It’s a new day for Natchitoches Tax Commission

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From left are assistant tax collector Ethel Felder, tax commissioner Laura Dalme-Jeffcoat, auditor Crystal West and office manager Angela Grant. Not shown are assistant tax collector Donna Dyson Horn and finance manager Jodi Harris. Photo by Juanice Gray

Juanice Gray | Editor

Laura Dalme-Jeffcoat has taken the reins at the Natchitoches Tax Commission and is bringing her own style, form and flair to the office. “It’s a brand new day!” she said.

Soft spoken, but firm and friendly, she wants the public to know she is approachable and ready to assist with any tax related question they may have. As the new Tax Administrator, she brings 19 years experience to the office. “I started here as the assistant tax collector in August 2002. I’ve moved from there, to the audit department, to here,” she said Monday, Oct. 18. Seated in a cleaned and “spruced up” office, she comes across as confident, but fair and understanding.

This article published in the Oct. 21, 2021, print edition

She said she learned the business from her previous boss, the newly retired Jerry McWherter, and while the basics of business remains the same, she has her own way of doing things. “Jerry taught me everything I know, and need to know to run this place, but I’m not Jerry. I am me,” she said. “I come from a background of living in the country and living a country life and we have a different way of talking and listening to people without judgment. That’s who I’ve been and who I’ll continue to be.”

Jeffcoat wasn’t a shoe-in for the position. She went through the application process and interviewed with the board of directors. She believes she is a good fit for the position.

She has experience in collecting property tax, but also brings experience as a legal secretary. “I went to work after college as a legal secretary for the Harringtons before Rick was judge. I was his secretary. Attorneys know law, but they don’t know numbers. Accountants know numbers but they don’t know law. I got the best of both worlds,” she said.

Her duties as tax administrator include overseeing the staff’s activities, collecting and distributing taxes for the various governmental entities and for those whom have levied taxes. “I want this office to be as approachable as it always has been. I’m not going to have an open door policy, because then I can’t get what I need to get done. I will see people by appointment, in person or by phone calls.” She deals with the business community, homeowners and taxpayers. She also implores those whom had any prejudice before, to not bring those prejudices with them. “If they (her staff) can’t answer a question, I will answer their question.”

Jeffcoat was raised by a retired military father and a homemaker mother in rural Cloutierville. “Daddy farmed after he retired and my mother raised me and my brother. We both graduated from Cloutierville and then went on to college,” she said. She has three sons and two young granddaughters. “I left here a couple of times but came back and raised my kids where I was raised. One day I looked around and my kids were grown so I left again and went to Virginia. I stayed about 90 days and called and said ‘Jerry, can I have my job back’ and he said, ‘What! You left?’” she laughed.

Jeffcoat wants the business owners to know, “I am here to help. I am not here to persecute. I want them to know they can call me or schedule a time to come see me, or any of my staff, with any questions they may have. Whether it’s the steps they need to take to get a business or they need help with the forms, whatever it may be to get them started or to keep them going. I don’t want them to be afraid to come. I don’t want them to wait until the problem is insurmountable. Just come in and talk to us. If you need help we’ll help you. It doesn’t cost anything,” Jeffcoat said.

She commented that should the constitutional amendments pass on the Nov. 13 ballot, the actions of her office would not change. “The big picture is they have two portals they can file on, parish e-file and sales tax online. Basically, they will combine the two and make one. The goal is instead of multiple returns that have to be filed in multiple parishes or jurisdictions; they will fill out one form. One entry, one check,” she explained. “It all goes to the state, the state sorts it out to where it is supposed to go and we get the same money we’ve always gotten and it is distributed the same way.”

Some new paint on the walls, law books in the conference room to reference reasons how and why taxes are collected, a soft spoken leader and a knowledgeable staff are awaiting the public at the Natchitoches Tax Commission at 220 E. 5th St. Jeffcoat and her staff welcome your comments, questions and calls at 357-8871.