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‘Our City Council is trying to dig us out of debt and move Manassas Park forward’

James Kirkland is seeking political office for the first time, for the office of Manassas Park Commissioner of Revenue.

But he’s no stranger to local politics as Kirkland’s wife, Rachel, is the Chairman of the city school board. 

This election season, we’re asking candidates who wish to reach our readers a “why you should vote for me” email by Oct. 27, 2017. 

Kirkland sent us this email below: 

If elected Commissioner of Revenue, I hope to provide Manassas Park elected officials with reliable and timely data so that our leaders can make data-driven decisions. I will provide accurate assessments and billing, greater transparency, and excellent customer service for our residents.

Having spent the last decade administering databases for the Chancellor’s Office of D.C. Public Schools( DCPS), I really enjoy helping parents and students get the support they need from afterschool and summer programs in the district. I’m hoping to do the same supporting my neighbors here in the park. My experiences include transitioning DCPS Out of School Time Programs from the previous student information system to a new system and linking it with our online enrollment for both DCPS’s Summer Learning Program and the DCPS Afterschool Program. I also manage and administer the Out of School Time’s online payment system, collecting revenue of almost a million dollars annually.

As I was gathering signatures to be on the ballot, I heard story after story of improper billing, missing bills, lack of response to emails, and rude phone etiquette. The one story that struck closest to home was from my mother. My parents moved to the Park a couple years ago and my mother, who is very organized, took all of her paperwork to City Hall and asked for their help making sure they had the information they needed for personal property tax on her car. Months later, she receives a bill with a late charge, never having received an original bill. Knowing how organized she is, I highly doubt the correct bill was ever sent. Everyone knows Manassas Park pays some pretty steep taxes for Northern Virginia, and we certainly deserve better customer service for what we’re paying. I’m running to be part of that solution.

At my current position, I came into DCPS with Chancellor Michelle Rhee. In an effort to improve relationships with parents and teachers, we went through customer service training and set clear office norms about communication and responsibilities. After almost ten years, I’m proud to say our department prides itself in providing quality customer service for whoever calls. If someone gets my office but has an issue with another office, we go out of our way to make sure they are connected to the right party. My goal is to improve customer service and the reputation of the city’s government so that residents feel our local government is their ally.

Our City Council is trying to dig us out of debt and move Manassas Park forward. They need accurate numbers to make data-driven decisions about our future. I’ve been through transitions from one data system to another in DC Government and I realize they are not easy tasks. I worked with the team that moved DC Public Schools from a student information system they had been using for decades. I helped decide it the proposed system could meet our requirements, my program was the first to launch within the new system, and I led the training for our site staff as they adopted the new system.

We did this with almost no downtime between systems and no loss of data. I was part of the team that developed the online enrollment system for summer and after-school programs. I’ve managed enrollment for those programs for the last six years. Three years ago, I helped launch our online payment system which now collects over 95% of our after school payments totaling almost a million dollars annually. I think my experience with database management, online business systems, and customer service can improve how the Commissioner of Revenue’s office functions for our residents and elected officials.

I’ve been a resident of Manassas Park for 15 years, and it’s an amazing small town with great amenities. My wife, Rachel Kirkland, has been active with the local government for over nine years and I’ve gotten to know the members of the City Council and some of those who work in City Hall. I was approached because a member of both parties on the council felt I could help fix some of the technical difficulties that are stopping them from having the best data available when they have to make tough budget decisions. They’re part of a team I would like to work with, a team I think can get this job done.

You can learn more about my campaign at votekirkland.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/votekirkland

At Potomac Local, we will never tell you for whom to vote for but if you have strong feelings toward a candidate and want to tell our readers who to vote for, you may submit your post for publication