Value of Pat Simrall to public not easily tallied

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 19, 2009

If you had a question about taxation and Warren County Tax Collector Pat Simrall knew the answer, she wouldn’t rest until you not only got the answer but understood it. If you had a question about taxation and Pat Simrall didn’t know the answer, she wouldn’t rest until she got not just an answer, but the right answer — documented.

While much she did in her service to the public here could be measured in dollars and cents, the subjective value of having such a thorough, competent and, yes, caring person in charge of receiving revenue for the county and the City of Vicksburg is beyond value.

Richard George, president of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, said it this way: “She’s among the finest, hardest-working officials we’ve had.” He called her a model for “anyone wanting to emulate a perfect public official, because they’re hard to come by.” Serious, focused, friendly are all adjectives that come to mind. Every taxpayer was important to her. No shortcuts to full accountability. No cutting corners. No favoritism.

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All that said, Simrall has certainly earned the retirement she’ll claim at month’s end after 39 years of county government service.

While her previous jobs with the county were as an employee, she was the natural pick for tax collector in 1993 when former longtime collector Marguerite Stegall retired. And once Simrall proved herself in the office, which didn’t take long, no one opposed her for three consecutive four-year terms in the elective position.

“I enjoyed my work,” Simrall said in an interview. It showed in her Warren County Courthouse office. No one likes to pay taxes, but Simrall and her staff showed such politeness, efficiency and professionalism that settling up almost became pleasant.

The job is not simple or static. Legal changes, procedural changes, technology changes, oversight changes and every other aspect of operating the office were routine and, we suppose, made the job increasingly complex. Simrall not only kept up, she was a consistent advocate of taxpayers. She spoke out strongly, but without success, for legislation this year to equalize homestead exemptions. The bill represented basic fairness, so it was only natural that Warren County’s tax collector, for whom that has been a lifelong priority, would offer her vocal support.

Some people reading this may never have heard Pat Simrall’s name. That’s OK. She wouldn’t mind. Doing the job and doing it well were her interests. Because they were, we all benefited.