Constitutional Corner

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My name is Ray Conner, and it has been my distinct honor and privilege to have served as Chesapeake’s Commissioner of the Revenue since 1983. As an elected constitutional officer, I take very seriously the public trust that has been placed in me. During my 29 years in public office, our city’s population has grown dramatically and many governmental changes have taken place, particularly in terms of automation and technology. However, one thing has remained constant in the Commissioner of the Revenue’s Office and that is our desire to fully assist citizens with their understanding of local and state tax laws. Our goals are to always provide courteous, efficient, and competent service, help taxpayers with the filing and payment of applicable taxes, and make sure that all assessments are fair and equitable.  

Your Commissioner of the Revenue’s Office is very busy: We assess over 240,000 personal property tax bills, issue over 20,000 business licenses, process over 20,000 state income tax returns, receive over 4,000 applications for real estate tax relief, and administer a variety of other local and state taxes. The Commissioner of the Revenue’s Office has four full-service office locations where citizens can conduct transactions. Besides our main office on the first floor of the City Hall Building where we also operate a DMV Select site, we have satellite offices inSouth Norfolk, Western Branch, and Deep Creek. These three satellite offices are particularly important to our citizens because they promote a greater connection with city government and make necessary tax and license transactions more convenient. 

I am proud to serve with the other four constitutional officers in Chesapeake: Treasurer Barbara Carraway, Sheriff Jim O’Sullivan, Clerk of the Circuit Court Faye Mitchell, and Commonwealth’s Attorney Nancy Parr. In carrying out our respective duties, we work cooperatively and strive to make Chesapeake a better place to live and work. The service of all the constitutional officers during Chesapeake’s history has been marked with many years of experience, professionalism, and commitment.

InVirginia, the public elects not just its local, state and federal representatives but also its constitutional officers, so named because these offices are specifically established by the Constitution of Virginia. This system dates back to the earliest days of our nation and is based on the presumption that the most important services of government should be made directly accountable to the citizens by popular vote.

Our local newspaper sometimes editorializes that cities should stop electing constitutional officers and instead have these positions appointed by the City Manager. They suggest the system would be more efficient if constitutional officers were made answerable solely to the City Manager. However, if they would read history, they would see that “efficiency” must often take a back seat to government of and for the people.

Our forefathers determined that the people must govern themselves, especially where taxes were concerned. If people felt that their taxes were becoming too burdensome, they would have access to the election process where changes could be made. It was determined that some efficiency in government would be sacrificed in favor of government by the people.  Prior to the Revolutionary War, colonists in America were often bypassed when it came to taxation. As a monarchy, England had a very efficient form of government but dissent was stifled. In fact, “taxation without representation” became a rallying cry in the war.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has been blessed with good government because it trusts the people to make wise decisions through regular elections. Thomas Jefferson believed strongly that government works best when it is close to the people and ultimately responsible to voters through the ballot box. Directly elected constitutional officers provide a bridge between citizens and important government functions. We serve at the pleasure of the voters and are directly accountable to taxpayers. As such, I look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of Chesapeake with the many aspects of assessments and taxation. My door is always open.

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