An Interview with Eileen Stephenson
Whitpain’s Tax Collector
by Margaret “Sibby” Phiambolis, Attorney-at-Law,
former Wissahickon Dems Area Chair
Eileen, how is it you know so much about the township? Well, Mark and I moved here in 1985. Like most people, as our kids were growing up, we got involved with the community. Center Square Montessori fundraising. Class readings at Oak Lane. Blue Bell Elementary field trips. Car-pooling. And then, I got recruited to work as a campaign numbers person for several local politicians. You know – you start volunteering and then all of a sudden . . . one thing leads to another. I’m hyper-involved in the township.
So where did you grow up? NE Philadelphia – as #2 of 7 kids in a typical Irish Catholic family.
What made you decide to move to Blue Bell? In 1984, we were living on the Main Line. Mark took a position at Sperry Univac (UNISYS) in Blue Bell. Coincidently, Mark’s dad was working out here and he encouraged us to look in Whitpain. He reminded us that we had said, “we wanted a place that exemplified our values” because we wanted to start a family. We moved here in 1985 and when we look back, we know this is one of the best decisions we ever made.
What do you love the most about living here? Personally, I love the Crossways trail, oh, and the Wentz Run walking trail. Over the years, I think the commitment the township supervisors have made to our parks and open spaces is admirable. Protecting our environment will maintain our quality of life. Having lived here 36 years, I value my neighbors and my many friends.
Although a lot of people think the tax collector’s job is relatively easy, you always seem to be going a hundred miles an hour and in ten different directions. What’s up with that? I’m getting the chance to create software that makes the tax collection process more transparent and helpful to Whitpain residents. It’s a huge challenge. Today, more than 1,200 Whitpain residents have personal TRM (Taxpayer Relations Management) accounts to manage and pay their taxes. Our TRM is a first-in-the-state web service offering to Whitpain residents, giving them immediate access 24/7/365 to their official tax records. It’s a very exciting time to be involved in this transition. Frustrating at times. But, emotionally fulfilling.
So, how do you transition yourself from the professional persona back to the personal? Making arrangements for dinner. Whether it’s picking it up, cooking, or eating out – dinner is a great time for whoever’s around to regroup – check in with each other – and then we go our own ways. Me to my books and shows.
What have you read lately, hard copy or digital that you’re afraid people will pass up? I like to read about financial history. Recently, I reread The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson. I k-n-o-w, but to me, it reads like a novel.
What television shows and series, movies, events are you recommending to friends these days? I love “Walter Presents” on PBS Passport. Other guilty pleasures are “The Wine Show”, and, “Candice Renoir”. And I hope when everyone is comfortable, they’ll go see the Frank Gehry renovation and expansion of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s impressive.
In general, what individual, personal – professional – public figure, had the biggest influence on your life? My father. He was a Marine staff sergeant in the Pacific during WWII, flying in DC-9’s as the radio man. I remember him tapping morse code messages on the kitchen table for us to figure out. Most importantly, he imparted to me an understanding of what it took for an average family to survive – and – maybe to prosper.
If there’s one thing you’d want people to know about you, what would it be? I care deeply about our community.
Eileen and her husband, Mark, have lived in Blue Bell since1985. Mark, an attorney, is at Ward Law, LLC defending businesses and individuals. Mark and Eileen have two children. Michael is a Data Analyst. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon and has a Masters from the University of California. Meaghan graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) as an illustrator.