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Assessor's Race Tops Primary Ballot

Primary race to be decided on Sept. 18

There is just one countywide race appearing on the Sept. 18 primary election ballot, but it is one that will decide the overall winner.

In the campaign to choose who will serve as Klickitat County Assessor for the next four years, two Republican candidates -- incumbent Harold Van Vandenberg and Rone‚ Bothamley, who also currently serves in the Klickitat County Assessor's Office -- will go head-to-head in the primary.

Vandenberg was appointed to the Assessor's Office as a Democrat, but in July he switched political parties, going over to the Republican Party. Since there are no Democratic Party candidates on the general election ballot, the primary winner will stand unopposed, thus earning a virtual green light to serve as Assessor.

Van Vandenberg, 61, is the incumbent Assessor. He was appointed to the office last year, and is now running for a full four-year term.

Rone‚ Bothamley, 33, currently serves in the Assessor's Office as a real property appraiser. She has been with the Assessor's Office since 1994.

Despite the importance of the primary, Klickitat County Auditor Diana Housden, who oversees elections in the county, said she does not expect a large voter turnout.

"Usually in the primaries, turnout is low," Housden explained. "The only drawing card is the Assessor's race. That primary will decide the election."

Because of the open primary system in the state, all registered Klickitat County voters are eligible to vote in the primary, regardless of party affiliation.

To provide a balanced look at the two GOP candidates, the same questions were submitted to both Bothamley, who is a Goldendale resident, and Vandenberg, who lives in the Snowden area.

Tell us what your current job is, and a bit about your recent background (last 10 years).

VANDENBERG:

My current job is Klickitat County Assessor. I also run a small ranch up Snowden way. I care for my horses, sheep, goats, llamas, chickens, and burros. I also process alfalfa and grass hay for them. I began working in the Skamania County Assessor's Office in 1994 as a property appraiser until my appointment to Klickitat County Assessor in October 2000. I am a member of the Eagles, American Legion, Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks and The Masonic Lodge.

BOTHAMLEY:

I have worked in the Klickitat County Assessor's Office for six and a half years. I am currently employed as an appraiser, a position I was promoted to over three years ago. Prior to my promotion, I was an appraisal assistant in the Assessor's Office for three years. Before coming to the county, I was the legal assistant to Katharine W. Mathews, attorney at law.

Why did you decide to run?

BOTHAMLEY:

I decided to run because I believe the citizens of this county deserve to get the quality of service they pay for. I really enjoy the challenge of tax assessment. It isn't an easy job or a popular one, but it is important that it is done properly. I was raised in Goldendale and have been a lifetime resident of Klickitat County. Our county continues to grow and change, but this doesn't mean that corners need to be cut to get the job done. I care about producing accurate, consistent assessments. There is adequate staff in the Assessor's Office to do the job properly, but they need the guidance of an Assessor who understands what needs to be done. I am that Assessor.

VANDENBERG:

I am the current Assessor and want to continue. I believe I am qualified and experienced and the most capable person for the job. This was the concern when I was asked to consider being a candidate for the position last year. The concern was finding a qualified person to appoint.

What will your primary philosophy be if you win?

VANDENBERG:

I am not sure "philosophy" is the correct term. Perhaps "goals and objectives" is better to describe the direction the Assessor's Office will be pointed in. The primary goal is to get the appraisal schedule on time. Klickitat County has notoriously been behind for years from the timeline issued by the Department of Revenue. This past year we have moved our inspection schedule up four months. We need to move it up four more months. Improving our data on improved parcels. We have incorrect information and missing information of several parcels due to the conversion to our current computer system. We need to systematically improve this area. We need to improve our sales analysis system by utilizing the feature for our CAMA system. When we are on schedule and the ability to forecast value trends, moving from a four-year cycle to an annual valuation cycle is contemplated. I also envision placing our data base on a website for easier access by the taxpayers. Consideration for opening a west end Assessor satellite office is in the future plans.

BOTHAMLEY:

Public service. I feel strongly that elected officials are, above all, public servants. I believe that as your Assessor, it is my responsibility not only to implement the laws, but to educate the public so that they are able to make informed decisions. I intend to provide courteous service to the public, while proving a comfortable work environment for the staff.

Each of you has some "controversy" associated with your candidacy: Vandenberg supporters note that Bothamley has filed a grievance against the county; while Bothamley supporters note that Vandenberg only recently switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party. What would each of you say to voters concerned about your particular "controversy"?

BOTHAMLEY:

I don't feel my lawsuit against the county is an issue in this election. However, it is understandable that the voters might want an explanation. When Alan Shipp resigned, I made it known that I intended to run for Assessor as a Republican. Two days after Harold Vandenberg took office as a Democrat, he suspended me for two and a half days, took my office keys, and escorted me from the building. Prior to the suspension, I had not received an oral or written reprimand. I was four and a half months pregnant at the time, and when I was called to the Personnel Department, I assumed it was regarding my upcoming family leave. One of the reasons given for the discipline taken was that I provided assistance to a taxpayer rather than giving her the runaround and passing her off to someone else. I am not embarrassed or ashamed of filing the suit, and I did attempt to resolve the matter with the county. I believe Harold Vandenberg's actions were a thinly-veiled attempt to eliminate a very qualified candidate. I expect that anyone else in my situation would react the same way I did.

VANDENBERG:

While it currently is necessary for all county elected officials except judges to claim a party choice, I believe it to be unnecessary. After being elected, the official needs to serve all of the voters equally regardless of party affiliation. Party preference is a personal choice. No one pays a fee or is required to carry a brand when a party choice is made. I hesitate to even acknowledge this issue as a "controversy." To date I have received one personal inquiry and a written questions asking why I changed. The reason for changing was drafted in the letter to the Democratic Central Committee. If there is a "controversy," perhaps it is in the mind of the challenger.

Why do you believe voters ought to support you instead of your opponent, and what do you see as your strongest qualifications for the job?

VANDENBERG:

I am the only one fully qualified for the position. I have the experience and knowledge to be the Assessor. I have several years of experience in a variety of positions that have given me the necessary tools and qualifications. The voters can be sure that they will receive the very best with my commitment to their best interest. I will not participate in a character assassination of anyone for any reason. Just look at the facts. Who do you want in charge of a very important office. Who has been active in public service in the community? Who has contributed to civic and service organizations? Do you want someone who is qualified and experienced? It is my opinion my opponent does not have all of the necessary management experience for this position.

BOTHAMLEY:

I believe the voters should and will support me because I have a sincere desire to serve them. Two of my strongest qualifications are my years of experience in Klickitat County and my age. Because I have worked in both a clerical and an appraisal capacity, I understand the full scope of the Assessor's Office duties. Through the years, I have proven myself to be competent, caring and thorough. I intend to be accountable for the decisions I make for many years to come.

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