Home Posts tagged Laura Shaw
Class of 2024

Tax Collector, City of Holyoke: Age 39

Laura Shaw acknowledged that few people, if any, would list ‘tax collector’ as a career objective.

And she certainly didn’t.

Indeed, growing up, she studied criminology and law and aspired to join the FBI, before working in airline security and later as budget director for the Hampden County Registry of Deeds.

When she saw a posting for tax collector in Holyoke, she thought it would be something she’d be good at, and perhaps even enjoy. And why not? After all, it’s in her blood; her grandfather, William Burns, held this same position through much of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.

And from what her parents, her many aunts and uncles, and a colleague hired by her grandfather tell her, Shaw brings many of the same attributes to the job that her grandfather did.

These include patience, diligence, being direct but fair with those who owe the city taxes, and even having a sense of a humor about the job and its responsibilities. Indeed, she described a tax collector as “an accountant who gets yelled at,” and wondered out loud, while marching in the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, if she should wear the sash with ‘Tax Collector’ written on it and risk being booed — or worse.

Jokes aside, tax collecting is serious business, she said, adding that property and excise taxes and other assessments are the lifeblood for any community, especially one like Holyoke.

“I like going to work every day, even if a lot of it is dealing with unhappy people,” she said, adding that many of the harder questions she gets are for the assessor, and she is essentially the “bearer of bad news.”

In addition to her work at City Hall, Shaw is very involved in her community, especially with its pride and joy, the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round. She serves on the board for the landmark attraction and chairs its fundraising committee, spearheading, among other initiatives, a golf tournament that raised $20,000.

She also serves as a member of the city’s patriotic events committee, assisting in efforts to honor veterans; she started a push-up challenge at the 2023 Memorial Day celebration and has facilitated art contests for Girls Inc. of the Valley and the Holyoke Boys & Girls Club in which young people depict what Veterans Day and Memorial Day mean to them.

For Shaw, serving the city and its people is a passion, something she takes as seriously as collecting taxes — and serving faithfully as that accountant who gets yelled at.

—George O’Brien