Second battle for tax collector

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The son of former longtime Tax Collector J.E. Bill Mitchell is making his second run for the seat his father once held.
Republican Danny Mitchell faces incumbent four-term Democrat Leroy Belk Jr. in the Nov. 8 general election. Both men had squared off four years ago, with Belk winning.
But Mitchell said he feels called to serve and wants to change the Tax Collector’s Office into a more customer-friendly atmosphere with shorter wait times and more personalized service.
“If you’re elected for a public office, you should be there eight hours a day, five days a week,” the 53-year-old said. “I make myself very approachable, which is something I think is lacking in that office now.”
Currently an industrial arts instructor at a training center for the blind, Mitchell said he has 25 years experience in business management and customer relations. He wants to put that background to work for Lee County.
He also wants to introduce new technologies to the office that would allow residents access to quicker business transactions. Mitchell declined to elaborate, saying he’ll reveal details of the plan if and when he’s elected.
Belk also envisions a more tech-savvy office. He said he’s researching automated tag-renewal kiosks similar to those now used to renew driver’s licenses. He’d like to install them throughout the county.
“When I walked in the office, there was no PC,” the 55-year-old said. “Technology is a big mission, and we have made innovations. It’s not going to stop.”
Prior to becoming tax collector, Belk had worked as a contractor, traffic manager and inventory control supervisor. He also had run unsuccessfully for constable and state senate before winning the collector election in 1991.
“God has a purpose for your life,” Belk said. “My dad was county superintendent a long time, I grew up in politics, helped him with his elections, and grew up saying ‘I’ll never do this,’ but you don’t know what plan God has for your life.”
The office collects about $72 million annually and handles collections for all Lee County municipalities, in addition to the unincorporated areas.
“Guntown was the first city, then came Tupelo, then came the domino effect,” said Belk. “We collect for them all now. We’re saving them money. I believe that my leadership brought that about.”