Assessor/Collector Gunstream plans to retire
She said one particular thing she’s proud of accomplishing during her tenure is having good customer service.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. At first they were kind of tough. For motor vehicles we were constantly trying to upgrade the system and there were changes on the tax side too,” she said.
Gunstream cited as an example the new Tow Steps One Sticker” program which she thinks will be a good thing and will be less confusing to the public.
One difference in processing taxes is the officer formerly printed all of the property tax receipts. Now, the customer pays and is given a receipt.
“When our office was at the old building (the Orange County Courthouse), our entire back counter was covered with stacks of receipts. It’s been a long journey, but a good one,” Gunstream said.
“It’s not easy to learn all of this. The girls now do all of the motor vehicles and taxes. You have to have a lot more knowledge. The computer doesn’t tell you everything to do. Sometimes it can be a grueling day,” she said.
The month of March is ordinarily the heavier side for motor vehicle registrations with lines out of the doors. Gunstream doesn’t know why, but it just works out that way and the office tries to keep the line moving.
Over her career, Gunstream has earned various credits and attended classes for her certification. She also received credits for attending conferences.
“Conferences are good because you can received feedback,” she said.
For her retirement plans, Gunstream may do some traveling and practice her gardening.
“I live to travel, though my husband won’t retire immediately,” she said. “I like flower gardening and organic gardening and I want to study up on it. My time now is not as available as I would like for it to be. I would like more time to relax and enjoy my own time. If my mom stays in good health we may visit my sisters in Colorado and New Mexico.”
Karen Fisher, is the supervising clerk at the office in Vidor. She will be with the office for 23 years this August.
She said others asked her why she didn’t consider running. She said it was the farthest thing from her mind at that time until she decided to file to be a candidate.
“They would say, ‘You do your job just as well as anyone,’” she said.
The term of office is for four years.
Fisher is originally from Louisiana and has lived in Orange for a number of years. She worked as a runner at Harmon Chevrolet where she learned about titles. She also worked at The Record Newspapers selling ads, working the counter and making deliveries until she began working for the tax assessor/collector’s office.
“I heard there was an opening in the Vidor office. Donna Bonnin and Dianne Hebert told me to apply for it. I just worked my way up,” Fisher said.
Fisher was in the process of earning her degree in accounting from Lamar State College-Orange at the time. Rosemary Slaton was the assessor/collector then.
“I worked with her. I was one semester away from my degree and I had knowledge of title work,” she said.
Fisher expects Gunstream to work until 2016. If she does leave early, the Orange County Commissioners Court would then make an appointment for a temporary director until the election.
“I’m interested in the position. My faith in God is strong; if I get it it was meant to be, if not, there are better plans for me in the future,” Fisher said. “I really enjoy my job and meeting people.”
She said the Vidor office wasn’t a friendly place when she first started. Now employees joke and laugh with the customers while still conducting themselves professionally.
“Without the customers, you don’t have anything,” she said.
Fisher added she’s never been a political person, but she wants to be the person people will vote for to do the job, not because of the political party she belongs to.
One thing she would like to do if elected as tax assessor/collector is to have better customer service.
She has the classes to achieve her tax assessor/collector certification and Gunstream has shown her how to do the job.
Fisher said she favors that approach to pass down knowledge to those who work with you.
“There’s lots of responsibilities being a tax assessor/collector- setting the tax rates, reporting them to the different entities and figuring your budget. We also work with the Orange County Appraisal District. Whoever wins, I wish them the best,” she said.
“It’s never been a dull job. I’m planning to run. I’ve got a campaign manager this morning and getting my name out,” Meaux said. “I look up to Lynda a lot. Rosemary prior to her. I love working with the girls. They’re a fabulous group.”
Meaux said she likes the job because though they provide funds for the county, they still help people instead of being a stigma to the customers.
She said some of the ways they help the customers is by figuring out a way for them to pay their taxes.
Meaux, if elected assessor/collector, would like to see the office become even more friendly and not be intimidating.
“Some people are crying when they call the office. A lot of people don’t realize we have payment plans. I like to get a little personal with the people to find out. They may not have the exemptions they need,” she said.
Prior to working in the assessor/collector’s office, Meaux worked retail, at the Austin-Lee dealership in Orange, at KOGT and at Concepts of Care.
“I love doing customer service. When I have an angry customer I talk nicer to them and bring my voice lower and do as much as we can for them,” she said.
Meaux earned her professional certified collector’s two years ago by taking the required classes and passing a tough state exam.
She said the exam covered everything regarding motor vehicles to taxes. Now the two are combined.
She has also worked with Hotel/Motel Occupancy Tax Money, escrows, and daily and balancing tax reports and audits.
Meaux has been married for 25 years. They have a daughter and two grandchildren. She attends St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Orange.
RECORD PHOTO: David Ball