Spokane County assessor race
Incumbent Ralph Baker faces a challenge from one of his own appraisers, Vicki Horton, who accuses him of mismanagement.
Although he has been credited by state officials with bringing a poorly performing office into compliance with state regulations, Baker’s aggressive style has rubbed some employees and property owners the wrong way.
Staff members have twice filed formal complaints against an appraiser Baker promoted to supervisor. Other county officials dismissed both complaints after investigation, but the incidents – one of which was resolved last month – suggest an ongoing staff ferment.
Baker ran unsuccessfully for Spokane County auditor in 2002.
• Ralph Baker , 58
Bio: Appointed assessor in January 2005 after two years as chief deputy assessor. Subsequently elected to unexpired term and re-elected in 2006 to a full term. Previously was a financial adviser for four years and spent 24 years in the Air Force, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. Married. Bachelor’s degree in aviation management, University of Northern Louisiana, 1977; master of business administration, University of Northern Colorado, 1987.
Campaign issues: Favors use of technology to offset staff reductions. Says he has “led this office from one of the worst in our state to one of the best,” and “morale is fine.” Says employees got “a generous raise” and have “absolutely outstanding” fringe benefits.
Notable: Has developed an information-rich website that even his critics praise. Baker says it “has greatly improved our accuracy and accountability.”
• Vicki Horton , 56
Bio: Is an appraiser on Baker’s staff, in her first bid for public office. Before moving to Spokane nine years ago, Horton was an appraiser and, for two years, chief deputy assessor in the Clearwater County assessor’s office in Orofino, Idaho. Previously was a sheriff’s dispatcher. Married; four adult children. Bachelor’s degree in history, Gonzaga University, 1985.
Campaign issues: Says the biggest challenge for the office is gaining the trust of taxpayers and the assessor’s staff. Is concerned that a “severe lack of leadership” creates poor morale, “slower working habits” and increased stress among employees.
Notable: Thinks a six-year, $560,000 contract for aerial photography is an invasion of privacy as well as a waste of money because state law requires site visits every six years and most building permits are reported automatically.