EVERETT — Snohomish County Assessor Cindy Portmann’s chief deputy is competing with a private real estate appraiser to take over her job next year.
Voters will get to chose a successor for the term-limited incumbent Nov. 3.
Linda Hjelle has served as Portmann’s top manager for her entire 12 years in office. Hjelle touts her inside knowledge.
“I know I’m the best candidate,” Hjelle said. “I have the most practical experience. I love what I do.”
Opponent Marty Glaser has worked as a residential appraiser for 29 years, 23 of them running his own business, Martin Appraisal Services. Though Glaser has never worked in government or run for public office, he said his career gives him a crucial skill that Hjelle lacks.
“The assessor’s office, in my opinion, has not had a qualified appraiser in leadership for more than 20 years,” he said. “This is why I feel very strongly that I should be the assessor and my opponent should not.”
The assessor is a nonpartisan official who’s elected to a four-year term. Ballots for the all-mail election are scheduled to go out Oct. 15. The county executive’s job, a county council seat and the charter review commission are other races to be decided this cycle.
The assessor oversees an office that determines the value of all taxable real estate and personal property in the county. Staff administer tax-exemption programs, including those for senior citizens. They calculate levy rates for all taxing districts and maintain the county’s official parcel maps.
The office employs more than 60 people and has an annual budget of about $7 million, most of which goes toward salary and benefits.
Hjelle, 52, has spent half of her life working there.
She grew up in Anacortes and attended Washington State University, where she earned a dual major in language arts and education. She worked as an elementary school teacher for one year and for another three as a loan processor at a mortgage company before going to work for the county.
“The benefit of working within the office is that you get an overall understanding of the different divisions and how they function together,” she said.
If elected, Hjelle said, she’d like to continue improving the assessor’s website and find new ways to make the office more accessible, though public workshops and outreach in schools.
Glaser, 51, grew up in Snohomish. He graduated from high school in 1981 and within a few years began working as a professional home appraiser. By the early 1990s, he had his own business.
Glaser said he decided to run for the assessor’s job after going through the appeals process to challenge assessed values for his properties and others. He thinks the county’s assessments too often stray from the market values they’re supposed to represent.
“The assessor’s job — paramount — should be that properties are appraised accurately,” he said.
If elected, Glaser said he has no intention of turning the office upside down, but does hope to apply his expertise to sharpen the focus on producing accurate values. He sees room for improving the assessor’s website, which he uses almost daily. He said assessor websites for King and Skagit counties are more user-friendly.
Glaser’s business employs one other person. He said he understands the distinction between mass appraisals and the private appraisals he’s done throughout his career.
The county assessor’s office must perform mass appraisals for nearly 300,000 parcels whose combined value exceeded $88 billion last year. Statistics for groups of property are used to gauge the market value for each parcel.
Private appraisers, by contrast, look at properties one at a time.
Hjelle is not a certified home appraiser, but says her background is more relevant.
“It’s different experience than his,” she said. “I do have experience and knowledge and education that is more applicable for oversight than what he has.”
Hjelle said the assessor’s staff are preforming high-quality work. There’s evidence to back that up: The Washington state Department of Revenue found that it measured up well in 2014 across almost every category compared to other assessor’s offices in the state.
Hjelle and her husband, Rick, have one adult son.
Outside of work, she often volunteers with charities through Soroptimist International, League of Women Voters and Relay For Life. She’s played the piano since third grade and performs at the Granville Grange in Granite Falls.
Hjelle plays golf and follows college football, both the WSU Cougars and the University of Washington Huskies.
Glaser grew up in Snohomish. He and his wife, Tamera, have eight children, one of whom died in 2004. They have five grandchildren.
He enjoys travel, having visited Mexico, the Virgin Islands, Greece and Israel. He loves to hike and to ride his Honda Shadow motorcycle. He teaches Sunday school, coaches Little League and has been active in church missions to help poor communities.
Hjelle by last week, had raised $16,483.33 for her campaign, state Public Disclosure Commission records show. Glaser had $8,281.91.
What’s at stake: A four-year term as Snohomish County assessor, who is responsible for determining property values for tax purposes. The office also calculates levy rates.
Incumbent Assessor Cindy Portmann has served a maximum three terms and cannot run for re-election this year. The position is nonpartisan and pays $111,923 per year.
Experience: a state-certified real estate appraiser for 29 years; has run his own business, Martin Appraisal Services, since 1993.
Residence: Granite Falls
Experience: 26 years working for the Snohomish County Assessor’s Office, 12 as chief deputy assessor; previously worked as a loan processor for a mortgage company and taught elementary school.