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New assessor moving into office

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Little staff turnover is occurring in the Garfield County Assessor’s Office as newcomer John Gorman prepares to take office since defeating incumbent Shannon Hurst in November’s election.Hurst, a Republican whom Gorman will replace in January, said only one person on the office’s 17-person staff has resigned. That person, Bud Thompson, was involved in assessing the oil and gas industry. Gorman, a Democrat, had said Hurst was failing to make the industry pay its fair share of taxes.However, Thompson said that his departure wasn’t directly related to Gorman’s election, and that he left for a job working for the Bureau of Land Management in Meeker, where he lives. He said he didn’t pay attention to Gorman’s campaign, and he left for different reasons.”It has nothing to do with him personally because I don’t even know the man,” Thompson said.But he also said he thought Hurst and her staff were doing a good job assessing the energy industry.Hurst said staff workers that deal with that industry are leery about what changes may occur when Gorman takes office, and are waiting to see what changes he makes. Thompson said the fact that a new person was taking office added to uncertainty that already existed about his 32-hour-a-week job. His job description was changing and a contract firm was being brought in to do inspection and assessment of gas well equipment. That’s what Thompson was doing, so he wasn’t sure what the future held for him.”One in the hand is worth two in the bush. I had another job offer here (in Meeker) for a little more money; I didn’t have to travel,” he said.Gorman said the contract firm’s work will be short-term, and he will need Thompson “or someone like him” to do that work afterward.Gorman’s chief focus isn’t on well equipment, but on accurately assessing the natural gas industry’s production for tax purposes. That production has proven lucrative, topping $2 billion in Garfield County last year. That compares to the $2.5 billion ski industry in the whole of Colorado, and doesn’t include wages and other economic benefits related to gas production.Gorman believes an audit of the industry in the county could result in millions of dollars in back taxes being collected.”I’m excited to get that process under way with dispatch,” he said.Gorman is scheduled to be sworn in to office Jan. 9.Hurst said she thinks the transition between her and Gorman is going well.”I think he’s trying to grasp the job at this point,” she said.Gorman said he has talked to almost all who work in the office and they sound as if they plan to stay.”Now, we’ll see what condition we’re in on the 9th of January and two weeks after that,” he said. “I’m sure there’s still some questions about who I am and what it’s going to be like. I would have questions about me.”He said he has no plans to bring in new employees at this point, except to fill Thompson’s position and one that became vacant about six months ago.Hurst said she has been finishing up some contracts she had wanted to get done, and also preparing tax rolls for the county Treasurer’s Office so Gorman won’t have to do that. Gorman said Hurst has been helpful in showing him some things, and the bulk of the transition is being handled by deputy assessor Lisa Warder, who will remain in that job.The office has been in the middle of its reappraisal process, which it does every two years. Notices of valuation are scheduled to go out to property owners on May 1. Gorman said it’s his sense that appraisers have the process under control.”Until they’re completely finished I will not know, because we’re kind of in the crunch of getting that done,” he said.Hurst, 55, has worked in the assessor’s office since 1984 and became assessor in 2001. She said she plans to visit her father in Florida after she leaves office, and isn’t sure what she’ll do next.”I’m going to come back and figure it out. … I’m not someone to sit around,” she said.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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