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Tax commissioner race heats up in final week
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Darla Eden
Age: 44
Occupation: Certified Public Accountant/Chief Financial Officer with Jim Walters/Walters Management Co.
Political experience: None
Education: North Hall High School, 1985; North Georgia College & State University, 1989, Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting; Certified Public Accountant, 1991. Supplemented by continuing education of 40 hours per year including governmental, finance, accounting and auditing courses.
Family: Parents, Jim and Barbara Eden; brother, Jim Eden; brother and sister-in-law, Jeff and Tami Eden, sister and brother-in-law, Debbie and Jeff Bates and sister Deanna Eden
District history: As a result of my Hall County public education, it afforded me the opportunity to attend NGCSU and obtain a degree in Accounting and to earn CPA certificate. Since then, it has been a privilege to immerse myself in this community. I have always worked in Hall County and have been a homeowner for 17 years. I have a vested interest in Hall County and have served on many nonprofit boards and organizations. My particular passion is Junior Achievement and supporting financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills to our students.

Kent Henderson
Age: 44
Occupation: Business owner and builder/developer for the past 18 years.
Political experience: None
Education: Gainesville High School; Truett McConnell College; Georgia Southwestern College, majored in business administration
Family: Wife, Penny; two daughters Alexandria and Ashlyn
District history: As a life-long native and business owner in Hall County, I feel it is important to not only be a productive citizen but to also give back to the community. I have had the honor of serving on many local boards such as the Hall County Planning Commission, the Hall County Impact Fee Board, the Hall County Unified Development Code Committee, Sugar Hill School Council and the North Georgia Speech Center Board. I am also a 22 year member of Free Chapel Worship Center. I would like to continue serving the public as the next Hall County Tax Commissioner.

A certified public accountant and a developer are making their final pitches this week to voters as they campaign for Hall County tax commissioner.

Republicans Darla Eden and Kent Henderson are survivors in what was a four-way July 31 race for the office. Tuesday’s runoff winner will claim the office, as there is no Democratic opposition in the fall.

And the candidates are trading barbs down the homestretch.

“My opponent calls (the tax commissioner’s office) just a collections department and it’s not just (that),” said Eden, a CPA and former finance director and auditor for Hall County. “It’s a big-time money and human resource management office. If it were just a collections office, we would outsource it.”

Henderson said, “Do you want someone who has run a business, managed people, met a payroll and worked for themselves most of their adult life or someone who’s a CPA and basically has worked for someone else? ... If (tax commissioner) was a CPA job, I wouldn’t be running for it.”

The two are seeking to become Hall’s first new tax commissioner in 12 years. This year, Keith Echols, who has served three terms, has declined to seek re-election.

The job, which largely serves to collect property taxes for the various governments inside the county, comes with a first-term salary of $77,344.56.

Eden has said she’s in the race because she misses public service.

“I want to go back and help Hall County again,” she said. “I have the record of producing good financial statements and transparency ... and I have the leadership to do that. Right now, more than ever, Hall County needs leadership and transparency.”

Henderson, who has served on Hall County’s Planning Commission, has been in development for 18-plus years, but he’s also been involved in community service and volunteer work.

“I’ve always challenged businesspeople that we should all take a turn and get involved with our government,” he said. “Businesspeople know ... what it takes to make something run in a business way and not a government way.”

Both candidates said they have priorities if elected.

To deal with what she said are staffing shortages in the tax commissioner’s office, Eden wants to implement a “lockbox” system for collecting mailed tax payments.

“It’s a very efficient, inexpensive way to handle our money, to get it in the bank the day we receive it, so we can maximize cash flow, increase earnings and take the accounting workload off the office so that those people can go out and better serve the customers.”

As part of a staggered schedule, employees could open the office earlier, stay open later and work the counter even half a day on Saturdays.

Henderson said, “As a businessperson, I can tell you the first day, the first month or so you go in, you’ve really got to assess the office and assess your employees and what’s going on.

Beyond that task, the focus must be “on customer service and how you’re going to treat the people,” he said. “We’re going to take customer service to a new level. Everybody who comes through these windows out here (is) paying our salary and we need to be treating (them) all with respect.”

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