SWEETWATER COUNTY — The last forums at the White Mountain Library concluded with candidates for Sweetwater County assessor and clerk of District Court.
Democratic incumbent Dave Divis and Republican Perri Rubeck outlined the complex process involved in the Sweetwater County Assessor’s Office during their questioning.
“The assessor has to list and value all property in the county fairly and equitably. We must meet all the statistical requirements required by the State Board of Equalization and Department of Revenue to get our values certified,” Divis explained is his role as county assessor. “And then the function of any assessment is to create a tax bill, so one of our main functions is to make sure we get those values rolled to the treasures office so taxes can be billed. Now the things an assessor can never do is arbitrarily lower your taxes.”
Rubeck repeatedly said the process is “cut and dry” when it comes to the rules and procedures that assessors follow. When asked what makes him qualified to be the county assessor, he answered he is a business owner and a leader. He said he has taken a one on one course in assessing and is hungry to learn more. According to Rubeck, leadership is an innate quality he was born with, not a learned trait. His experience as a head coach allows him to motivate people, he said.
Divis believes he is qualified for the position, having held the position since earlier this year. Prior to that he served as chief deputy assessor since 2012. He has gone through the assessment process and the protest period, set mill levies, worked with the Treasurer’s Office and listened to the community year after year. Since Divis has been in the Assessor’s Office, he said he has taken almost 400 hours of continuing education. Prior to working as the county assessor, he worked for the Sweetwater County Treasurer’s Office for 21 years.
The most important responsibilities of county assessor, in Divis’ view, is to get the certification of their values from the State Board of Equalization and the Department of Revenue. Without that certification, an assessor is not able to provide assessed values to taxing authorities. He equates the process to a train, and all parts need to be on track or the whole train derails. The certification is the first crucial step in the process.
In Rubeck’s view, the most important job of the county assessor is working with other elected officials. He sees the work as more than valuing properties but as part of a strategic puzzle that requires involvement in the community with business owners in the global market.
Both candidates agreed that the county assessor benefits from being an elected position, and neither believes it should be a partisan position. Divis notes by being elected he is responsible to the people and not to any authority that could sway his work.
On the issue of improvement, Rubeck said he would like to see assessors working in teams of two to increase productivity, but Divis noted his office has been using that team system for years. Divis would like to see better technology used to improve the work of his office. However, the Wyoming Department of Revenue mandates the software they use, and it is a few years away from implementing a more paperless solution. Currently, his office is using aerial photography to increase efficiency when assessing remote areas.
Campaigning for the position of clerk of District Court are Republican incumbent Donnalee Bobak and Democratic challenger Annette Eychner.
Bobak began working in the Circuit Court in 1987 and has been clerk of District Court since 2011. She was on the committee to design the case management system currently used. She has worked for numerous judges, and said she feels she is very adaptable and a public servant at heart.In her time as clerk of District Court, she has grown very close to her staff and said promoting teamwork is how she runs her office.
Eychner stated she has a strong desire to be a public servant. Working with the Wyoming State Training School and Sweetwater County School District No. 2, she volunteered to help special needs kids transition back into their communities and has services to help support them. She is passionate about providing equal services. Additionally, Eychner owned and operated the small business Sweetwater Janitorial, and she serves on the board of directors for Trona Valley Credit Union.
E-filing is an issue both candidates believe is necessary to make the work more efficient, but any system has to be approved by the state. According to Bobak, the problem has gotten less attention since a new case management system is in the works, though e-filing is used in the federal courts.
Eychner said she is passionate about improving confidentiality. She would like to redesign the counter in the office so people filing paperwork don’t have to worry about others overhearing their information. Also, she wants the public access terminal to be brought out of the filing room that she also wants to be made more Americans with Disabilities Act friendly.
Bobak said she is addressing all the issue Eychner addressed in the plans to move part of the office to where the Circuit Courts used to be.
Eychner would like to see an internal audit system added to the Clerk of District Court’s Office to be able to evaluate its effectiveness. Bobak noted she has gone through many rigorous audits and always came out with a clean bill of health.