by Ron Gregory
A number of readers have asked how important it is to elect the right person as Assessor in our regional counties. Frankly, I believe it is one of the most vital positions in county government.
While it may seem that assessors simply follow mathematical formulas in arriving at the proper value of real estate and personal property, it is clearly not that simple. In a world where all assessors were honest, it would at least be better I suppose.
But, for one thing, ALL assessors are not honest. They are clearly not ALL crooks, either. I never buy into the old, “you’ve got to be a crook to make it in government” syndrome. That simply is not true. Most public officials are honest, dependable and reliable. The few who are not give a bad name to all.
Having said that and despite many interventions over the years by state and federal governments that should make the real estate playing field even, there are still ways to circumvent the system for disreputable assessors and property owners. As mentioned in the Corridor Chronicle a few weeks ago, we are currently working on a series of articles that will clearly show how some assessors in our coverage area are giving breaks to their political friends by misidentifying the status of some properties.
For example, an noted earlier, there is a lower tax rate for property that is owner-occupied. But there is no way one individual can “owner-occupy” 15 separate parcels in a county. It is physically impossible but we have tax rolls that show that to be the case. Somebody is getting a favor, pure and simple, and paying about half the taxes he or she should be paying.
In a state and region that is virtually bankrupt, losing any legitimate tax dollars should be a crime. In fact, in cases where the favors can be proven intentional, assessors ARE committing crimes.
Beyond the underbelly of assessors, however, there are many positive things an aggressive assessor can do to help their home county. By virtue of their office, assessors should know what property is currently available for development. It’s a big deal that Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has identified the former Hobet Mine property in Boone and Lincoln counties for economic development. It would be a major plus if our county assessors aggressively kept their eyes open, worked with economic development agencies and helped bring industry and jobs to these southern coalfields. A good assessor would do just that.
That’s one reason I believe Amber Mounts Bishop is the ideal candidate for Assessor in Mingo County. She is honest, dependable, a member of no “team,” and a bundle of energy for the good. Anyone who knows her realizes how hard she works to improve her town, county, state and personal life. She works tirelessly to bring cellular telephone service to Mingo County while others sit in the corner and wait for … who knows what? She points out that the hotel/motel tax is required to be paid by state law and go toward economic and tourism development. This finally prompted Mingo officials within the last few weeks to enforce a law that had been on the books for YEARS.
Those who stay in hotels and motels are largely out-of-staters who EXPECT to pay a hotel/motel tax. Yet Mingo was not collecting it and using it to support tourism efforts as the law requires. A crusade by Bishop, and those visitors are paying the fee required.
Thus, she has proven what she can do already — even without elective office. Think how much more productive she will be as Mingo’s Assessor. So, yes, I am FOR Amber Bishop. I am not AGAINST anyone in the race. I am FOR her because I have already seen the energy and passion she brings to everything she does. She will help Mingo out of its current financial distress and she will do it correctly and legally.
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I have also always had a philosophy that people often stay too long in various positions. I have routinely said that I liked to switch government or private positions before I figured out “what I can do and what I can’t.” By that, I meant that if one sticks around long enough in an office, he or she will face an issue, ultimately decide how to solve it, and then apply that same solution every time the issue surfaces in the future. To get fresh thoughts, ideas and solutions, you have to switch the person in charge. Amber is the answer to how to make a real change in county government because, I can guarantee you, she doesn’t think there is anything that “can’t be done” and she’ll keep working to build cell towers and bring industry and tourism here with everything in her.
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Since we’re on the subject of Assessors, let me just point out that Sallie Robinson does a fabulous job as Kanawha County Assessor and definitely deserves re-election. We will support her 100 percent.
In Boone County, Jennings Miller is one of those honest, capable public officials I mentioned earlier. He is a credit to his profession and to his county. But Miller is retiring from the Assessor position on his own, opting instead to run for his former job as Sheriff. I have already predicted his victory there.
Miller’s able Deputy Assessor, Susan Baisden, is the clear choice to replace her current boss. Anyone who knows her or has had dealings with that office knows Susan as a qualified, professional who understands all the inner-workings of the office. She, too, is truly deserving of our support in May and November.
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As the up-and-coming generation of the Moore family continues to rise, Riley Moore has been awarded a fellowship with the Center for a New American Security. Moore, grandson of legendary West Virginia Governor Arch A. Moore, Jr., is running for the House of Delegates this year from Harpers Ferry. That, for those who don’t know, is the 67th District. It’s the one currently represented by Stephen Skinner, a Democrat.
Riley Moore’s father is well-known to West Virginians as “Kim” Moore from his days in the Governor’s Mansion with his family. Son Riley has a Master of Arts in Strategic Security Studies from the National Defense University and a Bachelors in Government and International Politics from George Mason University. Riley Moore has served as a national security advisor on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
I know. I know … he is likely overly-qualified to serve in the state House of Delegates. But even his iconic grandpa had to start somewhere — it was the same House of Delegates, I believe.
For the record, can you imagine Riley Moore having an intellectual conversation with Rupie Phillips? Well, well … let’s keep this positive, friends.
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Your comments, story ideas, gossip and offers to assess all my property as owner-occupied in exchange for my support are welcome. Use the email listed or call 304-533-5185.