citizens and our workforce. I want to focus on effective recruiting, training, development, and retention practices for employees. It’s important to recognize and understand that an engaged and knowledgeable workforce will in turn, deliver high-level customer service. I will also concentrate on maintaining an advanced level of data security and using value-added technology to serve customers more efficiently and conveniently.
What are three key messages of your campaign?
When I ran for office four years ago, I made a commitment to Customer Focused Excellence. The office demonstrated Consistent 98/99% customer service satisfaction ratings. Our 2019 fiscal year Customer satisfaction rating was 98.6%. Promise kept. I said I would achieve this by recruiting, retaining, developing and inspiring today’s as well as tomorrow’s dedicated public servants to deliver world class customer service. Fiscal year employee and engagement satisfaction rating was 90%. That grew to 95% for 2020. Promise kept. And, through continual process improvement. Continuing on the path with a commitment to being better tomorrow than we are today. We just announced winning the Florida Governor’s Sterling award for 2020. The first Tax Collector organization in Florida to be recognized three times as a Sterling role model organization. Promise kept.
What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?
My office is administrative rather than a policy making office. I am passionate about public service to my community, providing my employees a workplace which will help them achieve both professional and personal goals, and developing future leaders for our organization and our community.
As it relates to the role you are seeking, how has that governmental body handled the Covid-19 pandemic? What would you do differently/the same in handling both the public health risk and the economic recovery?
This is what we are doing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. My decision to keep the offices open on an appointment-only basis is the best option we currently have to ensure social distancing and help our staff and customers to stay safe. We have installed protective gear in our offices in the form of barriers between customers and staff, screening questions for customers, staff wearing masks, and daily temperature checks for staff.
With the appointment-only system, we are able to handle almost as many transactions per day as we were processing during the same time last
year. Even with the offices being appointment-only, we processed over 10,000 in-person transactions last week. Most of our services have appointments available within 1-2 weeks and we release additional next- day appointments based on office capacity every evening. In addition, many of our services are available through our website, mail, and self- service kiosks located in our branches as well as local Publix locations. We attempted to do some limited walk-in transactions when people did not show up for appointments, but that led to people lining up outside of our offices and not adhering to social distancing guidelines.
With Pinellas being the most densely populated county in the state, I have made the decision to keep our offices appointment-only in an abundance of caution to help keep everyone safe. At this point, we don’t have a date for returning to non-appointment walk-in transactions but we continue to monitor the situation. Once the COVID situation has improved, we will survey customers to find out their thoughts on the system and make a determination on the future at that point.
In the role you are seeking, what will you do to address issues of racism and inequality?
I will continue to strive to recruit staff to ensure diversity in our workforce and to be a true reflection of the community we serve. As the current Chair of the oversight board for the county’s Office of Human Rights (OHR), I will continue to work with the Executive Director of the OHR to work towards a fair and inclusive community.
What motivates you to run for public office?
Service to my country and community has been important to me since my time in the U.S. Air Force and it is a passion of mine to this day. I look forward to continuing to serve you and our community.