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Dems face off for chance to unseat GOP Assessor

Jerome Prince

Jerome Prince

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Updated: May 13, 2014 6:02AM



Three Democrats are vying for the Lake County assessor’s nomination in the May 6 primary election, and most are committed to lessening the county’s property tax appeals backlog.

Lake County Councilman Jerome Prince, Schererville Councilman Mike Troxell and East Chicago resident Jesus L. Ortiz Jr. are seeking their party’s nod. Incumbent Jolie Covaciu is unopposed in the Republican primary.

Covaciu became the assessor in November when she won the special Republican caucus to succeed Hank Adams, who died after a long battle with cancer.

Adams surprised many when he defeated Democrat Carol Ann Seaton by 610 votes in the 2010 election, becoming the first Republican to be elected to countywide office in 50 years.

Three of the candidates — Covaciu, Prince and Troxell — are Level 3 certified assessors/appraisers, which is now required for all assessor candidates. Ortiz did not respond to several requests for comment.

Troxell worked in banking for 30 years, and customers often mentioned they didn’t know how the assessed valuation worked. As a town councilman, he’s dealt with municipal budgets and seen the impact of the property tax caps.

He was also chief deputy in the county recorder’s office.

“I feel like I’m in tune with the process, and I want to use my banking and governmental experience to help people,” Troxell said.

Prince, a county councilman since 2008, has worked in property evaluation since 1994, and his interest in the field led him to became a property tax representative certified by the state in 2011.

“I’ve seen both sides of the coin by advocating both for property owners and knowing how appraiser arrive at the fair, market value,” Prince said.

“Anyone who works in the office should at a minimum have a background in property evaluation to help ensure the accuracy of the process.”

Covaciu said strides have been made in lessening the appeals backlog, but improvements still need to be made.

“When Hank (Adams) took office, there were 13,000 appeals inherited, and still 6,000 at his passing,” Covaciu said. “Since November, we’ve cut it down to around 3,000.”

Prince said he’s looked at ways to improve the technology used in the office.

“Part of what want to do is introduce specific modern technology as the first step of management of that office — with a better trained staff and better equipment,” Prince said.

“If we get it right on front end, we can reduce the number of appeals on back end ... and help expedite the process.”

Encouraging office workers to work toward advanced certifications is key toward making the office run smoothly, Troxell said.

“I would make sure those in the office would be able to work toward a Level 2 or 3,” he said.

“I have no problem with them learning even if they will eventually run against me.”



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