County Assessor needs numbers skills, people management; 3 want the job

ST. GEORGE — Three St. George Republicans have announced their candidacy for the Washington County Assessor. The current county assessor, Arthur L. Partridge, who has served five terms, 16 years in office, is not seeking re-election.

The principle responsibility of the assessor is to insure that tax payers are paying their fair and equitable share of property taxes, which support education and local government.

“Our job,” Partridge said, “is to determine what that fair and equitable share is based upon the value of the property.”

By law, the assessor is required to appraise real and personal property in the county each year and determine its fair market value. The yearly real property appraisals are accomplished by breaking down the county into small neighborhood areas and conducting an analysis of the market according to the economic conditions in that area. Every five years the assessor is required to physically inspect property to make sure assessments are accurate.

With 80,000 properties in Washington County, Partridge said, this is a big job.

Personal property that is taxed includes the likes of business furniture and fixtures, equipment, construction equipment, manufactured homes, aircraft, motor vehicles, boats and RVs.

Partridge has been involved in the appraisal profession since 1961. By law, he said, you have to be a licensed appraiser to hold the assessor’s office. Qualities a person should bring to the position of assessor, Partridge said, include a good knowledge of statistics, finance and analytical skills. Because there are 34 employees currently working in the assessor’s office, he said, it is also important to have good administrative and management skills. 

The assessor also administers the Utah Farmland Assessment Act, which is also known as the greenbelt exemption. This allows qualifying agricultural property to be assessed and taxed at much lower rates based upon the property’s productive capacity instead of it’s market value.

D. Chris Isom, candidate for assessor – Republican

Isom moved to Hurricane City from Denton, Texas at age 15. After graduating from Hurricane High School, he earned an associate degree from Dixie State University, a bachelor’s degree in forestry and business from Utah State University, a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Southern Utah University and a master’s in business administration from USU.

D. Chris Isom, candidate for Washington County Assessor, Utah, April 1, 2014 | Photo courtesy of D. Chris Isom, St. George News
D. Chris Isom, candidate for Washington County Assessor, St. George, Utah, April 1, 2014 | Photo courtesy of D. Chris Isom, St. George News

Isom, 40, married Nichole Beecher in 2001 and they have four children, two boys and two girls. Their family enjoys hiking, biking, swimming, and fishing. In the fall Isom especially loves to deer hunt. He has four sisters and his parents are David and Kathy Hurst Isom. His father’s side of the family were some of the first settlers to eastern Washington County, arriving in the 1800’s, they helped construct the Hurricane Canal. His mother’s family moved to St. George in 1957 from Panguitch and started Hurst Variety Store on Main Street. 

Isom began a career as an appraiser working for the Utah State Tax Commission in the property tax division. He appraised coal mines, gravel pits, and oil wells for several counties throughout the state and worked with various county assessor offices during that time.

He then went to work at Zions Bank after becoming a certified general appraiser and his responsibilities included valuing commercial and agricultural collateral. In 2008 Isom started his own appraisal business, Appraisals of Southcentral Utah, Inc., and he specializes in appraising rural real estate.

His extensive appraisal experience working in the private sector is one of his unique qualifications for county assessor, he said. “Those who work outside government have more insight to offer, he said, I would like to offer some of my appraisal competency to the citizens of Washington County and make sure they get the most competent appraiser in there they can get.”  

To save money and make it more convenient for taxpayers, Isom said, he would like to see more automation implemented regarding some of the forms used by the assessor’s office so they could be submitted online instead of paper copies that are mailed out now.

If elected, Isom would take enforcement of the greenbelt exemption law seriously, he said, people should not be given a tax break if the property does not qualify for the exemption.

He believes appeals should be handled competently and respectfully, he said, and questions the current practice of hiring outside appraisers to handle appeals, believing the county may be able to save money by handling more of those in-house.

David Miller, candidate for assessor – Republican

Miller, 52, has lived in the St. George area most of his life. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in finance from SUU. He has worked at the Washington County Assessor’s Office for 23 years and became certified as a general appraiser in 1994.

