Friday, March 12, 2010

Will Marion County Assessor's Race Be Interesting?

The prevailing wisdom is that the near baseline vote of 60 percent Democratic in Marion County should easily carry through the Democratic Party county ticket of the Clerk (Beth White), the Recorder (Julie Voorhies), the Auditor (Billie Breaux), and the Assessor (Joe O'Connor) to office.

I would say that, for most of the ticket, that is correct; however, I would caution O'Connor and Democrats not to just simply write off firebrand GOP candidate Becky Williams without beating her first.

Let's get this straight, I'm not denigrating or criticizing Joe O'Connor at all here. I like Joe, support Joe, and have donated to Joe. I know and am impressed by his qualifications for the job, but I just get the feeling that Williams is going to go after him hard. Williams is not one to go quietly.

Williams was the face of the Assessors as they battled to save their jobs in the referendum that ended up eliminating them. She was vocal, loud, and seemingly everywhere as the president of the Indiana Township Assessors Association. More than anything, Williams was staunchly anti-Greg Bowes at every turn. She created waves when she claimed that, upon applying for a job in the Marion County Assessor's Office, Bowes simply told her that she would be better off working at Wal-Mart. Bowes denied that was exactly how the conversation went down, and I believe him.

O'Connor, a 16-year veteran of the assessment process in the Pike Township and Marion County offices, certainly has the impeccable credentials to run for and succeed in the office. He has also done great work as Bowes' Chief Deputy Assessor. He knows the job and will make a great assessor. He is, however, not the strongest campaigner. He's very low key.

Williams is not, and, if given the opportunity with some money might be able to turn that into some votes at the ballot box. Will people even care to do anything but vote party at that level of the ballot? I don't know. Williams is going to have to make some sort of crossover appeal to people's wallets.

She's also going to have to convince the public that O'Connor is somehow Greg Bowes and that they, together, did a bad job running the office. I don't know that she will be successful in that regard. Bowes and, later, O'Connor were delivered a very tough set of circumstances when Governor Mitch Daniels froze assessments and ordered the County Assessors to reassess all real property. This backlogged the assessments and the bills. With the help of very effective public servant, Marion County Treasurer Mike Rodman, Bowes and O'Connor have done a tremendous job catching things up. As we enter the new property tax season, things are back on schedule and running well.

It's an uphill climb for Williams, but she might be able to at least score some points along the way in a race that typically fills only the election night crawl and not the brains of the analysts and pundits. So far, all's quiet on the assessor front, but who knows what will come before November? I'm not saying that Williams will win or even make a dent. All I am saying is that I wouldn't totally discount her as a candidate. She can yell loud enough to make this thing interesting. Whether anyone will listen remains to be seen.


erin said...

Not to be picky here Jon, but what do you mean "denies that was exactly how the conversation went down"? This seems like a very carefully parsed statement a la definition of "is"....I won't be voting in the 2010 elections (registered in KY for residency purposes) in Marion County, but am still curious by your decision to include her claim and Greg's kind of non-answer to said claim.

Jon E. Easter said...

Greg has spoken on the blogs about this whole situation. There was no need to rehash here.

Anonymous said...

The fact that she tells it like it is about Bowes makes me want to vote for her........but I won't.

erin said...

Wasn't trying to start anything. I actually had never heard or read of that happening (I only read a few blogs and the political ones are mainly D oriented). Maybe I missed it, dunno. If you have a link available to what Greg has written, I would like to see it. But, it's not a big deal as I support Greg though I won't be voting for him this time. I was just curious because it seemed like an odd thing to include...

Greg Bowes said...

For Erin:

On Dec. 9, 2008, Advance Indiana blogged about an Indy Star article where Becky Williams said I told her she would be better off working at WalMart. Here is what I explained in comments to that blog:

I want credit (or blame) for what I actually said to Becky Williams, not for what she or the Indianapolis Star reported I said. I was discussing options with Becky, and learned that she is
concerned about making enough money to live on. I let her know I would not be party to allowing her to double dip, and explained that
any salary she would get for working for me would be reduced by the $27,500 annual salary she gets by virtue of her continued status as elected assessor. In that discussion I pondered with her why it wouldn't be more lucrative for her to work for an employer who would not reduce her salary to prevent double dipping. I suggested
several options, including WalMart. I let her know that I would only pay her what her position was worth, and explained that there may not be many
positions available for more than $35,000, and did a math exercise with her to show that a $20,000 salary from WalMart, plus her $27,500, would add up to more than the $35,000 I might be able to give her. In addition to this discussion, I told Becky it would be very difficult for me to
forget the two years of difficulty and disagreement between us when making any hiring decision.
Melyssa, if that causes you some concern, so be it. I intend to hire the best people I can find. I hope to include only those who are willing to work toward uniform and accurate fair market value assessments with little or no distractions from petty squabbling.

Erin, if you want an earful about assessor consolidation, I am available any time.

Greg Bowes