Jefferson County Tax Assessor-Collector to resign
Jefferson County Tax Assessor-Collector Shane Howard announced his resignation, effective Feb. 3, on Friday, Jan. 3.
Howard is resigning and moving to the private sector to become manager and partner of an electrical contracting company based out of Beaumont that is expanding into the Permian Basin area of West Texas, he said.
“I’ll be going out there and being the West Texas area manager for them,” Howard said, explaining he preferred not to reveal the name of the company for privacy reasons. “This was not an easy choice but when once in a lifetime opportunities are shown to you, one has to make the choices that best suit themselves, their personal responsibilities, and goals. This is one of those opportunities.”
Howard was first elected in 2010 in a landslide victory as the first countywide elected Republican in Jefferson County and won re-election in 2012 receiving a record number of non-straight party votes for a candidate.
Howard said that he is pleased with what he and the Tax Office have been able to accomplish over the last three years.
“It’s been an absolute blessing,” Howard said. “It really has been edifying beyond belief. I’m proud of the work that we’ve accomplished.
These accomplishments include innovation and streamlining of the operation with staff balancing measures, credit/debit card capabilities, cross training for staff, and modernized processing practices that have increased service levels while decreasing the overall coast of the office, Howard said.
“We were able to grow our service offerings without putting additional pressure on the staff,” he said.
Howard did say that he would like to see renovations in the sub-offices, specifically the Port Arthur Tax Office.
“Both the Port Arthur office and the Mid-County office need to be remodeled for a couple of different reasons,” Howard said. “Port Arthur hasn’t been updated in about 30 years. It’s not very ergonomically sound for either customers or for my staff. For a very reasonable amount of money we can get that configured to where it’s a better environment for the employees and a better experience for the taxpayers.”
Howard also mentioned space constraints as an issue for the sub-offices as well.
“The business in Mid-County is growing substantially and it’s really outgrowing the space that’s there,” Howard said. “We need to either reconfigure that or expand it.”
During his service to the county, Howard focused on government accountability taking on controversial issues such as the seizure of Renaissance Hospital in 2012 and his sharp condemnation and refusal to have his office participate in the illegal 2013 election of the Beaumont Independent School District, he said. He was also a frequent commentator and speaker on political, economic, and community issues to diverse audiences and media across the state. Howard personally counseled with hundreds of taxpayers during his term and commented that he always remembered that a visit to the tax office was a diversion in a citizen’s day and therefore, it was essential that their visit be concise and as “pain-free” as possible.
“While we have chosen to subscribe to a property tax system and consequently have a responsibility to pay those taxes, it is important that those of us who collect the taxes remember who the money actually belongs to,” he said.
Howard said he credits that attitude in the office as one of the reasons collection rates have increased while also ensuring collection efforts are empathetic.
“Our staff are some of the most caring and well-trained government employees one will find anywhere,” Howard said.
Howard said he is optimistic about Jefferson County’s future.
“I think the county will be in great shape in the years to come with a tax office that serves people. We’ve been able to prove a point about who government actually belongs to which is the people. Our job is to deliver efficiently and I hope that’s what we’ve done and that it will continue and that the culture that we’ve established will carry forward. I can’t say I’m not sad to leave but I am also inspired and excited to enter this new chapter in my life. I am immensely grateful to everyone in this community, my staff, and my colleagues in Jefferson County for a wonderful experience.”
An interim Tax Assessor will be named by the Commissioners Court after Howard departs. A new TAC will be elected in the November election to fill the remainder of the unexpired term ending in December 2016.