Dennis Hollingsworth has been the St. Johns County tax collector for the past 38 years. During that time, he has seen a number of changes occur, including the introduction of computers and the continued growth of the area’s population. However, the one thing that remains the same is the joy he gets from interacting with residents and helping them solve the problems they are faced with.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
I was born and raised in St Augustine and attended local schools. At that time, we had three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school.
My parents established the Harley Davidson St Augustine dealership on U.S. 1 North and the family still owns the property. Eventually the dealership moved to Interstate 95 and State Road 16.
We used to take the family Willy Jeep from Vilano Beach to the Jacksonville Beach boardwalk. We fished in the intercoastal and ocean with more catches and larger fish than today.
The population of St Johns County was a whopping 30,000. What a great time and place to grow up.
After graduation, I attended St Johns River Community College in Palatka. The only community college in Northeast Florida at that time. Then I went to FSU and eventually transferred to Stetson University in Deland.
I received my master’s degree from Jacksonville University. I worked for the family business and taught accounting and bookkeeping at the St Augustine Technical School in the adult night class curriculum.
Eventually, I ended up teaching sixth grade elementary students at Cathedral Parish School and adult education at St Johns River Community College and Flagler College. While teaching school, the late Tax Collector, Ms. Winifred Hill, asked if I would consider working for her since I already knew the procedure for title and registration applications, learning this from the family business.
I was eventually employed by Ms. Hill in 1978 and in 1984 Ms. Hill decided to retire. I ran for Tax Collector and won the election.
Having worked in the tax collector’s office for as long as you have, what are some of the major changes you’ve seen take place over the years?
When I started in the Tax Collector’s Office, we didn’t have computers and all title applications, registrations, tax bills and tax rolls were manually typed. Technology has changed our procedures and now we can assist citizens from any part of the state.
What are the most rewarding parts of the job?
Every day I get to help citizens with personal problems. I cherish the ability to help people solve problems.
Are you one that lays out goals? If so, what are some of your goals for the future?
How to assist citizens to have easy access to their needs in their tax collector office. We are currently assessing where another branch office should be opened. We consistently analyze wait times and monitor efficiency to improve and better serve the citizens.
What are some of the challenges that you face with the job?
Challenges are the growth factor and the increase in demands of the office.
What do you enjoy most about living in the Northeast Florida area?
The quality of life in Northeast Florida used to be excellent and the best location to enjoy outdoor activities such as offshore, saltwater, and freshwater fishing, the beach, the rivers and wildlife. I sense that we are losing that quality of life.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Family, faith, fishing, boating and hunting.
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