Long-time Madison County tax commissioner Louise Watson has announced her retirement, effective May 31.
“I have real emotional feelings as reality is beginning to set in,” said Watson. “I feel as though I’m giving up my baby or part of my family, because I enjoy the job and the people. I’m not leaving with any type of dissatisfaction or anything. I’m just at the place in life where I feel now is the time for me.”
A special election to fill her remaining two years in the post will be held during the general election Nov. 4. Watson has appointed Melanie Kidd, who has seven years experience — four full time — in Watson’s office, to serve as deputy tax commissioner from May 31 until the end of the year, when an elected officer takes the position.
Madison County chief registrar Tracy Dean said this week that qualifying dates and the qualifying fee will be set soon. She noted that qualifying for the office will be concluded by Aug. 6. The tax commissioner’s office is typically a partisan election, but a special election for the seat is non-partisan, meaning a candidate can declare a party affiliation on the November ballot, but that’s not required. When the office comes back up for election in 2016, it will once again be a partisan race.
Watson is stepping down in her sixth term and 25th year in office. She has worked in the Madison County tax commissioner’s office for 39 years. Watson was initially hired into the office as a “seasonal worker” and worked during busy times, such as at property tax deadlines, a job she held for one year. The next year, tax commissioner Vincent Hix offered Watson a full-time job as a tax, title and tag clerk. When Hix ran for road commissioner, Lutrell Hutchins, who also served as a clerk in the office, ran for tax commissioner and won, serving two terms. After Hutchins’ retirement in 1988, Watson ran against four people for the post and won without a runoff.
Watson said she’s not sure what she’ll do after retirement, but she said she plans to stay busy.
“I really haven’t got a mindset yet on what I’m going to be doing, but I’m sure it will be some volunteer work and being involved with the county in some way, like with the Chamber of Commerce, the library or the Food Bank,” said Watson. “I’m a people person. You won’t find me at home much, I’m sure.”
The long-time tax commissioner said she’s seen kids become parents and grandparents during her time in office.
“I’m about my fourth generation as far as selling car tags to kids and families,” she said.
Watson said the job has changed dramatically over the years as technology has improved.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years,” she said. “When I originally started working here, we worked with pencils. We had one manual typewriter and one electric typewriter. And we were in the old courthouse with very limited office space. We had one copying machine in the entire courthouse.”
While the tax commissioner’s job can carry its share of political stresses, Watson said she’s found the role rewarding.
“It has been a joy working here,” she said. “It’s had it’s rough times in years where the digest didn’t get out on time and the political sides of different things, but on the whole, this has been a very meaningful job.”
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