Dearman, longtime Forrest County tax collector, to retire

By HASKEL BURNS,

For the first time in nearly 30 years, Forrest County voters won’t see Delbert Dearman’s name on the ballot for the upcoming Aug. 6 primary election.

Last week, the long-time Forrest County Tax Collector, who was elected in 1992, announced his retirement and that he would not seek re-election for another term.

“Seven terms is enough – that’ll be 28 years total,” Dearman said. “I’ve got 43 years in this career, and so it’s time.”

Before being elected the county’s tax collector, Dearman served as tax assessor and collector for the city of Hattiesburg for more than 13 years. During his career, he has been in charge of collecting ad valorem taxes, reviewing tax returns, identifying taxes owed and collecting overdue tax payments.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better career,” Dearman said. “I got to serve in a capacity that is just rewarding. I got to help my favorite teacher in the world – my second-grade teacher – with a tax problem.

“I got to help my geometry teacher, my civics teacher, my Mississippi history teacher, my algebra teacher, my physical science teacher – I got to give back to so many people that I admire over the years, and I got to be the one to help them. So instead of them helping me, the role was reversed. You can’t get any better than that.”

Another one of the most rewarding parts of Dearman’s job was when he was able to resolve a taxpayer’s issues and have them leave happy, although they may have come in in a less-than-stellar mood.

“(Sometimes) they come in and they’re mad as a wet hen, and you can talk them through the situation and give them some advice, and they leave with a smile,” he said. “(Tax issues are) pretty complex and the majority of the people don’t understand it. So when you can enlighten someone and guide them through the process so they can have a successful conclusion, that’s so rewarding.”

Although Dearman will certainly miss the career and the relationships he’s built over the last several years, there’s one certain thing he won’t mind leaving behind.

“Sometimes you have to try to fix the unfixable,” he said. “Like I just got off the phone with a fellow, and it looks like he bought a piece of property from somebody that didn’t pay their taxes, and they lost it in a tax sale.

“Now he’s stuck, and there’s no way I can fix that. And I’m not complaining about that, but what I won’t miss is the problems I can’t do anything about – that’s kind of sad.”

Dearman said he doesn’t have any specific plans for retirement, although he does have a lengthy to-do list that he’ll be able to work on now.

“I’ve got a shop full of tools, and a lot of things I want to play with and make and fix,” he said. “I’ve got a boat I want to fish in, and a motor home I want to go in. I’m afraid I’ll probably be busier after I retire than I am now.”