Tax Collector Deborah Heim is among 76 municipal officials in the state, who completed the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities’ Connecticut Certified Municipal Official program. She received her certificate at the CCM Conference at Foxwoods Resort Casino on Dec. 3.
The 36 hours of professional development classes must be taken over a two year period. Heim started taking classes in June, when she worked for the town of Stratford, and continued her studies after being hired as Monroe’s tax collector on Feb. 4, 2019.
“It demonstrates her commitment to her community,” First Selectman Ken Kellogg said. “This whole certification is about taking advantage of a variety of training programs offered by CCM.”
Heim, 61, grew up in Monroe and graduated from Masuk High School in 1976. She is married to retired town police detective, Ken Heim. The couple has two grown children, Christina and Nicole, and Deborah has two stepchildren from Ken’s previous marriage, Melissa and Kendra. The Heims have a total of five grandchildren.
Heim was first elected as Monroe’s tax collector in 1990 and served the town through 2000, before being appointed tax collector of Stratford, where she served for 18 years.
She was appointed Monroe’s tax collector again following the retirement of Emanuel Cambra.
Heim goes for it
CCM offers free workshops to municipal employees wanting to build upon their knowledge and improve their skills in local government. While attending a workshop, Heim learned about the new Connecticut Certified Municipal Official (CCMO) program, which started in 2018.
“I wanted to go for it,” she said.
According to the CCM website, the CCMO program was developed under the advisement and direction of experienced staff at Trinity College. Its categories include personal, organizational and community development.
“The job of a municipal official is complicated and demanding,” according to CCM. “To be successful officials need special skills and knowledge, but they also must be competent in a variety of areas. By designing this program to focus on you, your organization and your community, we will help you achieve a standard of excellence.”
“The program will blend the best from the worlds of practice and theory,” it continues. “Training sessions will be led by associations, recognized experts and college faculty, with lengthy experience and insights needed to help you build the required skills for your demanding job.”
The program is open to all municipal employees, not just taxpayers.
Security upgrades, better customer service
Among the topics Heim studied were budgeting, time management, team building and cyber security.
“It sees how different towns handle different situations: employee disputes, different ways to help the taxpayers and cyber security — keeping your office secure,” Heim said.
Using the things she learned, Heim said Monroe’s taxpayers can pay their taxes online even more securely. During the CCMO training, officials learned how to avoid opening phishing emails by looking at the email addresses and Heim said she does not do downloads without someone from the information technology department looking at it.
The training includes customer service skills, including how to be more polite when answering the phone.
“I shared this with the office,” Heim said of having more patience and explaining municipal information in a terminology people can understand. “We have to treat everyone fairly and follow the rules.”
Town tax offices must follow the rules, procedures and deadlines set by the state of Connecticut, sometimes frustrating taxpayers who need more flexibility and don’t understand why town tax collectors cannot give them a break.
“I took something away from every class,” Heim said. “Nothing was boring. I thought it was exciting. I walked out wanting to use what I learned. I recommend it to everyone, but it does take time.”
“I’m proud of the certification and glad it’s done,” Heim said with a smile.
But now that Heim is a CCMO, the learning will never stop.
“After you get your certification, you have to take three workshops for a total of nine hours a year to keep it,” she said. “My first one is this Saturday in Cromwell.”