National Council of Jewish Women Encourages Voter Engagement
Bruce Elfant, Travis County Tax Assessor and Voter Registrar. Courtesy of NCJW.
By Bettie Forman
NCJW Austin is hosting an evening with Travis County Tax Assessor and Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant Thursday, Oct. 3. The program will begin at 7 p.m. and the event's Central Austin location will be given after RSVP. Visit ncjwaustin.org to register for the event.
Elfant will conduct training for anyone who would like to become a Travis County voter deputy registrar. NCJW will have several voter registration initiatives over the next year and this will allow anyone to participate who has gone through the training. For those who have already become a VDR or are not interested in the training, there will a voter engagement activity that evening for everyone to get involved with.
Elfant was first elected to serve as Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar in 2012 after spending 20 years as the Travis County Precinct 5 Constable.
The county tax office collects property taxes and Justice of the Peace and county court costs, fines and fees, processes motor vehicle titles and registration, and registers voters and trains volunteer deputy registrars. Elfant's office annually collects more than $3 billion in property taxes (99 percent of all taxes due), $4.3 million for courts and more than $256 million for motor vehicle-related services.
Elfant’s top priority is customer service, which includes continually expanding and upgrading online services for customer convenience, helping struggling property owners set up tax payment plans and initiating public outreach campaigns for consumer education and protection.
One of Elfant’s passions also crosses over into his job. Having missed voting in just one election in 39 years, the native Texan is dedicated to ensuring county residents participate in the voting process by registering and exercising their right to vote. He became involved with voter registration in 2000 when previous Tax Assessor-Collector Nelda Wells Spears asked him to assist her with training volunteer deputy registrars.
As the county’s official voter registrar, Elfant’s office has trained more than 4,000 volunteer deputy registrars who speak 61 different languages and represent 252 civic, religious and political organizations. He has seen the total number of registered voters swell to more than 660,000, giving Travis County the distinction of having the highest voter registration rate of any Texas urban county.
Elfant personally trains volunteers almost anywhere—including spending 88 weekends at a local church to standing outside in 34 degree weather on a Saturday morning for a group that invited him to provide volunteer training on an outdoor patio.
While his office does not set property values or tax rates, Elfant is a staunch advocate for a fairer property tax system. When he served as a county constable, he worked to stop illegal parking in spots reserved for people with disabilities and established the first county enforcement program to police for illegal parkers. He also was one of the driving forces behind “Veterans Court,” which allows military veterans, many suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, to receive treatment instead of county jail time for certain offenses.
Elfant believes it is important to give back to the community where he lives. He has volunteered to serve on numerous committees, many of them dedicated to stopping family violence and helping victims of domestic abuse, including leadership roles on the Austin/Travis County Family Violence Task Force, U. S. Census Complete Count Committee and Community Action Network Community Council.
He has won numerous awards for his civic and community service. Elfant was named Elected Official of the Year and given the Public Innovation Award from the Central Texas Society of Professional Administrators, recognized as the Constable of the Year by the Justices of the Peace and Constables Association of Texas, received the Best Practice Award for exceptional delivery of services by the Texas Association of Counties, named Person of the Year by the Women’s Advocacy Project and honored with the Partnership Award from the Austin Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities.
When it comes to success, Elfant is always quick to offer praise to others. “It’s not about me,” is one of his favorite sayings.
When he’s not working—which is not often—he usually can be found watching a sporting event from his alma mater, the University of Texas, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications.
Elfant and wife Lisa Harris live in Austin and are the parents of three rescue dogs, Suzy, Ozzie and Fiona. ■