Assessor Tom Moore, Kootenai County’s longest-serving elected official, died early Tuesday at home after battling cancer.
He was 65.
Moore was midway through his fourth four-year term as assessor and was credited with bringing country wisdom and common sense to the office.
During his 20 years with Kootenai County, he made a name for himself as a rebel.
He stood up to powerful businessmen such as Duane Hagadone. He stonewalled state officials who ordered him to raise property values.
He dueled with commissioners on behalf of his staff and held his ground a few years ago when an ex-employee accused him of unlawful assessment practices - charges that later proved unfounded.
Through it all, Moore took hot-headed complaints from the public with a smile, wry humor and an open door.
Earlier this year, Moore was awarded the Mills-Adler Award for outstanding achievement in 1996 by an Idaho elected official. He was chosen from more than 350 people statewide.
“He was a bright spot in the county organization, a feisty kind of a guy with a lot of tenacity who always had the best interests of the county at heart,” said Commissioner Bob Macdonald. “He will be sorely missed.”
A Kentucky native, Moore joined the Air Force at 18, eventually landing at Fairchild Air Force Base. He came to Kootenai County in 1977 as an appraiser, after serving as assessor in Ferry County, Wash.
“It was a volatile period,” said current deputy assessor Mike McDowell.
The assessor was unpopular, sparking arguments with county residents. Thousands of people appealed their property assessments.
In 1982, Moore was elected to office. He came in with a mission.
“He wanted to change the way the public perceived the office,” McDowell said.
He did. Moore went to war with the state’s tax office, which had demanded across-the-board assessment hikes.
“He didn’t like controversy,” McDowell said, but neither did he shy from it. “He always gave taxpayers the benefit of the doubt.”
And he didn’t succumb to political pressure.
In 1990, Silverwood Theme Park owners complained that Moore had over-valued the park by $3 million. Commissioners cut the assessment by two-thirds, but Moore appealed.
A year later, Hagadone Hospitality officials complained about Moore’s assessment on The Coeur d’Alene Resort’s floating green. Moore didn’t back down, even when Hagadone labeled him “anti-business.”
“He was the smiling assessor who had a dirty job to do and did it as best he could,” said former Commissioner Bob Haakenson.
Moore was a private family man - father of seven and grandfather to more than a dozen - but spent countless hours with his public family, cheerfully letting employees soak him in dunking booths at picnics.
“He knew you don’t demand respect, you earn it,” said appraisal supervisor Greg Cade.
He rarely took vacations, but could sometimes be found fishing or golfing - often chatting with taxpayers.
“He’d introduce himself and they’d say ‘Oh, you’re the guy I write those checks to,”’ McDowell said. “He’d get them laughing.”
The lifelong Democrat officially changed parties last week so McDowell, a Republican, could be considered as his replacement. County commissioners must appoint a replacement from within an elected official’s party.
A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday at First Assembly of God church on 7th Street in Coeur d’Alene.
The assessor’s office will be closed Thursday in Moore’s memory, as will the Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls motor vehicle licensing offices, which he oversaw.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
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