All seasoned employees in assessor’s office gone

Published 11:44 am Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Every employee in the Warren County Tax Assessor’s Office has quit, retired or been fired since the Nov. 8 election of Angela Brown.

On Tuesday, Brown opened the doors of the office in the Warren County Courthouse with three new employees who have a combined nine years of experience in evaluating property for taxes.

Deputy tax assessors from Humphreys County are training the new employees to coordinate homestead filings and appraisals where more than 50 years were lost. To fill the experience gap, Brown also has asked the Mississippi Department of Revenue to help the staff ensure that land rolls are set by June 30 and ready to present to county supervisors.

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“We will keep the office running effectively and efficiently,” Brown said, as taxpayers streamed in and out of the office to take care of business. Brown said the Humphreys officials have volunteered their time.

Brown hired Pam Wilson and April Wells last week to coordinate homestead filings, both having worked previously in Hinds County. Dana Williams, a former Ameristar Casino employee, was hired to key in data from property appraisals in the field — the position Brown held most recently in her 11 years in the office. Five more hires to work in personal property, real property, mapping and commercial appraisals are expected eventually, Brown said.

The office assesses and determines property taxes on 26,050 taxable parcels in Warren County. In 2011, the real and personal property roll was valued at $3,474,321,311, down 1 percent from 2010.

Former deputy assessor Jim Agent, who retired along with former assessor Richard Holland, was the lone ex-employee in the courthouse Monday to assist a transition. An outside firm, which Brown declined to name but described as “the best in the business,” will handle field appraisals, she said.

For 15 years, the job belonged to Ben Luckett, who finished second to Brown in November in a four-person race to succeed Holland, who retired after 25 years in the office and 16 years as assessor.

Luckett, homestead coordinator Carolyn Brown, no relation to Angela, and mapping coordinator Liz Fuller were dismissed from their jobs Wednesday and Thursday. Two others, homestead coordinators Becky Thornton and Graylynn Crotwell, retired in the weeks following the election.

The five had worked a combined 103 years in county government. Both Luckett and Carolyn Brown said they were told they weren’t needed during the transition after awaiting out a decision from the new assessor.

Brown said appraisal data backed up three months leading up to the election and formed her decision to let Luckett go. She did not address other office departures.

Luckett refuted the claim, saying both sometimes worked half-days as each campaigned for the office’s top spot.

“My intention was to keep the staff,” Brown said Tuesday. “But, change is good. This is the people’s office and I’m into good customer service.”