June 16, 2006

Diversity is valued at County’s Treasurer-Tax Collector Office

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

When Dan McAllister was elected to the Office of Treasurer-Tax Collector in November, 2002, and took office in December of that year, he said that he didn’t like what he found there in terms of diversity.

“I think that it’s important for public offices to reflect the community that they serve,” he said. “This office didn’t reflect that before I came along.”

So as soon as he took office, McAllister began to make some positive changes.

“I thought that we should move quickly so that our workforce can adequately communicate with our Spanish-speaking costumers,” he said, referring especially to the Chula Vista field office, where many of the inquiries are in Spanish. “Before I came into office the tax collector office had just a few bilingual employees in Chula Vista.”

The Treasurer-Tax Collector office is in charge of collecting property tax in San Diego County. It also manages the county’s investments.

In less than four years, McAllister has achieved his goal when it comes to diversifying the Treasurer-Tax Collector office.

“We’re here to make sure all people get the best service possible,” he said. “If any home owner happens to be a Spanish-speaker, he or she has the right to have excellent costumer service.”

Of the 125 employees at the tax collector office, more than 50 percent are from ethnic groups other than White, McAllister said.

“I believe that it was a strong, good business decision,” he said. “It’s been good for business. It’s been good for the public.”

The diversity he talks about is reflected in his senior staff as well.

The three deputy treasurers are all women, and one of them is Asian-American, the other one African-American, and the other one is Latina.

“One of the benefits that all this diversity brings to our office is that everybody brings different concepts and ideas to the table. We have not only one perspective, but many perspectives,” Mc-Allister said.

But if you’re planning on getting a job at the Treasurer-Tax Collector office, don’t assume that just for being a woman or part of a minority group you’re going to be hired. You better have an excellent resumé and great experience.

“It’s important to express here that diversity and excellence are not exclusive. I always choose the best and brightest young people from different cultures and backgrounds.

I want to hire the best,” McAllister said.

Take the example of Deputy Treasurer Suzanne Torres.

Before joining McAllister’s team, she had more than 15 years of finance, investment, and business management experience in the private sector, including seven years in Madrid, Spain.

During all that time, she was always “the only one” in her office, Torres said.

Now as deputy treasurer of Administration & Support, she’s responsible for budget management, organizational development and the department’s continued commitment to general management systems.

Torres said that for her, the diversity in the office has created a special bond among employees, especially among those who belong to ethnic minorities.

“It’s truly a reflection of the community,” she said.

She said that the tax collector office is updating it’s Spanish-language website to include more detailed information in Spanish. Also, she added that soon all press releases will be released in Spanish as well.

Torres said that McAllister has visited several ethnic media outlets in San Diego, trying to reach out to the communities.

“We provide information not just in English, but in different languages,” she said.

Another Latino at the Treasurer-Tax Collector Office is Investment Officer Jorge Sandoval.

The work environment “it’s so diverse, that I don’t even notice it anymore,” he said.

McAllister ran uncontested for reelection in the June 6 elections. He said that says something about the quality of work he and his staff are doing.

“It’s such a wonderful opportunity for us to stand out as a better functioning unit of government,” he said. “If you surround yourself with people who talk different than from you, who walk different than from you, who look different than you, you’re going to have a richer environment.”

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