Standing the test of time
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 1, 2003
Since 1978, five men served as president of the United States, seven men served as governor of Alabama and through them all, Carolyn Middleton served as Butler County’s Tax Assessor.
In that time span she witnessed many changes in the Butler County Courthouse.
Different probate judges came and went, the county elected its first woman sheriff; county commissioners changed each term, yet she stayed on.
There is something to be said when voters return a person to office five consecutive times.
It is a sense of fulfillment and pride for Middleton.
She understands that if she failed in doing her job, then voters would take it away.
For over a generation, she stands as the one constant on the west side of the courthouse, doing the work of the people.
On Wednesday, Oct. 1, Middleton takes her oath of office for the fifth time.
On reflecting on her tenure, she quickly points out there are no regrets.
&uot;I would do it all over again with very few changes,&uot; she said &uot;My job is a joy and blessing to do.&uot;
As technology improved in the last 30 years, things at the assessor’s office changed.
Middleton said when she first began everything was performed manually.
That included everything from completing forms to filling in the plat book.
&uot;It used to be that for me to get an abstract out on Oct. 1 of each year, I had to have all the information in no than February,&uot; she said. &uot;So it is getting better.&uot;
Her job is not an easy one.
State law requires all land to be appraised for taxes.
Not an easy task and doing it by hand could be tedious.
However, now everything in the assessor’s office is computerized and that has been problematic at times.
In 1998, her office received the first computer system.
Shortly afterwards, the state removed it from its registry and a second system came into play.
Middleton said that system failed to do all required of it, a third system replaced it.
Middleton’s tenure began after she won the office in Nov. 1978.
She was to take her oath on Oct. 1, 1979.
However, the person who held office before her resigned and she went to work faster than expected.
Middleton’s first election remains memorable for a special distinction.
She was the first woman elected to a public office in Butler County, but that went smoothly.
&uot;People accepted me quickly,&uot; she said.
&uot;Until then women didn’t hold this type of office.&uot;
Since breaking new ground for women by winning, Butler County voters chose Belle Peavey as tax collector twice and also Diane Harris who is in her third time.
One of the things Middleton takes pride in is the implementation of the One Stop Tag system.
In January, all transactions related to purchasing vehicle tags will take place in the Probate Judge Steve Norman’s office.
&uot;I helped get the One Stop Tag system in place,&uot; she said.
&uot;It will be more convenient for everyone.&uot;
Until now, those purchasing tags began their trek by visiting Middleton’s office.
Then they had to visit the Tax Collector’s office to pay the assessed taxes.
Following that, a stop off at the probate office to buy the actual tag or sticker.
Soon that will be a thing of the past.
Another piece of legislation Middleton took part in deals with her job and the tax collector’s job.
The legislation would dissolve both offices, creating the revenue commissioner’s office.
Middleton said she would not rule running again in the future, and she did considered another office once since her first election.
This wife, mother and grandmother continues to rely on her family, faith and friends to see what the future holds.
For now, she is content working with 20 year veterans Rebecca Till and Frances Allen, who continue to serve in the assessor’s office.
They and the people she meets make the job good.
&uot;Who knows what tomorrow will bring?’ Middleton asked. &uot;I enjoy seeing all the people who come in.
It is like renewing old friendships each time they come in.
In some cases, children of people I knew years ago come in to conduct business.&uot;
When Middleton is away from the office, she enjoys being with her family.
The grandmother of two revealed that is loves being outdoors and her favorite activity if fishing.
&uot;You should see me fishing,&uot; she said simulating casting a line out and reeling it back in.
&uot;I’ll reel those fish right in.
I just love being outside.&uot;
Doing a good job, loving her family and friends and catching the occasional perfect fish makes Middleton content, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.