One in a series featuring candidates who are competing during the 2018 election cycle. This article focuses on three candidates for Wagoner County assessor — Republican Sandy Hodges, the incumbent, and two candidates competing as Independents, Laura Miller and Darla Moffitt. The general election will be Nov. 6.
1 What do you consider to be the most important issue that affects your constituents today?
Hodges: The most important issue to my constituents that I have control over is insuring that every citizen is treated fairly and equitably.
Miller: Unnecessary tax increases affect us all by reducing our affordability to maintain the quality of life we have worked so hard to preserve for our family standards. I believe I can make the difference by starting on a grassroots level with a fresh eyes approach; building a solid foundation for the structure mandated by State Statute. I believe that proper stewardship of our hard-earned money prevails over monetary compensation and 'spend the last dollar in the budget' mentality
Moffitt: The assessor's office has an obligation to set values on property for taxable purposes. When questions arise from the property owners, because of being public servants, that obligation also includes answering questions in a professional manner and proving the value with comparable sales. In order to be comparable, those sales must meet qualifications such as quality, size, age and location. An open-door policy is a must to contribute to the transparency that is due the taxpayers. In my 29 years of employment with the assessor's office, I can not only do the job, but explain why.
2 What specifically would you do to address that issue for the benefit of your constituents?
Miller: My purpose is to take state statute, dissecting and tearing it apart, to set in motion the true intention for the County Assessor office. Our county no longer needs generation after generation of this is how we always did it. I will utilize the State Auditor and Inspectors office, the Attorney General's office, as well as, the D.A.'s office for their official opinions to ensure that everything newly implemented is in accordance with our founders' intent. The only campaign promise I make when I step into office is to the voters – to keep everything as fair as possible and to answer any taxpayer questions.
Moffitt: In the event of a taxpayer appeal of value, a meeting will be set in compliance with the Oklahoma state statutes. This meeting will be a face-to-face meeting, unless the taxpayer chooses to condone the meeting telephonically. This will allow the taxpayer to bring documentation to the attention of the Assessor's office, and allow the Assessor's office to educate the taxpayer of the valuation process, all exemptions that are offered, as well as provide the transparency and customer service the taxpayer deserves.
Hodges: The tax levies (rates) are set by statute. The Assessor's office is required by law to place a fair market value on each property. I personally review every real estate sale that is filed in the county. Careful and thorough analysis is done to insure that the value placed on a property is an accurate representation of the current sales market. The Assessor's office is the only office in the state that undergoes an annual performance audit, conducted by the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Wagoner County's overall ratio of sales price to value is extremely accurate.
3 How do you and your opponent differ on the issues you believe are important in this election?
Moffitt: I strongly believe in customer service, transparency and respect. The Assessor's job is not a popular job, but an important one. I'm not sure there is a person alive that "likes" to pay taxes, including the people who work in the office. However, the ad valorem tax stays local, with approximately 65 percent to 70 percent of it going to our schools. In this line of work there are times of heightened emotion that should be met with a strong, but kind, work ethic in order to not escalate the problem. In my personal experience, the incumbent is not of this mind set.
Hodges: Both of my opponents talk about lowering property values. Lower property values would put the Wagoner County out of compliance with the law and result in less funding to our schools.
Miller: I differ from the incumbent, Sandy Hodges, in that I do not want one more term for retirement nor do I look for a salary increase in order to boost that retirement. I differ from Darla Moffitt in that I have not worked my whole career in county government, nor do I want to implement Tulsa County's way of doing things into Wagoner County.
I offer nine years county government experience; along with 25 years of private industry, which has allowed me to obtain a very successful career.
4 On what important issues do you and your opponents share a common perspective?
Hodges: Both my opponents have been registered Democrats, then registered Republicans and now are registered as Independents. I am, and have always been a pro-life, pro-family, free market, conservative and a registered Republican. My promise to the citizens of Wagoner County is that my staff and I will treat every citizen and the value of their property fairly and consistently according to the laws of the state of Oklahoma.
Miller: I think Darla Moffitt is a nice person.
Moffitt: I feel we both endorse education of employees in order to better serve Wagoner County.
5 Please describe a time when you agreed with the position held by the opposite party on an important issue?
Miller: I believe that both Democrats and Republicans in Wagoner County hold very similar views when it comes to God and family. I think that we all maintain that core value of love, respect and compassion when it comes to our neighbors and our community.
Moffitt: Being an Independent, I feel that I am both Republican and Democrat. When asked if I am Red or Blue, my answer is, "I'm Red, White and Blue!" I distinctly remember 9/11 and the feeling of anxiety that our country was under attack. I believe at that moment it didn't matter what affiliation we were — we were Americans.
Hodges: Accurate property values should not be a partisan issue. Assessors across the State, in either party, agree on the process of valuing property according to the market.
MEET THE CANDIDATES
NAME: Sandy Hodges.
HOMETOWN: Coweta has been my hometown since 1994.
OCCUPATION: Wagoner County Assessor since 2011. Prior to being elected I was a high school teacher certified in U.S., Oklahoma and World History, Economics, Government and Political Science.
FAMILY: My husband, Mike, and I were married in 1975, and we have three grown children and four grandchildren.
EDUCATION: Bachelor's of Science Degree from Oklahoma State University. Initial and Advanced Assessor Certification from OSU Assessor Accreditation Program.
HOBBIES: In my spare time I enjoy spending time with family, particularly my grandchildren, working out, and being involved in the community.
NAME: Laura Miller.
HOMETOWN: Magnolia, Texas.
OCCUPATION: Skilled Specialist Supervisor.
FAMILY: Son and daughter-in-law, Rick and LaCee Miller, children Brylee and Landon; son and daughter-in-law, Micheal and Lisa Miller, children Nathan and Amelia; and pets: dog, Logan, and cat, Boo.
EDUCATION: Second year college – Sam Houston State University.
HOBBIES: My favorite hobbies are my grandchildren, but after that it's hiking, riding, fishing, barbecues, movies, flautist, cooking, travel and long car rides.
WEBSITE / FACEBOOK PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/LauraMiller4CountyAssessor
NAME: Darla Moffitt.
HOMETOWN: Broken Arrow.
OCCUPATION: Appraiser for Tulsa County Assessor's Office.
FAMILY: Jayson Moffitt is my husband of 14 1/2 years. We have two children: a daughter, Kayly Combs Walker, and her husband, Jimmy Walker, (and son Sebastian) of Burleson, Texas; and a son, Kord Combs, and his wife, Jessica Cowan Combs, of Haskell.
EDUCATION: Associate's degree in Business Administration, Western Oklahoma State College; initial and advanced accreditation through the State of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University Center of Local Government Technology, over 250 hours of continued education through Oklahoma State University CLGT through the Oklahoma Assessor's Association; member of the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO), Member of the County Assessor's Association of Oklahoma for 29 years.
HOBBIES: I love to garden and cook, raise chickens, golf, and ride ATVs. I love to watch basketball and football through the collegiate level, as well as cooking for tailgating. But mostly I love spending time with my family and friends, whether we are working or having fun!
FACEBOOK PAGE: Darla Moffitt for Wagoner County Assessor.