Assessor's job no longer a mystery for Avery

"“Demystify” is Jim Avery’s favorite word.He latched onto it when it appeared in a headline profiling his bid for Kitsap County assessor last year. And after he won the election, Avery made demystifying part of his job description.“I take every opportunity to speak to groups,” Avery said, rattling off a list of service club names from across the county. “I’m hoping to get into high schools next.”Avery said the technical field of tax assessment can be daunting for the average taxpayer, but he wants people to be able to see and relate to how government services are paid for by explaining how his office works.“I think that because I’m new to the system, I’m not burdened with the technical jargon” that impedes communication, Avery said. A former real estate agent, Avery came to his county post with no prior experience in the assessor’s office.“Jim has been on a learning curve,” said Treasurer Sharon Shrader, who worked with Avery recently in lobbying for a new assessor-treasurer computer information system. She said Avery, who replaced Carol Belas after she didn’t run for reelection, has been eager to learn and a good listener during his first year in office.“He’s extraordinarily fortunate in the staff he inherited,” she added. “He’s out there tromping in the bushes with them.”Avery also wants to help taxpayers tromp through the forest of paper that is the assessor’s records. He plans to put the database on the Internet to allow people to check the accuracy of their assessments and get information without making a trip to the county courthouse. That project won’t happen until money is allocated in the county budget to replace the obsolete assessor-treasurer database he and Shrader now share. Avery lists a centralized clerical staff among this year’s accomplishments. Staff members used to be assigned to specific areas of the office, but with all nine staff members together, Avery said the peaks and valleys in workload are smoothed. Another accomplishment for Avery was his election last month to the executive committee of the Washington State Association of County Assessors. He represents nine counties in the Puget Sound area on legislative and state Department of Revenue issues.Larry Johnson, president of the Kitsap County Association of Realtors, said he is pleased with Avery’s work. “He’s completely open and available to us — and I’m not saying that because he used to be a Realtor,” Johnson said. “He’s just generally helpful; a real public servant.”Johnson said the attitude of the assessors’ staff is “not ‘What are you doing here?’ but rather, ‘How can I help you?’” He added that he’d find online access to records very helpful.Shrader said she has a very good working relationship with Avery. “I don’t think there’s been a real significant change in values” from former assessor Belas’ administration, she said.Avery said he hasn’t thought a lot about what he’ll do three years from now, when his term as auditor expires. Will he run again? “I love this job so right now, I would say ‘Yes,’” Avery said."

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