For the first time since 2006, Franklin County voters will have at least two candidates to choose from for commissioner of the revenue.
Incumbent Margaret Torrence will face challenger Andy Turner, a Rocky Mount accountant. Both have filed the paperwork necessary to get their names on the ballot in November, according to the county registrar. Each plans to run as an independent.
Torrence, 63, was first elected to the position in a four-way special election in 2006, but has worked in the office since 1988.
As commissioner, Torrence said she strives to treat all citizens equally and provide excellent customer service.
“The first job I ever had was in customer service,” she said. “I know how important it is to be able to assist people when they need help.”
Torrence said she is seeking re-election because she wants to continue her work as a public servant.
People may not think of the commissioner of the revenue as a customer service-oriented job, Torrence said, but it is. She said the office helps residents prepare their state income tax returns and works to identify people who can benefit from the county’s tax relief program for the elderly and disabled.
Turner, 47, said seeking public office has always been part of his life’s plan. And with the 2016 sale of B.T.’s Tax and Business Service, a tax accounting firm Turner ran along with his mother, this seemed like the right time.
“For over two decades now I’ve provided a service to my community in the private sector and I see that the community needs me as a leader in the public sector, and I’m ready to answer that call,” Turner said.
Currently, the candidate works for Accounting & Tax Solutions, which purchased the firm Turner ran with his mother. Turner said this will be his last year with the company, regardless of the election’s outcome.
He also has an office in downtown Rocky Mount, where his Turner and Co. Inc. is based. Turner also does the accounting for the Harvester Performance Center.
The commissioner’s office had a rare moment in the spotlight last year when the county board of supervisors considered moving to twice-a-year real estate tax collection. On a split vote, the board ultimately declined to make the change.
The commissioner’s office handles records management and assessments for all real estate property. Collecting real estate taxes twice a year would push up the commissioner’s deadline for providing assessment information to the treasurer’s office.
Turner said he is an advocate for moving to twice-a-year tax collection. He spoke at a public hearing before the board of supervisors on the matter in November.
Turner said he believes paying real estate taxes in two equal installments would be a benefit to citizens.
“A lot of folks live on budgeted income and I think that the relief is necessary, especially with our recent tax increase,” he said.
When supervisors considered making the change, Torrence was not vocal about her opinion. It was up to the board of supervisors to decide, Torrence said, while her role is simply to implement any changes.
But Torrence said she favors moving to twice-a-year collection.
“I think it would be a good service to the citizens,” she said, noting that it would lighten their financial burdens around the Christmas holiday.
Torrence posted a survey to her commissioner Facebook page last year and found that, of the 65 respondents, only a handful were opposed to paying their real estate taxes in two installments.
The candidates cited other goals for the office, too.
Torrence said she’d like to give business owners the option to submit their business tangible filing forms online.
Turner said he’d like to improve the office’s communication with citizens. He’d do so through education, perhaps offering community education forums or speaking to local businesses.
“The commissioner should be readily accessible to the community at large,” he said.
Torrence said she is an active member in a variety of professional associations, including the Virginia Association of Local Elected Constitutional Officers and the Commissioners of the Revenue Association of Virginia, where she serves on the audit committee.
Torrence studied at Virginia Western Community College, but did not complete her degree. She earned a constitutional officer certification from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia.
Torrence said she believes her long tenure in the commissioner’s office makes her a strong candidate.
“I’ve got a lot of experience in all of this and I feel that it’s an asset to the citizens to have someone in the position that knows the job,” she said.
Turner has a bachelor of business administration degree in accounting from Radford University. He is also an enrolled agent, which means Turner can represent taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service.
Turner said he is eager for an opportunity to serve his community.
“I think I’m the right choice because I can make a difference in the commissioner’s office,” he said. “I have the background and the education. We need good people to stand up and take a position in government.”
All constitutional offices except for the clerk of circuit court — commissioner of the revenue, treasurer, and sheriff — will be on the ballot in November.
The filing deadline for candidates seeking a party nomination is March 28. For those running as independents, the filing deadline is June 11.