Belden, 59, spoke before an overflow crowd in the county commission chambers that included a who’s who of county officials and notables.
“I believe the growth and development of people is one of the highest callings of leadership,” Belden said, before asking tax collector employees and managers in attendance to stand.
First elected in 1998, Belden has won several awards for his office’s efficiency, including the 2008 Governor’s Sterling Award for Performance Excellence — the first tax collector’s office and the first organization in Hillsborough County to receive the honor.
Belden followed that up in 2011 when his office received the Governor’s Sustained Performance Excellence Award. The office has maintained a 96 percent customer satisfaction rate since for the past eight years based on customer surveys of 100,000 people. At the same time, 97 percent of the office’s employees said they were satisfied with their jobs.
Belden, a Republican, receives $159,203 a year as tax collector, an amount set by state statutes governing constitutional officers.
“You have a model office and exemplary customer service. Every county office should run with your level of efficiency,” Commissioner Ken Hagan said. “You are an inspiration to all elected officials and it’s an honor to call you a friend.”
Commissioner Les Miller, the only board member who is black, credited Belden with building an office with a high proportion of minority employees.
“Half of your staff are minorities and they are all satisfied with their jobs because they now work for a great guy,” Miller said.
Belden drew a distinction between local government and federal government, expressing disappointment at the growing partisanship in Washington. Ideally, he said, “our differences should bring us together.”
“I want to thank Hillsborough County government and the constitutional officers for putting people before political beliefs,” Belden said.
The county commission established the Ellsworth G. Simmons Good Government Award in 1996, to be presented each year to a person or persons who help improve government through leadership and vision.
The first recipient was the late congressman Sam Gibbons. Others have included Judge E.J. Salcines and former county commissioner, elections supervisor and Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio.