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Assessor Contest Draws Three

April 25, 2012
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WETZEL COUNTY - Three candidates - including two current county office holders - are seeking to become Wetzel County's next assessor

Current Assessor Ralph Phillips is retiring this year, and on the May 8 primary election ballot seeking the seat are current Sheriff James Hoskins, current Commissioner Scott Lemley and Nita J. King. All three are Democrats. No Republican candidates filed for the office.

- Hoskins, who is term-limited as sheriff, said the biggest issue he sees for the office over the next four years centers around the Marcellus Shale natural gas rush. "With the increase in industry ... it brings new challenges to the assessor's office, and we will make sure that everything is not only being done properly but also in the most efficient manner possible," Hoskins said.

He also noted he plans to have an "open-door policy" if elected as the next assessor.

"When people come in to the assessor's office, I want them to experience an office that has a warm, friendly and welcome atmosphere," he said. And if residents have questions or concerns about their property valuation, his staff "will speak to them at that time or schedule an appointment so we can discuss and hopefully resolve any issues they have" before the matter reaches the Board of Equalization and Review.

- Lemley, a current county commissioner, said the assessor's office belongs to the public. One of his goals, if elected, is "making information accessible online."

He believes the top requirement for the position is to have a person as assessor who has a backbone and is able to stand on his or her own two feet to fight for what is right.

He sees two major challenges for the office and also taxpayers over the next four years: first, the increase in valuation on mineral rights, which the assessor will not have control over, and also a continued struggle between county assessors and the West Virginia State Tax Department over correct property values in each county.

"We are going to have to fight for our citizens to ensure they receive a fair value for the property," he said.

- King has been an 18-year employee of the Wetzel County Assessor's office, serving most recently as chief deputy to Phillips.

She said the county's natural gas drilling boom will make the next assessor's job much tougher, as "we are required to go out and physically look at each of the sites." The assessor's office will then have to determine how to value such properties, and that valuation will change once production begins and the minerals produce royalties.

King also noted that the state of West Virginia has become much more vigilant in ensuring that assessor's stay current with property values in their county.

"I will be there to serve the best interests of the citizens of Wetzel County," she said.

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