Sulphur Springs Independent School District in recent years has reported tax collections most hope for, but never quite achieve —no less than 97 percent, and during tough economical times too! That’s due largely to Judy Gregg, who for the last 37 years has applied her special skills toward not only collecting money to keep the district afloat but also helping tax patrons and staff.
The key to her success? Many things come into play but a lot of it has to do with Gregg’s attitude toward people, her job and life in general.
“I try to treat everyone the same, try to be fair to everyone,” Gregg said. “Being a tax collector is not something everyone can do. I felt like God said, ‘You’ll be good at it’ and I did it. It’s been great. I’ve loved it. I have the best job in the whole district. I get to be around people. I love people, especially older and the elderly. They are special to me. They depend on us to try to help them out. Older tax payers need respect, loving care.”
“She’s so good with our taxpayers, especially the older ones. She’s so sweet with them,” said Marci Owens, SSISD administrative assistant to the superintendent, who considers Gregg not just a coworker but a friend as well.
Gregg credits her parents, Leta and Grady Jones, for her common sense and the strong sense of fairness and ethics they instilled in her from a young age.
“That’s the way my parents raised me. My dad taught me the importance of honesty, to be kind, of friendship — to be a good person,” Gregg said of her upbringing in Sulphur Springs, where she graduated high school and later raised her family.
Gregg’s rapport with people is a big component of the office’s success over the years, her coworkers and other administrative staff note.
“I call her my ‘Work Mama,’” said Owens. “She’s a lot of help to me. She’s good to help with anything that’s needed. She helps with the meals for the board. We call her the Paula Dean of the Administration Building.”
Tax Clerk Sandra Gibby, Gregg’s “right hand girl” in the tax office, added that in the 16 years she’s worked alongside Gregg they’ve become “more than coworkers.”
Owens says Gregg often goes above her required duties to help others, often taking on those tasks that need to be performed but others don’t have time or inclination to do.
“She’s very supportive of our children through the school system. Her kids went to school here and some of her grandchildren. She’s very supportive of school activities. If there’s anything going on in the district and administration, Judy is there, taking part in it,” said Patsy Bolton, who retired as superintendent last spring after 43 years working for SSISD. “She is often the face taxpayers see when they come into the district, especially if they have no children in schools and older people with no children or grandchildren. She treats them with respect. She has a rapport with taxpayers in the district as well as employees. That’s very important.”
Bolton said another reason people have a deep respect for Gregg is “her understanding of the importance of confidentiality.” Taxpayers can trust that while handling their money, she will maintain the confidentiality of their information.
“She’s done a good job establishing a bond throughout the community,” Bolton said.
In addition to having a special knack with people, Gregg also is known to go that extra step to help people or point them in the right direction.
“If I don’t know something, I usually have sources and will find out,” said Gregg.
People respond to her genuine concern for people and willingness to help, while still doing what’s fair.
“As a district, the taxpayers have been very supportive — not all, but a large percent are very supportive — which has made the job easy. I’ve probably made a few enemies over the years, but that’s part of the job. ... I’ve made lots of friends too. Working with the public is not always an easy task, but I’ve loved it.”
Assistant Superintendent Randy Reed noted Gregg to be a “dedicated” member of SSISD staff, who for 37 years has been an asset to the district.
Gregg’s career with SSISD started in June 1976, when she began assisting Gene Attlesey in the tax office. When Attlesey retired, Gregg stepped up to become tax collector. She’s held the office for the last 30 years.
“It’s all I’ve ever done. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” said Gregg, who has adapted to the many changes in staff, board members and technology over the years. “I collect taxes. I work the counter too. There aren’t a lot of working tax collectors these days. There’s just two of us, me and Sandra. The tax collectors collects from the taxes, makes deposits and does bookkeeping.”
