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2024 Readers Choice Winner | Bulloch County Tax Commissioner Leslie Deal Akins
Friendliest Government Worker
Leslie Deal Akins
Bulloch County Tax Commissioner Leslie Deal Akins - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

For the fourth consecutive year, voters in the 2024 Readers Choice awards have named Bulloch County Tax Commissioner Leslie Deal Akins the county’s Friendliest Government Worker — but she insists the honor is shared by everyone in her office. 

A native of Bulloch County, Akins attended Statesboro High School and graduated from Georgia Southern University in 1999 before beginning full-time work at the tax commissioner’s office in 2001, where she previously had worked part time in a variety of roles. In 2020, after nearly two decades in the delinquent tax division, Akins decided to run for election after longtime Tax Commissioner James Deal — Akins’ father — announced his retirement.

Deal had served as Bulloch County’s tax commissioner for 24 years, and for 19 of those, Akins worked in the office alongside him.

“I can truly say that I learned from the very best,” she said. “When I attend classes and conferences around the state, many come up to me and ask me, ‘How is your dad doing?’ (He) was known throughout the state as an excellent source of information and 

as an outstanding tax commissioner all around.” 

Following a successful bid to succeed her father, Akins officially took office Jan. 1, 2021. With big shoes to fill, she drew support not only from her friends and loved ones but also from her office “family” of coworkers.

“I feel like those established relationships were already there and made things so easy from Day 1,” she said. “There were never any transitional issues or power struggles. If anything, I still turn to some of those longtime employees for their advice or opinion on decisions sometimes, too.

“We are truly a team, and there is nothing I would change about that. One person cannot do it alone, and I am thankful for the ladies and gentlemen walking alongside me each day in the Bulloch County tax commissioner’s office.”

Though the office sometimes gets a bad rap simply due to the nature of its work, Akins says she learned from her father to counter that negativity with a positive attitude, as well as extensive knowledge and unwavering dedication — from both her and her staff. 

“Listen, our office and our team aren’t perfect,” Akins said. “We are all human beings, and we all have bad days.” Still, with a shared commitment to customer service, even in difficult situations, “we all work well together, and I promise you that without (our team), our office wouldn’t be what it is. 

“I share this (Friendliest Government Worker) award with them, because without them, I wouldn’t be the person that I am.”

Leslie Deal Akins
Bulloch County Tax Commissioner Leslie Deal Akins

The subject of taxes and tax collection can be very divisive as well as frustrating, particularly for those who may not fully understand how taxes are calculated. Many people who come into the office are also unaware of the roles of the tax commissioner and her staff. The amount of taxes owed by a particular property owner is not determined by Akins or her office; they are simply collected and enforced by them on behalf of the county. 

An important part of her team’s collective job is educating taxpayers about the ins and outs of taxes. Employees are often asked to explain things like the millage rates for the Board of Education, the Board of Commissioners and the local municipalities. Akins says she strives to give taxpayers as much information as possible regarding what is being collected and why, as well as any exemptions that might be available to them. 

“I think the better information people have, the more empowered they feel about the process,” she said. “Many things we don’t have control over, like state systems and things like that, but we will make positive and innovative changes where we can. 

“We recently updated our property tax program and also changed our online payment system,” she added. “My staff and I are not afraid of or intimidated by change.”

Inevitably, Akins and her coworkers encounter unhappy individuals on a near daily basis. Still, she reminds her team that their office is the only place in Bulloch County where property taxes and vehicle registrations are renewed. Taxpayers don’t have another option — so it’s important to make their experience as pleasant as possible. 

“For every few difficult or crass customers you have, you will have one who absolutely makes your day. I remind staff of that often,” she said. “Those kind and pleasant encounters make it all worth it. You treat the CEO and the janitor the same way.”

Leslie Deal Akins
Bulloch County Tax Commissioner Leslie Deal Akins - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

One of those special customers, a woman Akins met while working in delinquent tax collection, made an especially lasting impact.

“A few years ago, I had a lady call who was in jeopardy of losing her home to a tax sale situation. She came in with a terrible attitude, with her mind made up that we were just awful people in the office and that it was going to be terrible,” Akins said. “She came in and asked for me, and we went to my office and closed the door.”

After looking up the woman’s account, Akins offered her a ray of hope.  

“I gave her some options on how to break her payments up and what the requirements would be over the next three to four months to save her property,” she said.

At that moment, the woman began to cry.

“The outcome was much better than she had thought it would be,” Akins said. “She then told me … she had prayed for the Lord to help her with her situation, and … she felt like He had sent me to be the one to help her. I got a bit choked up and teary eyed, and she realized I was a human being, too, just doing a job.”

At the woman’s request, the two then prayed together, right there in Akins’ office. 

“She came in faithfully the next few months and did what she needed to do and never failed to ask for me, just to thank me for my help and to say ‘God bless you’ to me,” she said. “Not only did empathy positively impact the situation for her, but it blessed me as well.”

As an incumbent unopposed for re-election this year, Akins plans to begin her second four-year term as Bulloch County tax commissioner in January 2025. Thankful for the continued opportunity to serve her community, she says it wouldn’t be possible without the support of her incredible team — and her dad remains on the roster.

“I still ask for advice quite a bit, and I’m thankful that he is just a phone call away,” she said. “My dad left footsteps that are probably much larger than I could ever fill, but I pray that I am making him proud in this role. I am certainly striving to keep things as strong as he kept them — and we are on track.”