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Irwin tax collector candidates say post involves more than collecting money

Submitted - Len Cole is seeking the Irwin tax collector seat in the Nov. 5 race.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Submitted</em></div>Len Cole is seeking the Irwin tax collector seat in the Nov. 5 race.
Submitted - Lois Bennett, the incumbent tax collector in Irwin, hopes to retain her seat in the Nov. 5 election.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Submitted</em></div>Lois Bennett, the incumbent tax collector in Irwin, hopes to retain her seat in the Nov. 5 election.

Lois Bennett

Age: 65

Residence: Irwin

Family: Husband, Dick, and two children

Education: Bookkeeping courses at Westmoreland County Community College

Political party: Democrat

Community involvement: Volunteer for Irwin Business and Professionals Association, treasurer for First Presbyterian Church in Irwin, Irwin Garden Club

Len Cole

Age: 58

Residence: Irwin

Family: Wife, Flo, and four children

Education: California University of Pennsylvania

Political party: Republican

Community involvement: Word of Life Ministries Choir and drama team

By Amanda Dolasinski
Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Two self-proclaimed number aficionados are vying to earn the spot as Irwin's tax collector.

Democrat incumbent Lois Bennett and Republican challenger Len Cole are running to become the borough's real estate tax collector.

The election is Nov. 5.

Bennett has served two terms, while Cole is running for his first term of public office.

Bennett was first elected in 2005 after a town official suggested she would be a good fit.

Bennett decided to run for a third term.

“I thought maybe I could really help the community,” she said.

“I always try to go the extra mile.”

Over the past few years, Bennett said she has helped several people with tax questions, including how to get rebates and qualify for homestead tax exclusions.

She recalls helping one man who was behind on his taxes form a payment plan so he wouldn't lose his property, she said.

“It's not just collecting money,” she said.

“I'm very accessible to people here. You just have to have that rapport with people.”

The tax collector is responsible for real estate taxes from about 1,300 homes in the borough.

Bookkeeping and number-crunching skills are vital, Cole said.

Cole's background includes studying business administration and accounting at California University of Pennsylvania.

He previously served as financial secretary for a church in Irwin.

“I think that you need to have someone in that position that is honest and trustworthy,” he said.

He said he understands that some families have struggled through the economy and would be compassionate while collecting taxes.

“The way the economy is, I think it's more important to deal with people and realize the positions they're in,” he said.

“Nobody wants to take anybody's property because of taxes. It's more in everybody's interest to work with people.”

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626.

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