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Gainous will not seek fifth term

For a Grady County elected official who has had a lifelong love of numbers, the last 15 years have been a dream job.
However, Grady County Tax Commissioner Phyllis Gainous has decided to retire as the county’s top tax official when her term expires Dec. 31, 2016.
“Qualifying for the 2016 election is much earlier than in the past, so I made the decision to go ahead and make public my plans not to seek reelection so that potential candidates will have time to consider seeking this office,” the tax commissioner said Monday.
Gainous said that qualifying opens March 7, 2016.
Before making her decision public, she shared the news with her staff and with the staff of the Grady County Tax Assessors office.
According to Mrs. Gainous, she asked her staff members if any of them would be interested in seeking election, but all of them declined.
“I’ve heard of at least one person who may be interested, but I plan to stay neutral in the election,” Tax Commissioner Gainous said.
Whoever takes Mrs. Gainous’ place in 2017, she said she hopes that it is someone with some financial or accounting background. “There should be more requirements for this job than there are. Basically, you just have to be 21 years old, a resident of the county for two years prior and not a felon. I think a tax commissioner should be required to have some accounting training or a degree,” she said.
At the conclusion of her term next year, the veteran tax commissioner will have served for 16 years. She only drew political opposition when she first ran for office.
Gainous assumed leadership of a tax commissioner’s office that had been plagued by management and bookkeeping issues.
“I’m proud I was able to come in and get the office organized and operating professionally and efficiently,” Mrs. Gainous said.
She added, “The office is really running great. I think I’ve done a good job.”
The soon-to-be retired tax official credits the work of her staff over the last 15 years for much of her success. “I’ve had a lot of good employees who have been loyal and trustworthy. They’ve really done a good job. I always feel confident that if I am out of the office, I can trust them and everything will run smoothly.”
Prompting Mrs. Gainous to back away from the job she describes as “challenging” is the fact that her husband, Lanny, will be retiring from teaching in early 2017.
“We have grand kids out in Colorado now, and we would like to be able to travel and do things more. My health is good and I like to do things while I’m able,” she said.
The tax commissioner is not ruling out seeking a role in public service on a part-time basis. “I love to serve the public and I wouldn’t mind having something to do part time,” she said.
Gainous said in the past she considered the possibility of running for the General Assembly and still ponders such a move. “It’s something to think about,” she said.
Phyllis Gainous came to office 15 years ago after a bruising primary battle between then-incumbent tax commissioner Janice Womble and challengers Ann Harrell and Kay Hash. Mrs. Gainous and Mrs. Harrell faced off in a run-off and then Gainous faced the late Sam Prince in the general election and won. Since then, Mrs. Gainous has never been opposed.
“This hasn’t been an easy decision. I’ve been thinking about it almost all year, but with my husband retiring and my health still good, I just decided it’s time. I love a challenge and this job has been a challenge. There is always something new and changes taking place, I’ve loved my job,” she said.
Gainous’ love of numbers attracted her to positions involving bookkeeping and accounting, beginning with an early job at the former Mixon Milling Company and, later, with Balfour Timber before opening her own accounting and bookkeeping service. “I’ve learned a lot over the years working with different businesses, and I think that is why I was able to walk in and do this job from day one,” she said.
Besides being able to bring order to the office once she was elected, Mrs. Gainous points with pride to her partnerships with the cities of Cairo and Whigham to collect municipal taxes on the same bill for county, school and state taxes.
Mrs. Gainous and her office have collected city taxes for Cairo since 2010 and for Whigham since 2012. “I’m really proud of that. It has been good for all involved and it gives the public one place to go to pay their taxes and all on one bill. It has also reduced errors on the part of mortgage companies. They really like it,” Mrs. Gainous said.
The four-term tax commissioner says she will be leaving the office with up-to-date technology and adequately staffed with four full-time employees and one part-time employee. “We do very well with what we have and my office is as up to speed as any tax commissioner’s office in the state,” she said.
Mrs. Gainous said she knew coming into the job it would take the first few years to get the office running properly. “It took some time to get everything worked out, but we got it done. I love my job and I love the people. I’ll miss it, but it’s the right time to go,” she said.

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