MONTESANO — Four years ago, voters thought Dan Lindgren was a bit inexperienced and too young to carry the weight to be the county assessor. There was an outcry to try something different with the office. Voters chose former Ocean Spray manager Rick Hole to lead the office.
Now, Lindgren has another four years of appraisals under his belt and a bone to pick with Hole for the way he says the office has “been run into the ground” after several investigations into possible mismanagement in the office by the state Department of Revenue and consistent criticism by the current county commissioners over the way Hole has run the office. Hole says he’ll run for re-election and prove his case before the voters.
Lindgren says he’s up for a re-match and he will file to challenge Hole. Lindgren says the campaign should be about him and not Hole, but admits that Hole now has a track record to defend.
“I was willing to give him a chance,” Lindgren said. “But I know I can do a better job.”
Filing week isn’t until May. Lindgren will file as a Democrat. Hole is running as a third party candidate he’s called the “Neither Party.” Lindgren says he may be running as a partisan because he’s a proud Democrat, but would support the office being turned into a non-partisan one if the chance ever came up.
Election records show the last time Lindgren faced Hole, he lost by 2,164 votes, garnering about 45.5 percent of the vote.
Lindgren, 36, has been in the Grays Harbor Assessor’s Office since March of 2007 and is now a senior property appraiser. He has a 15-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old daughter and lives in Aberdeen. He figures he’s done 15,000 appraisals.
Hole has never done an appraisal, Lindgren points out, because the incumbent is not an appraiser and has never been trained to be an appraiser.
“When I win, I won’t just stop doing appraisals,” Lindgren said. “I will continue to do them. I may not do thousands, but it’s part of the job. You should know and be licensed to do appraisals to have this job. I think that’s been proven now. There’s a code of ethics you must be bound to.”
Lindgren says as the union steward in the office, he’s heard all of the employee complaints about Hole. In November, Lindgren put his name on a letter that reads almost like a “No Confidence” declaration for Hole as an assessor. The letter, from most of the appraisers in the office, said that the appraisers refused to stand by the revaluations made by the office. At the time, the Aberdeen, McCleary, Satsop and Mary M. Knight areas were undergoing a revaluation.
Eventually, the revaluations were done — but they were all late. And the Satsop and Mary M. Knight ones weren’t finished until earlier this year.
Lindgren says that Hole had pledged that a sales-analysis software would be complete so that appraisers could use it to figure out if property values in the area should go up or down. The software wasn’t finished. Some $180,000 was spent but there was nothing to show for it. The county is now working to purchase software from a private company using general fund dollars that could be used for just about anything else.
Hole now admits that he should have let his appraisers do a sales analysis when they were in the field, like they wanted. He says that mistake won’t be made again.
Lindgren says he refused to put his appraiser number on many of the revaluation cards that were mailed out to residents because he didn’t trust the revaluation figures. About half of the cards mailed out didn’t have the appraiser numbers on them.
“We take an oath for this job and we couldn’t in good conscience put our numbers on those cards,” Lindgren explained.
Lindgren was responsible for appraising “the flats” of Aberdeen and before the cards were mailed out he did do a sales analysis of some 2,000 properties and made the adjustments that needed to be done. He also did some of the properties in McCleary, but was unable to re-examine those properties.
“I have zero appeals on the 2,000 properties I went back to do in Aberdeen, but I have 17 appeals on just the 300 to 400 properties I did in McCleary,” Lindgren said. “And I don’t know what I’m going to do when I go to the Board of Equalization, in charge of the appeals. When the board asks me how I came to value, I will say I did not come to value. I didn’t put this number on it. I have no idea how it arrived. I have no idea what happened there and I feel bad for the people of McCleary because I don’t know if their properties are valued right. They might be close. They might be way off. I have no idea.”
This year, the county goes to a state mandated annual update, but the software has still not been purchased and there are issues with the current software that needs a “Band-Aid” fix to even make it work.
“I don’t want our revaluations to end up that way every year,” Lindgren said. “What if five-sixth of the county gets done that way? People have to pay taxes on that amount.”
In retrospect, Lindgren says the county should have just purchased an out-of-the-box software system to do its annual revaluations and that should have happened a year ago, at least. Professional systems carry a consultant that would work in-house with existing staff and do training for a month or longer.
Lindgren, who also is an active jet ski competitor, notes, “I don’t try to rebuild a motor every time I have a problem. I would take it to a mechanic who has done it before and that’s who I would have rebuild the motor. Some people are better left to the people who know how to do that. We’re appraisers, not software engineers.”