TALLAHASSEE — When Bert Hartsfield decided not to run for a seventh term as Leon County property appraiser, four candidates stepped up to fill his seat. Three are battling to win August’s Democrat primary. The winner will then face local real estate appraiser Greg Lane (NPA), in the general election.
The Democrat candidates include former city commissioner and architect Akin Akinyemi, local real estate appraiser Clay Ketcham and Leon County’s current Chief Deputy of Appraisal Services Doug Will.
Akinyemi is the only candidate in the race that is not a property appraiser of some sort, but he said he is more than qualified to be the county’s next property appraiser.
“As an architect of over 25 years, I have a broader knowledge of property assessment. Like appraisers, I can valuate properties from traditional market-value and comparable approaches as well as by detailed itemized building components’ costs. As a land-use planning instructor, I bring tremendous resources for innovation. As a County Commissioner, I have a sound grasp of the ad-valorem tax process. As a Chair of the Value Adjustment Board I helped mediate assessment disputes,” he said.
He continued, “This job is more than merely appraising property value, it is about customer service, it is about public service and representing all our citizens equally regardless of their means.”
Some of the issues Akinyemi would like to address are: Keeping property valuation reasonably high while keeping taxation relatively low; keeping abuse of agricultural exemption in check; keeping up with technological advances in assessment methods and reporting; and improving education of property owners on available exemptions and appeal process.
Ketchum is Member of the Appraisal Institute (MAI), which is the highest achievement available to an appraiser. He has 35 years of experience in appraisals, including five years in the property appraiser’s office. During his tenure there, he was first a residential property appraiser and then later the chief commercial property appraiser.
“The property appraiser’s office needs someone that understands commercial real estate as well as residential. I think that since I am a state certified general appraiser, having both practiced in private business for a number of years and working in the property appraiser’s office for five years, I have the unique ability to bring that to the property appraiser’s position. I think the person at the top needs to understand both inside and outside and what it’s like to stand in the taxpayer’s shoes,” he said.
Additionally, Ketchum said he has served the Leon County clerks’ office as a special master hearing tax appeals by property owners with problems against the assessor.
“The direction of the office needs to change from the good ‘ole boy internal reading of property appraisers to the real world of appraisal,” he said.
Working in the property appraiser’s office for over 25 years Will directs a 25 member staff in the annual assessment of all property in the county. He said it’s this experience that differentiates him from everyone else in the race.
Will said two of his opponents are good appraisers, but the job of county appraiser is different. “I appraise every property, over 110,000 properties annually, including colleges, state buildings, businesses and homes. It’s physically impossible to appraise that many properties the way private appraisers do it. You have to have a different skill set, in building appraisal models and running a statistical analysis against it for equity and uniformity.”
Will’s expertise in the calibration and application of the appraisal models earned him the International Association of Assessing Officer’s designation as an Assessment Administration Specialist and a Certified Assessment Evaluator.
He concluded, “If you want fair and equitable assessment placed on your property, I’m the only one that ever produced a tax roll using mass appraisal models. If you want somebody who knows how to administer a tax roll, who makes sure you get your benefits, and the exemptions applied properly on your individual properties, I’m the only one with the experience there too.”
Tallahassee Reports will profile Greg Lane after August’s Democrat primary.