Overseeing versus assessing
Connelly claims his management skill trumps Brown’s technical experience
This year’s run for assessor began as a horse race, with five contenders jockeying for the position prior to the June primary, which narrowed the competition to two—current Butte County Supervisor Bill Connelly, and Diane Brown, an appraiser who’s worked at the assessor’s office for 30 years.
“[The last part of the campaign] was a lot better than the primary,” Connelly said in a recent interview. “Now there’s a clear choice between two different messages.”
Those messages are management experience and actual experience in the assessor’s office, with the Connelly camp claiming their man has the chops to be the boss, and Brown supporters touting her technical experience within the department.
The office of assessor is often overlooked or misunderstood by voters. The assessor’s duties include identifying all taxable property in the county, establishing property tax values, and completing an assessment roll showing the values of all properties in the county. Furthermore, it is a service position dedicated to carrying out tax regulations rather than making them, and partisan politics should play no role in the office.
“In a larger county like ours, it’s a position of management, not an appraisal position,” Connelly said. “Otherwise it would be just a civil service position that you could take a test to get, and not an elected position. Our message is that I’m the best qualified to manage a $3.5 million budget, a $19 billion dollar tax roll and 42 employees.”
Connelly said he does have a background in appraisals, as he’s “dabbled on and off” in real estate, and is a longtime roofing contractor. As for managerial experience, he said he’s overseen work crews of more than 30 people and had to make tough, sometimes unpopular decisions as a county supervisor.
“There’s a difference between supervision and leadership,” Brown countered. “I’ve had supervisors I wouldn’t follow out of a burning building because they have no leadership skills at all. I may not be a supervisor now, but people look to me for leadership in the office.
“If I didn’t have the support of the office, I wouldn’t have run for this position,” she continued. “I have the support of current Assessor Fred Holland, and former Assessors Ted Cleveland and Al Anderson, and they have no doubt I can live up to the supervision duties.”
As for technical experience, Connelly said a “Catch 22” disallowed him from getting a required appraisers license beforehand, but he has six months after the election to comply. In the meantime, he said he’s been doing online and other research about the position.
“It’s definitely a myth to say you need to be an appraiser to run an assessor’s office or be in charge of appraisers,” he said.
Brown said Connelly hasn’t done enough: “He’s been running for this job for over a year and had ample opportunities to take maybe a real estate class or an appraisal class. He could have showed some interest instead of saying, ‘I’ve got management experience and don’t need to know how to do this stuff.’
“It’s kind insulting to the staff to say, ‘I don’t need to know anything you guys know, I’ll just walk in and watch you guys work,” Brown said.