Its pretty unusual to have a hotly contested race for county Assessor here in Grays Harbor. Sure the candidates do their thing, but mostly we don’t pay much attention. Well we are paying attention now.
By now everyone is aware of the complete mess up at the Assessor office. See Daily World reporting. Mainly due to the botched software rollout and all the missing money that went toward building the custom software that doesn’t exist. We are aware of the department workers themselves wanting a change in the position. All reported in the papers.
I don’t think in the last thirty years I have ever sat down with an Assessor candidate. I didn’t know what to ask. I mean, come on, those guys and gals just sort of do what they do based on what you and I as the voters tell them to do. Pretty simple stuff. But as I learned, maybe not so simple.
Loni Hooper is another “non-affiliated” candidate on the ballot this cycle. Seems to be quite popular these days as the political winds here in the harbor have visibly shifted away from the strangle hold the Democrat party held on the county for 70 plus years has evaporated. Call it a purple zone.
Loni, in addition to working as Chief Appraiser down in Pacific County used to work in the Assessor office here in Grays Harbor until a few years ago. Why make the move down to Pacific County in the first place? You ask. Well it seems a few years back Pacific County was in the same mess we find ourselves here in Grays Harbor, except perhaps worse.
Hooper didn’t so much as just apply like anyone else to go down there….she was recommended by the Washington State Depart of Revenue for the job
after they advised the Pacific County commissioners to create a position to do an overhaul in the office. Loni Hooper, for lack of a better word, is a fixer. She takes broken departments and fixes them. Think about that for a moment. The State of Washington Department of Revenue has a major problem down in Pacific County, and then gets involved in county matters as they are so bad. Who does the State recommend as a result of this process and filling that position? Loni Hooper.
This is no small matter. She has already successfully demonstrated her ability and helped transition Pacific County from a 4 year cycle to the now state required one year cycle. There isn’t a learning curve here, she wrote the book. It would serve Grays Harbor county well to have someone in that office that has a history with the State Department of Revenue that they trust to clean up our own county problem. We don’t want those guys coming in here. And don’t kid yourself….if it doesn’t get cleaned up soon….they will.
I don’t know a stronger endorsement you could get than the confidence of the state agency tasked with overseeing county assessor offices, or a better case for her election into the office.
Loni knows all of the people here in the Grays Harbor Assessor office, knows the county like the back of her hand and knows how to fix broken assessor offices. Sounds pretty good to me. Considering that Grays Harbor is now on a “weekly watch” with the State Department of Revenue, reports such as building permits are not getting into the system….some even lost, and the morale of the department….well, it just sucks. There isn’t another word for it. We need a change.
Many of you may know her and her husband Monte….(I just love that name)….as since 1998, they have owned and operate the Lily Lane Farm, located about half way between Aberdeen and Westport. On a personal level, she is very approachable, sharp eyed, and laughs easily. Not the type of person to get elected and sit in a closed door office. You don’t operate a flower farm and not know how to get your hands dirty at work. She is hands on in more ways than one.
I asked her specifically about property owner complaints over assessment. It wasn’t so much her answer I was interested in, it was her approach to the human angle in such matters. I think she realizes that each of our concerns as a home owner are intimately important. Would she be able to lower assessments based on sympathy, of course not, but after spending an afternoon with her I can tell you she will listen. If you are in the right during a contested assessment, you will prevail. I don’t think there is anything more we can ask of that position. Just fairness.
Loni Hooper has her work cut out for her. She is running against both an established Republican and current assessor Rick Hole and a Democrat – current Grays Harbor Senior Residential Appraiser Dan Lindgren. Both possessing the magic ingredient to make it through a primary here in Grays Harbor. Name recognition. Perhaps equally important – the money to run an established campaign. The question for us here in the harbor is a simple one. Do we begin to break that cycle of voting party first, or begin to think in broader terms of the right person for the job.
The staff up in the assessor office needs a leader, they need someone who knows the ins and outs of moving into this one year cycle. The state is about to come down on us like a hammer for messing up the place. All I can do is relate my experience in talking with the candidate. She was keen to relate her philosophy of fairness, and that sums her up pretty well. Based on my one-on-one time I spent with the candidate, I think Loni has the chops for the job and the exact experience we need at exactly the right time.