Faith Barnes was taken aback when a member of Phelps County Republicans asked her if she would consider running for Phelps County Collector in the coming 2018 August primary election. After some thought—she's all in.
Faith Barnes was taken aback when a member of Phelps County Republicans asked her if she would consider running for Phelps County Collector in the coming 2018 August primary election.
“I thought, ‘Great—the most hated person in the county,’” she said, laughing. “It’s hard to pay your tax bill. It’s no fun!”
Though the deadline to file for the county collector is not until February 27, 2018, Barnes wanted to get an early start on her preparation for the office. The first thing she had to do was get used to the idea of running for the position. She said she didn’t want to trade a job for a job. She wanted a job she could be passionate about and to make a difference. After all, that’s what she has been doing for many years now, helping people, as the director of HOPE Alliance of Missouri, that runs the Friday Backpack Program. So, she did what anyone about to embark into public service would do and that’s to research the job.
“I looked at what other counties are doing, how they’re doing things differently and thought about how my background of helping people—especially lower income [people]—how does that work into that?” she asked. “I just got really excited thinking of things I could do and what I could improve on.”
Before she shared a few of those ideas, she immediately said she wants to get out and visit with some tax payers to get some valuable feedback about the current system.
“What about the elderly couple that has trouble walking into the courthouse or the mom who has kids in the car and she has to pay her taxes—it’s hard,” she noted, touching on the customer service aspects of any public service job.
“I want to breath life into the place and the job,” she continued. “I’m a very visual person, so I want color visuals to show where the tax dollars are going. It’s important to break it down for people to see.”
Barnes said it is important to be as transparent as possible and clear with all communications, right down to what people need to bring to the courthouse in the way of documentation. She holds a degree in political science and has experience running a non-profit with a large budget, as well as supervisory experience in bank management. She will be running on the Republican ticket, but scoffs at the position having a party affiliate.
“The job shouldn’t be political at all,” she states flatly. “A civil servant is an advocate for the people. This job follows state statutes. The collectors follow the laws, they don’t make them, nor can they change them—they just follow them.”
Still, she adds that coming from a political science background, she’s very conscious of the voters being an advocate for the general population.
The thought of what she could do in public service within the county collector’s position excites her. If there are two things in life a person can count on—death and paying taxes, Barnes wants to make sure the people she would serve will understand the importance of the latter.
She wants to create an outreach program within the schools, to teach young kids about how a county operates by collecting their taxes and how that money is spent so that everyone in the county progresses. She says getting them while they’re young is important.
For a civic need that most find undesirable, she wants to bore into the negative depths and come back with ways that can maybe bring a smile to a taxpayer’s face.
She speaks of initiating tax installment plans for those that can’t fork over the lump sum that is due at the end of every year, a practice implemented in other Missouri counties. She’d like to brighten up the office and make it a pleasurable place to visit and she wants to do her outreach, with the cherry on top being an inculcated transparency, she says she would bring to the office of collector.
“Customer service is number one,” she said. “Find ways to say ‘yes.’ Let’s not say ‘no,’ let’s find ways to say ‘yes.’” For an example, she says if the county courthouse operating hours are eight to five, she knows that is hard for some working people and would like to accommodate them in some way. “I want to be very accessible, to them,” she said.
When asked how she would handle her backpack program, should she be elected, she said it wouldn’t be a problem. She has a team that has been helping with that particular program, going on 11 years.
Barnes is jumping into the race early. She knows how political outcomes can be decided by outside influences that may have nothing to do with the office she would like to obtain. Regardless, with her early announcement, she’s off to the races.