By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, January 27, 2009
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- Tax collector Joyce Sheehan always had a knack for crunching numbers, going back to the days when she was selected to collect and count the lunch money at Bartlett Junior High.
"I was 12," joked Sheehan. "I guess you could say I always worked with money. I worry more about other people's money, because it's not mine."
Sheehan recently announced that, after serving 12 years as the town's tax collector, she will not be running for re-election when her term expires in March. Sheehan said it was a tough decision, but in her "heart of hearts," she knew it was time.
"Quite frankly, I'm getting too old for this," Sheehan said. "I used to look forward to tax season every year, and now I just dread it.
"It's time for some new blood and some new energy," she said.
Sheehan was first elected tax collector in 1997, replacing Ann Kaiser, who opted not to run for another term.
"I was very fortunate," Sheehan said. "Five people ran for the position that year, and I was lucky enough to get elected."
Prior to being elected, she served three years as the town's deputy tax collector.
While her office is not the most popular with town residents, it's the one that every property taxpayer visits at least twice a year.
Sheehan said her goal as tax collector was to always put the taxpayers first and foremost.
"I work for the taxpayer, they don't work for me," Sheehan said. "They elected me, and I always tried to serve them the best that I could.
"I always ran this office, not by the letter of the law, but the heart of the law," she said.
But the office is about more than just collecting taxes.
"Oh, I wish it was only about collecting taxes," Sheehan said. "It's tax liens, deeding, bankruptcy ..."
In her entire career, Sheehan said, she is proud the town only had to take one house for nonpayment of taxes.
"It was vacation property, and they rented it out all summer, but never paid the taxes on it for three years," Sheehan said.
"I tried in vain not to (take that home)," she said. "I even called them from my home in the evening to try and talk to them.
"Even though they received all the paperwork, I just wanted to let them know," she said. "I thought maybe they didn't realize the seriousness of it all."
Sheehan said the thing she will miss most are the people she deals with.
"Ninety-nine percent and three-quarters of the taxpayers are fabulous," Sheehan said. "There is a small little percentage that, for whatever reason, think we are evil. We are the first office they come to after getting their tax bill, and some like to vent.
"When that happens, I just send them next door to the assessor's office," joked Sheehan.
The one thing she will not miss is all the technological advancements that have occurred in the office the last decade.
"I'm still living in 20th century," Sheehan said. "Ask our computer tech. He had to drag me kicking and screaming into the 21 century."
Sheehan said she is looking forward to the next chapter in her life. While she was planning to take it easy for a while, she is now going to help out her son, Ryan, 26, with his newest business venture.
He just formed a company called New England Beverage Co. and will be the sole distributor in the area of the energy drink Roaring Lion, she said.
"I volunteered to help him out with his billing and bookkeeping," Sheehan said. "I'm very proud of him, and I'm glad that I get to help him out for all he's done for me."
Sheehan said it will be bittersweet leaving the office she spent the last 15 years in.
"I don't think I could leave if I wasn't sure the office was going to be left in good hands," Sheehan said.
Deputy tax collector Donna Bennett is running to take over her open position.
"I'm supporting her, and I know she will do a great job," Sheehan said.