Collecting friends while collecting taxes, 82-year-old Irene Makowiec has spent the last 40 years of her life working as the only tax collector you would never mind paying a visit.
Makowiec has been elected uncontested to 10 terms as the Banks Township Tax Collector, and her soft-spoken and kind demeanor leave no need for explanation as to why competition has never bothered to surface. What is actually surprising is that Makowiec is not quite done yet. At age 82, Makowiec is running for her 11th term as tax collector. She will be winning, too; as always, she is uncontested.
Makowiec is a lifelong state resident born in Junedale, where she attended grade school until moving to Tresckow. She finished grade schooling in Tresckow and graduated from West Hazleton High School in 1949. Four years later, Makowiec was married to her late husband and life-long partner, Martin J. Makowiec, on July 11, 1953.
With the help of her husband, Makowiec ran a full house; just like her terms in office, her motto seemed to be the more the merrier.
She had seven sons and one daughter: Martin Jr., Jon, Jude, Gerard, Christopher, Frank, Thomas and Maria. All of her children still live nearby to their proud mother and are raising her 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren in the area that they grew up in themselves. Yet, no matter how old they get, they can always depend on Makowiec to set an extra plate at her dinner table for them. Makowiec's hobby outside of work is cooking and with a family this large, she gets to enjoy her hobby regularly.
Makowiec was raising her family and working as a crossing guard when the local Democratic Party approached her and asked her to first run for tax collector in 1977. She ran uncontested and won the election, working as the county's tax collector ever since.
"It was hectic. It's been very hectic," said Makowiec of her time spent juggling family and work. Yet, she means this in a good way, adding that it was not only very hectic but very rewarding.
In practical terms, Makowiec relies on her job's pay to make ends meet after the passing of her husband. When explaining why she has stayed on for so many years, she also added, "I must say, I have made quite a bit of friends."
Makowiec is a sociable woman who is led by her empathy but also her modesty. She habitually avoids using complimentary phrases to describe herself or her actions and never wishes to appear as if she is speaking too highly of herself. Makowiec said that the one lesson she has learned from all of her years of experience is to "be careful of what you say."
She mentioned only briefly and quietly how it is that she formed all of her friendships. It was her custom to visit the homes of elderly citizens who were unable to travel to her office. She went to them to personally collect their taxes, while also stopping to chat over coffee and give them some company for a little while.
Currently, Makowiec has no thoughts on what she would like to do after the completion of her 11th term. For now, she is simply focusing on and looking forward to her next stay in office.
"I will continue to serve the people the best I can for the next four years," said Makowiec.
It is a promise that she does not have to make. If the past 40 years have shown anything, it is that Makowiec has and continues to serve the people of Banks Township.