Thurston County Assessor Patricia Costello, a Democrat, is defending her $85,000-a-year job against a strong challenge by Republican Tom Crowson in the Nov. 7 general election.
Costello, 67, of Olympia, assessor for the past eight years, says she is seeking a third four-year term to continue her effective management of the office as Thurston County experiences rapid growth.
"I manage an office that is efficient, effective and customer-oriented," Costello said. "State audits confirm valuation and assessment practices follow professional standards and comply with state laws."
But Crowson, 54, of Olympia, a homebuilder, real estate agent, appraiser and former firefighter, says it's time for a change. He says Thurston County has the second- or third-
highest rate of assessment appeals in the state and that there is a large backlog.
"A county of our size should not have the second- or third-highest number of appeals statewide," he said. "The state law mandating equalization has been ignored by the current assessor."
Costello disputes those figures and said the county's appeal rate is 1 percent and declined last year by 30 percent. She said her office was up to date on processing appeals, which are sent to the Board of Equalization for hearings. She did not have data on neighboring counties' appeal rates but said she plans to "continue to provide staff with tools, training and technology to ensure assessments are fair, equitable and uniform."
As of Sept. 11, Costello had raised $8,080 in the race, and Crowson, $13,628, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission. positions
Patricia Costello, Democrat, incumbent, and Tom Crowson, Republican
1. What makes you the more qualified candidate?
Costello: I manage an office that is efficient, effective and customer oriented. State audits confirm valuation and assessment practices follow professional standards and comply with state laws. I have been recognized by my peers for outstanding public information and best practices.
Crowson: I have a long history of public service as well as business ownership. I have been an appraiser, managed appraisers and have provided market analysis for industry. I have been a taxpayer all my life. As your Thurston County Assessor, I will be a champion for taxpayers and open government.
2. What is your first priority for reform or repair in the assessors office?
Costello: In the face of community growth and escalating workloads, I will continue to provide staff with tools, training and technology to ensure assessments are fair, equitable and uniform.
Crowson: The first priority will be to reduce the excessively large error and appeal rate we have here in thurston County. A county of our size should not have the second- or third-highest number of appeals statewide. The state law mandating equalization has been ignored by the current assessor.
3. How could Thurston County better provide affordable housing and still manage growth?
Costello: Although the role of assessor is to appraise all property at market value, I am in favor of having government entities and the private sector collaborate on incentives and regulations for developers that would lead to more affordable housing.
Crowson: Thurston County has a variety of housing stock, some on very small lots that previously were affordable. The demand created by population moving to Thurston County has made home ownership less affordable. The next trend could be more condominiums and townhomes, which are commonly seen in other fast-growing urban areas. THURSTON COUNTY ASSESSOR
Patricia Costello, Democrat
Occupation: Thurston County assessor since 1998, former administrator in computer and technology companies in New York, Switzerland, California.
Political experience: former executive assistant, Pierce County assessor-treasurer, eight years; Thurston County assessor, eight years
Finances: raised $8,080, spent $4,116
Key donors: Thurston Democratic Central Committee
Issues: maintain strong assessment programs in wake of rapid county growth
Tom Crowson, Republican
Occupation: partner, Patterson Land Co., homebuilding firm in Thurston County since 1999; real estate agent since 1993; ran appraisal firm in 1997; California firefighter, fire marshal, inspector and fire equipment business owner, 1976 to 1992.
Political experience: challenged U.S. Rep. Brian Baird for 3rd District congressional seat, 2004 (unsuccessful)
Finances: raised $13,628, spent $3,132
Key donors: Vito Chiechi, president of Chiechi Eason Properties, Olympia; and Carl Japhet, Olympic View Group, real estate, Olympia
Issues: Improve customer service and do a better job processing assessment appeals