Gregg’s office sends notices regarding taxes, keeping track of who owes and trying to do what’s needed so the property owner pays the taxes. She often puts forth the extra effort to help them find a solution, when possible, so people don’t end up losing their property. She explains things to people when they come in upset about late notices, to try to help understand what’s going on and reach satisfying conclusions.
She’s pretty good at juggling too — something that’s requires when you technically have eight bosses and work with so many different personalities in the public as well as various offices within the district.
Gregg has worked for eight superintendents, numerous different board members over the years and has seen several changes in office staff as well.
“They’re all different. I got along with everyone of them. Each has different views and ideas. I did my best to support them and went on,” she said. “There have been lots of changes on the school board. They watch collections closely to make sure you do the job and do it well. I work with the business office to set the tax rate and budget, to make sure the funds balance.”
That’s something she takes very seriously.
“If you don’t, the kids suffer. I collect for the kids,” Gregg said. “If I drive by a playground on a school campus while I’m out for lunch and I see kids out playing, I think, ‘I need to collect more funds. The kids need it.’ It’s a big responsibility. The school relies on the tax funds.”
Of course, that’s not all Gregg does for SSISD. She also serves as the district elections officer. Whether for school trustees, bonds or other district elections of this nature, Gregg has been responsible for all for many years as well.
Both jobs require special training. Gregg said she’s mostly self-taught in election information. She’s read a lot of codes and election laws over the years to stay up-to-date on current procedures. The tax collector must be certified, which requires classes. Of course, even after obtaining certification, tax collectors, like many other professionals, are required to get in a certain number of continuing education credits.
“I went to Paris Junior College at night while rising two children,” said Gregg, referring to her daughters, Leslie Harred and Marcie Young, who are both grown, married and have children of their own now. “I got my cert and have kept it valid.”
Technology has made both tax collection and elections run a bit more efficiently.
When she first started working in the tax office, Gregg had to type the tax roll on a very large piece of paper using a manual typewriter. Tax statements and receipts were typed that way too. Since then, the process has evolved. Although Gregg admits she was initially “terrified” when the change was made from typewriters to computers. She was worried they’d fail and wanted to make sure each taxpayer’s information was accurate and complete, and all funds are accounted for. But, now it’s a snap — just another part of the job.
Elections have gone from hand-counting tallies to everything being counted electronically.
“It’s good. It allows us to finish counting faster and post the results faster,” Gregg said.
Also, when she first began work for SSISD, the tax office handled 1,500 accounts. As Sulphur Springs has grown, so has the tax roll. Today, SSISD’s tax office handles 16,000 accounts.
Despite her love of the job, Gregg has decided it’s time to retire and pursue some of the other things which are important to her. Her last day will be June 28. Her husband Terry plans to retire from L-3 in Greenville in July.
“We’re excited about it,” said Gregg. “We’ll just have to see what happens. I plan to volunteer a lot. I enjoy community service, helping people. We’ve been talking about volunteering together.”
The last three years, Judy has represented the school district on the Chamber of Commerce, serving this year on the board, and “loved it.” In the past, she’s been involved with Mother’s Club and Pilot Club.
The Greggs have two daughters and sons-in-law, Leslie (a counselor at Sulphur Springs Middle School) and Rodney Harred of Sulphur Springs, and Marcie and Todd Young, all of Anders. They also have five grandchildren, Seth Harred, a sophomore at Sulphur Springs High School; Reese Harred, who is attending Southeastern Oklahoma University on a football scholarship; and 14-year-old Nick, 10-year-old Noah and 6-year-old Noelle Young of Anders. She also has one brother and sister-in-law, Butch and Linda Jones of Campbell.
“I’m looking forward to being with them more. I’m excited about that. They’re all very special. We are blessed,” noted Gregg.
She’ll probably be spending more time in her kitchen cooking and in her yard in warm weather “growing lots of things” with “lots of color” in pots.
“She’s very dedicated, and a great asset to our community. I don’t know how we are going to replace someone of such caliber,” said Reed.
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