KT: As the incumbent you are probably best able to answer this question, what exactly does a county assessor do?
JE: I’ll try to give you the short version. It is the assessors responsibility to provide a fair and equitable assessment of all property, real estate, business and personal, located in their county.
KT: So why do you think this is an elected position?
JE: It’s the right of the tax payers to determine who has the responsibility to be fair and equitable to them.
KT: Can you tell me a bit about your work history and background and how that qualifies you to be the county assessor?
JE: Let’s just start with the assessors office, where I have done a lot of things. I have approximately four years previous experience with the office before being elected. I was hired at an entry level position as a field appraiser.
A field appraiser is the employee who goes out into the field and does the physical inspection, collecting data on each parcel of land. For example, if there is an existing structure, you verify that all the structures they’re being charged for are still there. If there are any new structures or if anything has been removed, that is part of the visual inspection.
You collect all the data that’s pertinent to the assessment of the property and bring that in to the office. At the time we also were responsible for the data input.
So I have that experience, knowing how to actually go out and assess property. I also have the experience knowing how to input data into the software. When you do that, the software calculates the value, but you also have to have some knowledge of property value. When you put the data in and it shoots some crazy number out, and you’ve stood out there and looked at the property. You know you’ve got a problem, and you need to be able to identify that.
I have basically all the relevant appraisal experience. Beyond that, a brief synopsis, I started out with Amoco, which is now British Petroleum. I started in an entry level position and when I left I was on the recruiting team in the human resources department. I kinda got hung up in the buyout, left there, and came to Sapulpa. I worked for the Creek County Economic Development Corporation, which was funded by a grant from the state of Oklahoma. We sought out companies for the existing buildings or vacant land that we had, and I was the administrative assistant for that office.
I left there and became I full time mom. I did that until my kids got into school. When they went to school I went to school with them and became their school secretary. Mamma couldn’t be without them so I followed them to school. I worked at Kellyville Schools in the elementary school office. I can’t tell you the exact years, but when I let there I went over to their administration building and did their purchasing. From there I went to work at the assessors office.
KT: Why are you more qualified than the other two candidates?
JE: First, we’ve got to say experience, both working in the assessor’s office and serving eight years as the assessor. I have all of my accreditation that’s required. You actually cannot take the eight course assessor’s class until you work in the office. Once you get on board, it takes a while to get that training because there are so many people within the state that need to have that training that they don’t open it up to the public.
To be quite frank, what I know from being the assessor for eight years that I learned the hard way, there is no training specifically for the assessor. The classes are the same classes all employees take. There is not specific training to be the assessor, or a how-to manual for everything. You basically take your hand off the bible after taking your oath, you go to your desk and you start answering questions.
The experience to me is really the most important thing, because the learning curve is so steep. The first four years you are just continuously on that learning curve. And quite honestly, I’m eight years in, and you stay on that learning curve. The thing about property assessment is there are never any two cases that are alike. Every day, at least once a week, I get a question or situation posed to me that I’ve never dealt with. You have to figure out the answer, because there is no one else to go to.
KT: Why do you want to continue to be the county assessor?
JE: In 2010 when I was elected I had several plans for the county, which we have implemented. All of those plans: we have a live website now, all of our data is live, free of charge to the public, we have implemented new software, I have been able to manage the budget. In the last eight years I’ve implemented all of those changes. In just the last year of this term, we’re actually able to utilize the changes we’ve made up to this point. It’s taken this long to get us here, and I’m really seeking out the next four years to be able to utilize all of the fruits of our labors.
KT: Is there anything else you think voters need to know?
JE: I think what voters need to know most of all at this point in this particular election, the assessor is given laws, they do not create them. You have a law book that covers all the laws of assessment, and you take an oath to uphold those laws, show no favoritism and make no judgment based outside of that law book, regardless of the outcome. If it makes people happy, if it makes them unhappy. If you choose not to follow those laws you can face a penalty up to imprisonment.
If I were a voter, looking for an assessor, knowing what I know. I would want to know that I had an assessor candidate that realized the importance of following those laws regardless of who they’re working with. Those laws are applicable to everyone in a fair and equitable way.
Secondly, as kind of a post script to that, people need to realize an assessor is unable to change those laws without a lot of lobbying. The assessor does not have the authority to change those laws at all. A lot of candidates, and I did it in 2010, you want to stand up there and say “I won’t raise your taxes.” But there is no validity to that statement, because the assessor does not increase or decrease taxes. Those are all by a vote of the people. It is out of the control of the assessor to change any kind of taxes.
The assessor’s job is to provide a fair market value for a property. That is a trigger mechanism or those taxes, but as far as saying “I’m going to lower your taxes, I’m the candidate for the job.” That is not a true statement.