Huntington town receiver of taxes

Posted: Updated:

Jillian A. Guthman
Democratic

Background: Guthman, 48, of Melville, is seeking to fill the one year remaining on Ester Bivona's four-year term. Bivona retired in November 2017 and Guthman was appointed to the position in December 2017. She also is running on the Working Families and Women's Equality party lines. She was director of Huntington's Human Services Department for 10 years, and previously was deputy town attorney and an assistant town attorney. She also was an assistant district attorney in the Suffolk County district attorney's office, worked in New York City's Corporation Counsel's Office and as the attorney for the village of Hempstead. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology at St. John's University, and her law degree at Touro Law Center. Guthman is an auxiliary member at the Greenlawn American Legion. She has a daughter.

Issues: Guthman said the tax receiver job gives her an opportunity to help people and exercise her leadership skills built over the years as the town's human services director, EEO officer and labor trainer. "This now gives me a chance to expand what I can do for the community," she said. "I can identify problems and direct people toward any help they might need, from emergency services the town offers to all the exemptions they're entitled to." While the office runs well, Guthman said she is looking at ways to improve it through cross training employees, and perhaps increasing the level of technology used in the office to include remote deposits. She would like to increase transparency by putting more information online and communicating via email, and share information on financial literacy, financial fraud and tax-filing tips. "I want to make sure we continue the high level of customer service to individuals as they come in and continue my philosophy of respect for individuals," she said.

Janet L. Smitelli
Republican

Background: Smitelli, 57, of Huntington, a Republican, also is running on the Conservative, Independence and Reform party lines. She is seeking to fill the one-year remaining on Ester Bivona's four-year term. Bivona retired in November 2017. Smitelli ran in a special election in April 2018 for state Assembly in District 10, and also ran for Suffolk Legislature in 2015. Smitelli is a lawyer with a civil litigation background. She earned degrees in environmental science, Latin American studies and Spanish at SUNY Plattsburgh and earned her law degree at St. John's University in Queens. Smitelli is active in Boy Scouts and has been an assistant Scout master for five years with Troop 34. She is married and has three children.

Issues: Her legal background and general understanding of accounting practices and tax principles gives her the right background for the job, she said. "I'm excited about this. I believe after prior runs I've found my place," Smitelli said. "I'm hard working and I want to serve." Her background in client contacts through her legal work gives her good experience, she said, and she would bring a fresh look to the office's operation and be able to have a sympathetic ear for taxpayers. Smitelli said she would look at ways to improve the office's efficiency, including the parking situation on tax days and whether more cashiers are needed, and see if it is financially feasible for the town to print its own bills and mail them from in-house. She also would look at the rate of credit fees the town gets from different credit cards for those charging their tax payments. "Customer service and efficiency are key. That's what we want, and we answer to the public," she said.

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