Editor’s Note: We are only featuring candidate profiles for those running in contested races. We’ll feature profiles again during the general election with primary winners.
We asked the three candidates running for Bonner County Assessor a few questions:
1.) What, in your view, are the most important responsibilities of the county assessor?
2.) What are your qualifications for the job?
3.) What motivated you to get into the race?
4.) What should be the priorities of the office moving forward?
5.) Is there any specific message you want to send to voters prior to the election?
Dennis Englehardt (R)
BIRTHPLACE AND RESIDENCE: Milwaukee, Wis., -Sagle
GOVERNMENT SERVICE: United States Marine Corps, 30 years law enforcement, Bonner County Waste Management Advisory Board, Sagle Fire District Board of Commissioners
PROFESSION: Law enforcement, retired
EDUCATION: Associate degree in criminal justice; bachelor degree in vocation education, training and development; multiple supervisory, management, admin and budget-related certifications; negotiations and critical incident management certifications.
FAMILY: Wife Dana, six children, and 12 grandchildren.
FUN FACT: For actions taken while deployed in Vietnam, Dennis was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal with combat “V” for leadership of his Marine squad which, while on patrol, discovered and destroyed a six-story enemy bunker.
1. Well if you are referring to Idaho state statutes, the most important County Assessors operational responsibility are: First, conduct valuations of taxable properties within their county following Idaho statutes and rules. Second, as an agent of the Department of Transportation, to title and register vehicles and collect related fees and taxes. It is also in this capacity that the assessor assists with the sale and registration of boats and other recreational vehicles on behave of the State Parks and Recreation Department.
However, if you are referring to day-to-day activities, then the most important responsibilities of the county assessor are those of an administrator, establishing and executing policies, budget development and management, development and maintenance of healthy employee relations. It is also the assessor’s responsibility to promote an open and trusting relationship with the public, local government and members of the business community. When conflict arises, it is the responsibility of the assessor to use the law, facts presented by all parties and common sense to mediate and resolve the matter. Without experienced administrative leadership, operational responsibilities suffer and county liability increases.
2. Happy to share, but a statement of qualifications is only helpful if there is an understanding of what skill sets the job requires. In the course of campaigning, I realized there is a perception that the terms appraiser and assessor are synonymous when in fact there are not. An appraiser collects and records data to help comply with one of the areas for which the assessor has overall administrative and operational authority and responsibility. Regarding the comprehensive skill set required, the two jobs are so unrelated that Idaho State statute exempts County Assessors from certification as appraisers.
Now to answer your question. The assessor is the administrative head of a county department. I have decades of management and administrative experience at the county government level dealing with budgets, personnel matters and contract and labor relation negotiations. I have a bachelor degree in vocational training and development which allows me to step into an organization, identify and analyze employee tasks to ensure they comply with law and agency policy, and if not develop the needed changes and training to bring them into compliance. I have real world experience managing a budget of $23 million and leading a staff of over 260. As an experienced manager, I will ensure the employees of the office are doing things right, as an experienced leader, answerable to the communities of Bonner County, I will ensure they are doing the right thing.
3. I view the office of assessor as more of an administrator’s job than a partisan political position, one who is obligated to ensure equitable service to everyone. Being aware that, due to a combination of unfortunate circumstances and challenges not uncommon to an agency of its size, the office was having problems, and I thought the kind of support I have to offer could be of benefit. In discussing the prospect with friends and acquaintances, I became aware of the perception that the assessor’s office did not have much regard for the concerns and issues of property owners. Real estate and other business professionals expressed similar feelings. Whatever the reason, it was clear there was a disconnect between the office and the public they serve. So I, as you say, got into the race.
4. There is a division within the office and a great deal of apprehension about the future. As assessor one of my priorities will be to bring a sense of unity of purpose to office personnel.
Policies and procedures need to be revised or establish that standardize effective operations based on statute and the real world collective experiences of current employees. (Prelude to a five-year business plan.)
A culture of public service needs to be promoted in the office, and we need to change the public’s perception by actively engaging the general public, business community and taxing district authorities, with informative and constructive dialogue. This can be done through personal contact, forums, media and a much-improved website enhancing the knowledge and image of the assessor office.
5. Voters will hear a lot about the experience of assessor candidates in this race: 27 years as an appraiser, 40 years experience as a developer in the Los Angels area and Bonner County. Experience is a good thing to have, but it’s great when it is relative to the job at hand. In the case of county assessor, that means leadership experience. I had my first experience at 15 when my dad would leave me to supervise construction workers doing site prep. At 18 I was leading a squad of combat Marines in the mountain jungles of Vietnam and more than 20 years of the 30-year career in law enforcement were in leadership positions. Leaders translate intention into reality while focusing on vision, mission, and values. The office of assessor is too important to be used for on-the-job leadership training; I have the experience and education to bring leadership to the assessor’s office on day one.
