Familiar face in new place

Published 8:35 am Thursday, April 1, 2010

WINTON – If the new face in the Hertford County Tax Collector’s office looks vaguely familiar it probably should.

Gay Sumner, who spent 20 years in charge of Land Records in Hertford County, recently moved into a new position as Tax Collector following the retirement of Wilda Liverman.

Sumner took over January 26, the beginning of a busy few months for any tax collector. She said the timing made the job even more challenging, but it was also something she was glad to get started on.

“It has been a real test, but a good test,” Sumner said, referring to the timing of her new post. “It happened at one of the busiest times of the year, but that has been a good learning experience.”

Sumner was named Tax Collector by the Hertford County Board of Commissioners, but the move from one spot to the other wasn’t that simple.

“I submitted my resume and application just like everyone else who applied,” Sumner said. “I decided I was interested and submitted my name not knowing whether I stood any chance of getting the job or not.”

Sumner spent 20 successful years in Land Records for Hertford County and led the change to the current Geographic Information System (GIS). Sumner said she enjoyed all those years, but was ready for a new challenge.

“With the support of the commissioners, I got Land Records to the point I wanted it,” Sumner said. “There are a few things left to do, but I know Sara (Turner) will see them through.”

Sumner said she always wanted to work in Hertford County and to do her best to make the county a better place to live.

“I love where I live,” she said. “I always wanted to do whatever I could for the county. When I was working in Land Records, I wanted to help the county’s overall progress.

“As one individual, I can only do so much, but I can do everything I can,” Sumner added.

After feeling she had moved the Land Records division into good standing, Sumner decided she wanted to move forward in her career. Despite 25 years of service to the county, she decided to attempt something new.

“I’m not planning to go anywhere,” she said. “I’m not the person who can go home and do nothing. I’m going to work here as long as they’ll have me.”

Sumner began working immediately on learning her new post and said her greatest frustration is not always being able to immediately answer the concerns of a citizen.

“The most uncomfortable part is not being able to give a customer an answer right off because I’m still learning,” she said. “Eventually I will, and I always get an answer, I just may not know it immediately.”

Two areas Sumner said she will focus on are customer service and delinquent taxes.

“Wilda did a great job and she leaves big shoes to fill,” Sumner said. “With the support of the commissioners and (County Manager Loria D.) Mrs. Williams, we’re going to do our best for the county.

“I want to focus on customer service,” Sumner said. “When you’re collecting taxes, the people who walk through the door are often in the last place they want to be. We try to make it better by being friendly and helping them as soon as they come in.”

Sumner said her staff will also provide assistance for the citizens in terms of providing tax collection information and providing directions to other county services.

“We want to make sure customers have every opportunity not to get to the point of garnishment,” Sumner said. “We’re going to work with them and let them know what is needed at every point.”

While working with citizens and being courteous, Sumner said her staff will also work diligently to reduce the size of the delinquent tax listing.

“Reducing the number of names on the delinquent tax listing is one of our goals,” Sumner said. “It may take some time, but we will get there.”

The work, like all others in the tax collector’s office, will be done as a staff, Sumner said.

“This is going to be a team effort,” Sumner said. “We support each other and it works well.”

Sumner began her career with Hertford County in the Emergency Management office and also worked with the ambulance service before moving to Land Records.