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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Write-in winner offers choice

Assessor seeking fourth term

The Kootenai County assessor doesn’t just tell you how much your home is worth. Another big part of the job is overseeing that place no one wants to be: the DMV.

Vehicle registration and title services are some of the busier functions of the assessor’s office, which also sets values for residential and commercial property, maps property boundaries and processes homeowner exemptions.

A staff of 60 handles all that work, and since 2002 it has been supervised by Mike McDowell, a Republican seeking his fourth term in office.

In the Nov. 4 general election McDowell faces Democrat Shirley McFaddan, an Athol retiree who serves on the Idaho Workforce Development Council.

McFaddan prevailed in the primary as a write-in candidate when a longtime conservative surprised many by seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination.

“I do believe people should have a choice and have a good choice,” she said.

McFaddan does not contrast herself sharply with the incumbent. She said she would keep the assessor’s office running smoothly with the current staff and not micromanage.

“I don’t have any plan to change staff. I think the staff there is doing a fantastic job,” she said. “My role would be administrative and make sure that everything got accomplished that was on our agenda.”

McFaddan did say she has noticed the customer lines in vehicle services sometimes are too long.

“It seems we’re not serving our public as efficiently maybe as we could be in that particular department,” she said.

About half the county’s drivers now renew their vehicle registrations by mail, with another 14 percent renewing online, McDowell said. That has taken a lot of people out of those lines at the DMV offices in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls, he said.

He also highlights ongoing efforts to maintain more than 1,000 digital county maps, mesh them with aerial photos and make them available to the public online.

“We’re working to constantly improve all of the information that we work through,” McDowell said.

The assessor’s office operates with an annual budget of about $3.8 million. McDowell cut five positions through attrition since 2011. “We’re running a little leaner and a little more efficiently than three years ago,” he said.

At the same time, county salaries have fallen well below competing markets, leading to the loss of experienced employees and hurting morale, McDowell said. A worker in the vehicle licensing division recently resigned to take a similar job at $2 more per hour in Bonner County, he noted.

“We need to pay a competitive wage,” he said.

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