Please vote Dennis Engelhardt for Bonner County Assessor on May 15.
Donna Gow (R)
BIRTHPLACE AND RESIDENCE: Born in Redlands, Calif. Resided in Hope since 1980
PROFESSION: My profession is currently lead commercial, industrial appraiser for Bonner County Assessor’s Office
EDUCATION: I am a high school graduate and have taken many classes through junior college. I have over 500 hours appraisal education.
FAMILY: I have been married to my husband, George, for 44 years. We have two grown, married sons and four grandsons
FUN FACT: My husband and I like to camp in our RV with our little dog, and I love history
1. Of course one of the most important responsibilities is to ensure assessments are fair and equatable using Idaho State Code, State Tax Commission rules, and the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice guidelines. Also, since a lot of different agencies, such as Realtors, title companies and insurance companies depend on information from the assessor’s office, it is important to have the most accurate information. Know how to work with lawmakers, and professionals in the field. It is also essential to hire the right person for a position whether it be in the appraisal division or the department of motor vehicles division. Turnover of employees cost money.
2. Unlike my opponents, I have a working knowledge of the mechanics of the assessor’s office. I have 27 years experience in the assessor’s office, over 500 hours of appraisal education, and I have appraised residential, mobile and manufactured homes, condos, commercial and industrial properties. Having served under five different assessors, I have learned what type of management style works in the assessor’s office and what does not. I also know some of what is involved with the DMV. This gives me the advantage of training, guiding and mentoring the assessment staff without relying on others, as is the current situation in the assessor’s office. Because of this background, from day one I will be involved in the day to day operations of the office, (not necessarily out in the field) and not be a bureaucrat sitting behind a desk all day.
3. I have seen and heard the concerns of residential property owners regarding their treatment by management and the effect of existing policies on the value of their property. I have also witnessed the frustration of the staff knowing things are not being done properly and either being dismissed or ignored by the management. I have wanted to run for the assessor’s position for several years, but was unable to due to Bonner County policy. Some of the existing policies in the assessor’s office are detrimental to the public and employees. I know what policies need to be changed.
4. The most important priority is communication. I already have an open-door and open-ear policy and will extend this policy through the office. I may not always agree with your opinion, but I will always listen. Second is to change the existing improper policies currently utilized in the assessor’s office. With these changes, property owners can feel more confident that assessments are fair and equatable.
5. Experience and knowledge are important for any job. I am sure that neither one of my opponents would hire a supervisor without experience in that field. Bonner County voters have always been smart enough to elect a sheriff with a law enforcement background, and I am confident that the voters will elect an assessor with an appraisal background.
If given the opportunity, intelligent people learn from others knowledge and experience, and the current assessor’s office is full of intelligent people. I will give these people the opportunity to learn from my knowledge and experience.
Richard Miller (R)
BIRTHPLACE AND RESIDENCE: Born in Alton, Ill., lives in Sagle.
PROFESSION: Specialty building contractor and craftsman DBA Dr. Splinter’s Woodworks.
GOVERNMENT SERVICE: I have been filing and paying taxes since I was 15 years old.
EDUCATION: Master’s degree
FAMILY: Married to Susan Arima for 25 years and have one daughter.
FUN FACT: Board member Life Choices Pregnancy Center. Board of Directors of Injectors Car Club. Enjoys building hot rods from vintage trucks.
• Accuracy of assessments valuations.
• Reviewing legislative actions that affect property owners, businesses, timber and agricultural valuations.
• A well-trained staff working together as a team with the assessor and updated software support are critical.
• Improve communications with property owners.
• I offer over 40 years of administrative, finance, personnel training and team-building experience.
• I know how to budget and allocate limited resources from working with my customers throughout my career.
• I understand property values and have worked hands-on in many aspects of property management, development and construction which gives me a unique perspective in valuating and assessing all stages of building and the quality of the structures.
3. I am aware of how difficult it can be to make a living in Bonner County. Assessed valuations directly affect property owner’s budgets. As your assessor, I will work hard to bring in accurate assessments and reduce costs for the county and homeowners.
I believe it is my time to give back to the community where I have lived, worked and raised my family for over 20 years.
• Improving communications with property owners and business concerns.
• Keeping property owners updated on any pending legislation, regulation, or changes in codes that will affect their interests.
5. The perception of some property owners in Bonner County is that they are not being heard. This needs to change now.
This assessment process needs to be equitable for all Bonner County property owners without regard to regional or economic bias. It will be my mission, as your assessor, to advocate for you with the utmost respect and equitability possible.
My core belief is government is to serve the people.
Voting is a privilege where we get to choose whom we believe will best represent us. This is a job interview, and I would like to encourage you to look at the qualifications needed for this position and vote for me May 15.