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Roy Wright to run for county assessor

Real estate appraiser Roy Wright will run for Jackson County assessor in May against incumbent Dan Ross, who has held the position for 20 years.

"I'm trying to set him free," said the 67-year-old Ashland resident of his rival, whom he considers a friend. "He's been in that courthouse most of his adult life. He's in a rut."

Wright is running in the May 20 primary for the nonpartisan assessor position. Any candidate who receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary would be elected to the position. If the vote is split and no candidate receives more than 50 percent, a runoff election would be held in November.

Wright said the assessor's office needs some sweeping changes to make it more responsive to the public.

Ross, who found out about Wright's plans this week, said, "If I was in a rut and I felt I wasn't doing a good job, I would walk."

Ross said he had heard a little about Wright's campaign stance calling for change in the assessor's office. "You can say you want change but let's be specific," he said.

Wright said the biggest change needs to come in how the office responds to the public. "The big thing they aren't doing is just listening to people," he said.

Wright said the assessor's office often mishandles complaints from people upset over how their property taxes were calculated.

"They need to listen to them and don't blow them off," he said.

Wright defended an Ashland couple in 2007 when their home was appraised by the county at $1.2 million, despite the owners' insistence that the property was worth less because nothing in the neighborhood was selling for that amount. After an extensive appeal process, the couple successfully reduced the appraisal by $300,000, he said.

Wright said assessor's employees aren't getting enough training and appraisers in the field aren't involved in the evaluation process.

Ross said his office does work with the public to resolve issues. "One thing I stress is we are not bureaucratic," he said.

With 100,000 different properties in the county, Ross said, an impasse is reached at times. "We can't give in to everybody," he said.

He said his office is understaffed and unable to keep up on reappraisals of properties that are 12 to 17 years old in some cases. Those reappraisals affect the real market value listed for a house but don't affect the amount of property taxes that should be collected, he said.

Ross said he appreciates Wright's call for change, but said his office is constantly changing, from adding new computer systems to extensive training of staff.

Wright worked for the assessor's office for two years in the 1970s before starting an appraisal business in 1978. He prepares a monthly home sales tabulation that is often cited in local media reports.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.