For the first time in more than a decade the race to become commissioner of the revenue in Franklin County is contested.
Incumbent Margaret Torrence, who was first elected to the position in a four-way special election in 2006, faces challenger Andy Turner, a Rocky Mount accountant. Both are running as independents.
The candidates each emphasized their customer service backgrounds and said they enjoyed working with people. Torrence, 64, has worked with county residents in the commissioner’s office for three decades, first as an employee of the office and then as its leader. Turner, 47, has served individuals and businesses as a financial accountant.
Last year, the county considered collecting real estate taxes twice a year, rather than once in December. Ultimately, the board of supervisors opted not to make the change.
Turner said he would advocate for twice-a-year collection of real estate taxes. Preparing tax returns for people in the community, Turner said he knows many live on tight budgets.
“Having twice-a-year taxes would allow those folks to properly budget in earlier months so that they don’t feel the crippling effect at the holiday season,” he said.
Though taxpayers have the option to pay real estate taxes at any time, Turner said few people think to do it without a physical bill in front of them.
Torrence said the commissioner of the revenue’s role is not to set policy, but to “apply it equitably, impartially, fairly to everyone.” Though it’s the decision of the supervisors, Torrence said she would support the change.
And after doing the research last year, she feels prepared to implement it, should the subject come up again.
“This work’s already done and we’ll be ready to just hit the ground running,” Torrence said.
Turner said he wants to host educational seminars for businesses and also to inform citizens of tax relief programs offered.
Turner said he offers a fresh perspective and is a “candidate of change.”
He believes his varied experiences in the field of accounting, along with his knowledge of tax law, would be an asset to the commissioner’s office.
“I’ve run the gamut of every aspect of accounting, from cost to tax,” he said.
Despite her 31 years of experience, Torrence said continuing education is important to her. She is certified by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, which offers educational programs for constitutional officers.
“I think the more you learn, the better you are at what you do and the better you’re going to be for the citizens you represent,” she said.
Torrence’s office was also recognized at the board of supervisors meeting earlier this month for earning accreditation from the Commissioners of the Revenue Association of Virginia.