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Debra Buckner, treasurer and tax collector, Pulaski County, Arkansas

I understand you had a recent victory. What happened?

The mother of invention is desperation, and with COVID in a public office, we support 400,000 people here. After closing last year, we really just had some head-scratching ideas. We called three of our lead banks, and the innovative result of all this was that Centennial Bank said, “We don’t have a vacant building, but if we can do the plexiglass and the separate till and have your staff on one side and our staff on the other, we’ll give you a drive-through lane.” We sent our technology guys out immediately to look at Wi-Fi and spacing and security and we deployed our staff to go take payments from a drive-though lane at a bank. And it was enormously successful. The public loved it.

Did you do it again this year?

We asked if we could come back and our tax season is in October, and we actually added a branch for another area of town that wasn’t being serviced. For the bank, they get their public-private partnership kudos, they get their community service satisfied, and we are in the community and greeting people. We took in $15 million in four locations from Sept. 7 up to Oct. 15. So it was a win-win-win for everyone.

How about for next year?

Well obviously we don’t know what COVID’s going to do with quarantining or the delta variant, so we’re a little bit tap-dancing through health challenges. But we think that we’ll be invited back. There’s been excruciatingly strong security walls from the bank aspect. We are their guest — we are not paying for the air conditioning and the heating and the electric and the bathroom. They have invited us in as a courtesy. This may be a wave of the future.

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