E-mail interview conducted with Walker Tax Commissioner candidate Carolyn Walker. Her opponent, Keith Fults, did not answer the questions. Walker is incumbent Tax Commissioner. Last of twelve scheduled Q&A’s. (Due to election day being almost over this is posted as a draft with answers dumped straight in sans formatting. Apologies for the lateness and roughness of this post.)

What is your full name, and what name do you generally go by?

My name is Carolyn White Walker, I go by Carolyn

What is your age?

I am 66 years old

What is your home address? (We will only publish the street/town, not your house number.)

My Home address: [redacted] Straight Gut Road, LaFayette, Georgia 30728

How can voters contact you or stay in touch with your campaign? (Please include info like e-mail, phone, Facebook, Twitter, etc. if applicable.)

I can be contacted by phone: 423-304-5322, e-mail: walkerlc@windstream.net; facebook: Carolyn w. Walker or Re-elect Carolyn Walker

How long have you lived in the county, and (if applicable) where else have you lived?

I have lived in Walker County since I was five years old.

What’s the best thing about living in this community?

The best thing about living in Walker County is it is a beautiful spot in the U.S.A. geographically and Walker County has a small town, friendly, family oriented climate with great people who support and encourage one another. Christian faith is strong in this area which means a lot to me.

Starting as early as you want, what kind of education do you have?

I attended Osburn Elementary School for 8 years and was the salutatorian of the 8th grade class. I am an honor graduate of Rossville High School. I took classes at Georgia Northwestern, and many bank and finance related classes through Synovus. I have over 500 hours of tax related training through the Georgia Department of Revenue and I am a two year graduate of The University of Georgia, Carl Vinson Institute of Government and The Georgia Association of Tax Officials Executive Leadership Institute for Georgia Tax Officials.

What previous jobs or elected positions have you held?

Do aspects of your education or job experiences make you a better Tax Commissioner? If so please explain.

I am a licensed real estate broker, I retired from Cohutta Banking Company as an assistant-vice president, branch manager with over 20 years experience and I have been Walker County Tax Commissioner since 2001.

There is some confusion about what the Tax Commissioner actually does. Some people believe the Tax Office decides how much tax should be paid, or who should be taxed – but we know that’s not the case. In your own words, please explain what the Tax Commissioner and Tax Office are responsible for:

The Tax Commissioner is responsible for collecting tax data and mill rates from the County, Department of Education, Cities and assessor’s office and completing the annual tax digest for submission to the Georgia Department of Revenue for approval. I am then responsible for creating and mailing the tax notices to all property owners and collecting the tax monies that are due. I am responsible for the accounting and disbursement of all monies collected to the proper entities in a timely and accurate manner. The tax office handles 116,000 plus annual transactions in the vehicle tag and title department and I am responsible for the accounting and proper disbursement of all funds collected in this area as well. I am not responsible for the appraisal of the properties nor for the setting of the annual tax rates.

During your time as Tax Commissioner, what would you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

Is there anything from your time in office that you regret or wish you could do differently?

One regret is that I have not had the funds to acquire a better facility for operations in the north end of the county. I would like to be able to offer drive-through services for tag renewals and tax payments for the convenience of the citizens. I also would like to have every staff member cross-trained to better serve the citizens.

What are your priorities for the next four years if you’re reelected?

My priorities for the next four years are to continue serving the citizens of Walker County for the full four years honestly and fairly through: 1. Continued collection of all taxes that are due in a timely and equitable manner. 2. Cross train all staff members with a strong emphasis on customer friendly, professional service. 3. Work with our cities to possibly assist with billing and collection of the city taxes to further make the payment of taxes a one-stop process. 4. Continue implementing technology to improve service to everyone

Is there any criteria, philosophy, or overall guideline you use when making decisions for the Tax Office?

My overall guideline for operation of the tax office is to follow and live by the codes of the BIBLE. Always asking: Is it fair? Is it ethically right? Is it the best I can do for the citizens of Walker County? And I always ask, “What would JESUS have me do?”

Your opponent in this race has criticized the tax office for a high number of uncollected bills from mobile homes. What’s your explanation of that situation, and what (if anything) can you do to correct it?

Mobile homes are unique in all aspects. They are movable, they age and deteriorate much more rapidly than stick-built houses, in many cases located on land that is not owned by the owner of the home. Many of the homes in Walker County have become too old or too deteriorated to move, or to seize and sell for delinquent taxes, yet they are someone’s home. If I seized them and put the persons living there out of their home, I would have to use County funds to pay to have them hauled to a disposal spot that would rapidly become a very full eye-sore in the county. Much of the delinquent tax amounts are on these homes or on homes that were moved out of the county without notification to the tax office or under bankruptcy with an order to not attempt collection until the court order is removed. Several are under payment agreements in a monthly amount that the residents can afford on their small incomes. I have hired persons in the past to work and identify all of these situations and to aid in charge-offs if uncollectable. Several persons began the process and were doing a good job, but they soon moved on to better positions with better pay working for other employers. I hired a semi-retired man in February who is doing an excellent job and has no plans to go elsewhere to work. I expect noticeable improvement before the end of this year.

In this economy, voters are concerned about fiscal restraint and responsibility. What changes, if any, have you made to the Tax Office to save money for Walker County taxpayers?

I have managed the tax office as if it were my own business, and was spending my own monies. Many of the expenses of this office are set by sources other than myself, the largest of which is the cost of postage, others are repairs to the buildings and equipment, utilities, etc. The ones I can control I get bids and shop wisely for best prices on the expensive equipment and supplies required to run the office, many of which the State provided but chose to put on the counties about three years ago. In 12 years, salaries have had to increase in order to pay fair wages for competent workers. I have cross-trained employees to save employee expenses, when possible, I utilize part-time, non-benefit employees to save money. I made the Fairview office full service and opened it all day with no lunch closings and we accept tag renewals and tax payments over the phone with credit cards to save the citizens time and money. I will continue to seek ways to cut expenses and save money.

Please summarize in a single paragraph why residents of Walker County should vote for you in the upcoming election:

The citizens of Walker County should vote for me: To keep the person in office that has proven experience and ability. The one who has the training required and the knowledge of tax laws and exemptions to do the job most effectively. The person who has exercised collection procedures that are effective, fair to everyone and are producing a 98 per-cent collection record in property taxes. I have proven that I am honest and accountable in operation of the tax office.

Is there anything else voters should know about you? Family, faith, philosophy, inspirations, etc.?

I am above all a Christian, a conservative, an optimist, a wife, a mother and a grandmother. I believe in doing my job as tax commissioner, in the way that is right, ethical and fair, and treating everyone the way I would like to be treated.

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