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: TK Mathew
Office: Hillsborough County Tax Collector
I am both an experienced businessman and former Tax Collector employee. I decided to run for Tax Collector because of the extreme mismanagement that has led to costly mistakes like high employee turnover and losing business to neighboring counties that perform the same services.
In addition, poor customer service and long wait times have become the norm. My experience running a business and knowing how the Tax Collector’s office functions, makes me uniquely qualified to be the Tax Collector by bringing sound business practices, a sense of urgency, and customer-focused management to the office.
The office needs to be run more like a business and less like a slow-moving bureaucracy.
Why should voters vote for you?
I have a more diverse work experience in addition to my experience working in the Tax Collector’s office.
It is well known in the community that the office is riddled with problems and inefficiencies, and electing someone who has been part of that dysfunction for 31 years will only lead to more of the same dysfunction. I can bring a fresh, real-world perspective to the office, rather than doing the same ineffective and inefficient things that have plagued the Tax Collector’s office for years. I know what it’s like to sign the front of the check, as opposed to signing the back of the check, and understand the consequences of not running an organization effectively and efficiently.
I am also not beholden to any vendors that the Tax Collector’s office does business with. It’s clearly evident that my opponent has raised a substantial amount of money from companies who have direct business dealings (multi-year contracts) with the office. In stark contrast, I have mostly self-funded my campaign.
If elected, what are your top priorities?
What are three key messages of your campaign?
My top 3 priorities for my first year in office are to provide quality customer service by:
1) Decreasing the notoriously long wait lines that the tax office has become known for. There was even a report by Channel 8 news about customers having to wait 2 -3 hours to get service. That is absurd and insulting to our citizens. It has become such a problem, that customer’s drive north to Pasco County for services because their wait times are less than 15 minutes (This is also money leaving the County). To decrease wait times, I plan to install a new queuing system that will help manage customer flow, and link them with the customer service representative that is best suited to help them with their transaction.
2) Do away with appointments. Another problem with the offices is that appointments are required which are several weeks or months out. If a customer needs to get a replacement license or perform a road test for a license, you cannot expect them to wait a month to go to the Tax Collector’s office. Several other Tax Collector’s offices in the area don’t require appointments because they are well run and efficient (and Hillsborough County residents are going outside our County to get these services done).
3) Open on Saturdays and have extended hours. Many customers cannot go to the Tax Collector’s office before or after work because the office is simply not open. I plan to open early and close late two days a week to accommodate all of our citizens. In addition, I plan to open on Saturdays for a half day to accommodate more of our citizens who can’t make it during the week. The Hillsborough Tax Collector’s office loses money to neighboring counties that offer the same services because they refuse to address long wait times, inconvenient hours, and poor customer service.
What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?
No answer provided.
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?
The Tax Collector is an administrative position that can do things to help offset the economic devastation that COVID-19 has caused, namely through excess fees. Every year, (not just during the COVID-19 pandemic) the Tax Collector returns millions of dollars in excess fees to the County, because the office basically brings in more revenue than they can spend. These excess fees are related to how efficient the Tax Collector is running the office. I plan to increase the office’s efficiency by leveraging technology, lowering employee turnover, and adding services that bring in money (that are currently being lost to other counties through poor management) , and in turn return more of these excess fees to the County so they can provide the services that people need.
In addition, the Tax Collector can help slow the spread of COVID-19, by utilizing mobile devices in conjunction with their queuing system, so customer’s can either stay in their car for certain transactions, or limit the amount of time that they have to physically be in the office.
In the role you are seeking, what will you do to address issues of racism and inequality?
No answer provided.
What motivates you to run for public office?
I am running for this position because I have seen the dysfunction and poor management of this office from the inside and from the outside, and it does not look good from either side. Hillsborough County is one of the largest counties in Florida, and our Tax Collector’s office is an embarrassment. It is one of the first places a new resident goes to, and they are forced to wait for hours in a line or make an appointment 2 months in advance. That is not the image that we want to portray to our current residents, new residents, visitors, or anyone else for that matter. The Tax Collector’s office should not be an afterthought, it should at the foreground of how a government agency is supposed to run. Almost everyone in the County has an interaction with the Tax Collector’s office at one point or another.
Whether you own property, drive or own a car, own a business, etc., you will eventually have to do business with the Tax Collector’s office. Therefore, it is too important of an office to be run like in a second-rate manner. While most of the rank and file employees are hardworking dedicated public servants, the executive team is filled with career bureaucrats that truly are not concerned about serving the people. If they were, they would make customer service their priority. None of the issues that I have mentioned are new, it’s just that the executive team cannot or will not address them.
Overall, I think the people are looking for real change. They are sick and tired of being told that this is the way it is, when clearly it does not have to be. All you have to do is drive to one of our neighboring counties to see the difference in service, attitude, and convenience.