For the first time in 22 years, Hillsborough County will have a new Tax Collector.
Democrat Nancy Millan bested Republican TK Mathew with 54.74%-45.26% of the vote in the race to replace Doug Belden, a Republican, who is retiring at the end of his term.
“I am grateful and humbled by the trust that the voters in Hillsborough County have placed in me,” Millan said in a statement on her win. “As your next Tax Collector, I will increase accessibility to our office throughout our community so that every resident is able to get the services they need…I look forward to serving our community in the years to come.”
Millan entered the General Election with a distinct edge.
The race pit Millan, a current executive in the Tax Collector’s office, against a small business owner whose only experience with the office is as a former customer service representative.
Millan campaigned hard for the seat since last October while Mathew entered the race three months later in January.
Because Mathew didn’t face a Republican opponent in the August Primary Election, he largely ran a quiet campaign until late summer, even as Millan was building her name in the community in a hard-fought battle against former Hillsborough County School Board member April Griffin, a race she won with a commanding 61% of the vote.
Millan has commanded the money race. As of Oct. 16, she raised more than $364,000. Meanwhile, Mathew raised less than $135,000.
Belden, bucking party loyalty, also endorsed Millan, his office’s director of communications.
Meanwhile, Mathew faced an ethics complaint raising questions about his personal financial disclosures, which show less than $77,000 net worth. Yet Mathew has donated more than six figures to his own campaign.
Millan ran to further successes the Tax Collector’s office has already enjoyed under Belden’s leadership. Under his tenure, the office was the first in the state to earn the Governor’s Sterling Award for Performance and Efficiency.
Millan plans to add self-service kiosks to the department’s offices to allow residents to access services where an in-person representative might not be necessary. The office has already employed five such kiosks with success. She also plans to utilize technology to create virtual offices to reduce burden on retail locations.
The Tax Collector’s Office has 358 employees and operates on a $34 million budget. It collects tax revenue and other public revenue and distributes it to various county taxing authorities, an amount that this year surpassed $2 billion.
The office also oversees drivers licenses and automobile registrations.
While Millan plans feasible improvements to the office, Mathew’s plans were a bit further out of reach. For example, his top priority was to reduce fees, but doing so would have required action at the state or local level, not from the Tax Collector him or herself. Instead, Mathew’s plan would have reduced third-party convenience fees on credit card processing.
While that seems reasonable, Hillsborough County already has a lower fee than surrounding counties. Its 2.35% convenience fee is already lower than Pasco and Pinellas counties where the fees are 2.5% and 2.95%, respectively. Working with credit card companies to further reduce those costs seemed a tough climb.
On some of his more feasible plans, Mathew wanted to expand hours of operations and add locations at MacDill Air Force Base and the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, services that would be welcomed, yet costly.
The race between the two was countywide where Democrats have a voter registration advantage of more than 73,000 voters among 920,860 registered voters.