 

David Miller, candidate for Washington County Assessor, Utah, April 1, 2014 | Photo courtesy of David Miller, St. George News
David Miller, candidate for Washington County Assessor, St. George, Utah, April 1, 2014 | Photo courtesy of David Miller, St. George News

Miller was raised on a ranch and still has a passion for training and showing horses. He and his wife of 28 years, JoLynne, have three children all of whom are in college. Miller now lives in Diamond Valley and he said they love to ride horses, camp and fish in their spare time.

Miller was asked by the current assessor, he said, to serve as his deputy assessor and chief appraiser right after he was elected about 16 years ago.

“I think what makes me uniquely qualified is the time I’ve spent in management and overseeing the Assessor’s office whenever the assessor is away.” Having worked closely with the county commissioners and other civic leaders and having a reputation for integrity and honesty are also important qualities Miller said he would bring to the position.

In the future, Miller said he would like to see the public’s access to the assessor records become more easily accessible. I would like a system where the public could look up their properties online, he said, and then give the assessor feedback concerning any possible errors by submitting information through an online form. “I would like to see that done more simply,” he said.

Miller believes that the state laws that apply to the greenbelt exemption should be enforced, although it is very hard to monitor, he said. “They have to meet the requirements 100 percent.”

Budgeting is another important priority to Miller, “I’m always for saving the tax payers dollars, it’s not Washington County’s money, it’s not the assessor’s money, it’s the tax payer’s money that we operate through our budget..if there’s areas I could improve on, I would sure make the effort to make that budget a little bit tighter,” he said.

Tom Durrant, candidate for assessor – Republican

Tom Durrant, candidate for Washington County Assessor, Utah, April 1, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Tom Durrant, St. George News
Tom Durrant, candidate for Washington County Assessor, Utah, April 1, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Tom Durrant, St. George News

Durrant, 46, has lived in the St. George area his entire life, graduating from Pine View High School and then earning an associate’s degree from Dixie State University. He spent about seven years working in the real estate profession, he said, and has been employed with the assessor’s office for 19 years. Durrant has also served in leadership positions with the Utah Chapter of the International Association of Assessors.

Durrant has been married for 24 years and has four children. He has been actively involved in the Boy Scouts of America for 15 years, 10 of which he served as a scoutmaster. He and his family enjoy the outdoors, camping and hiking. They currently live on a family farm near River Road and the Virgin river.

Durrant started out as an appraisal trainee with the assessor’s office, he said, then became certified as a residential appraiser and worked his way up to his current position as operations manager.

“I think as operations manager I have a unique understanding of how each department accomplishes their responsibilities,” he said.

One improvement Durrant would like to make if elected, he said, is helping citizens understand the role of the assessor better. He would like to educate the public by enhancing the assessor’s website and include some online videos. He would also like to work with the business community, Durrant said, to educate the public through professional organizations such as the Washington County Board of Realtors and title companies.

As part of his responsibilities with the assessor’s office, Durrant has worked with the county webmaster to build the current assessor website, he said, and it has helped businesses and those who work in the real estate industry by giving them better access to the information they need. He has also worked on a project to implement a special imagery software system, he said, that allows the assessor to do some onsite inspections without having to travel to every property, resulting in cost savings for the tax payer.

He would like to continue to make it easier for citizens to interact with the assessor’s office, Durrant said,  by improving customer service and making it possible to submit online forms instead of mailing out paper forms.

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3 Comments

  • Harper April 2, 2014 at 10:02 am

    “I would like a system where the public could look up their properties online… and then give the assessor feedback concerning any possible errors by submitting information through an online form…” -David Miller.
    I have been using the assessor website for nearly 4 years searching property records for my work. Mr. Miller, are you not aware that your office already has such a system in place along with an online feedback application?

  • bishpoul October 16, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Who will protect us from the bullying of the Washington County, Assessor’ Office?
    Are we subjects to a king. Government at it’s worst.

  • bishpoul October 16, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    The assessor is required to appraise real and personal property in the county each year. Why does the assessor bully people and treat them like dirt. Government
    at it’s worst.

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