RICH JAMES: Only 20 qualify for Lake assessor job

2013-10-13T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Only 20 qualify for Lake assessor jobBy Rich James nwitimes.com
October 13, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Lake County Republican Chairman Dan Dernulc is in a precarious position.

Better yet, make that a lose/lose situation.

And it was all brought about by the death of Republican Lake County Assessor Hank Adams last week.

It is up to Dernulc to call a county convention of Republican precinct committeemen to elect Adams’ replacement.

And it is up to Dernulc — if he is a true leader — to get behind a qualified candidate to fill the vacancy.

Sounds easy enough, but it isn’t. Nope, it’s far from it.

Unlike most offices in this state, there are stringent requirements on future county assessors.

In fact, it was My Man Mitch who signed the new requirements into law on March 19, 2012, during his last year as governor.

The law says that to be eligible to run for county assessor a person must have a Level III assessor/appraiser certification. That’s kind of like being the Grand Pooh-Bah of assessors.

Go ahead and try to find one. In Lake County, where there are about 500,000 people, there are just 20 Level III appraisers. Two of those 20 currently hold public office.

Center Township Assessor Kristie Dressel and St. John Township Assessor Melody Kikkert are Level III certified.

There is pressure on both of them to file to replace Adams as county assessor.

Whoever wins the precinct caucus would have to run for a full term in 2014.

Dressel and Kikkert are eminently qualified to be county assessor.

But, there is one problem — neither one can win a general election next year against the Democratic nominee.

Despite what some Republicans may think, it makes no sense for either Dressel or Kikkert to give up safe jobs only to lose their new job a year down the road.

There are those who think Adams could have won re-election next year. They aren’t in touch with political reality. Hank would have lost.

Hank won in 2010 because the Democratic nominee, Carol Ann Seaton, had enough baggage to open a luggage store. Democrats won’t make the same mistake.

And, Hank made a mistake when he took office — he became an isolationist, alienating the Democrats who got him elected.

The spot Dernulc is in got me to thinking. Why is it that we still elect a county assessor when there are just 20 in the county who are eligible?

Mitch Daniels’ Kernan-Shepard Commission on Local Government Reform called for several county officials to be appointed, including assessor.

So what is Dernulc to do? If he talks Dressel or Kikkert into running, he ought to be ashamed.

Dernulc should seek out someone with a Level III — Republican or Democrat — to be the assessor’s office caretaker for the next year. That would show statesmanlike leadership.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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