Fill interim Stanislaus assessor role from within the department

September 30, 2013 

BA Swearing In Cogdill

BART AH YOU — The Modesto Bee Buy Photo

Stanislaus County supervisors will meet behind closed doors this morning to talk about how to fill the elected assessor’s position that Dave Cogdill Sr. is vacating 14 months before his term is up.

We hate to see Cogdill go, for two reasons: One is that he has done a good job leading the small but critical office during lean times. The other is that we’re disappointed to see him not fulfill his commitment to serve four-year term. It seems like that is happening more frequently these days as elected officials leave office early because of job opportunities.

Cogdill is taking a job as president and chief executive officer of the California Building Industry Association, a trade association and advocacy group for homebuilders. Cogdill said he was recruited for the position, but it is not surprising that he wants to get back into the action in Sacramento and with statewide issues. He told The Bee he hopes to have a voice in the discussion about the water bond, which is scheduled to be on the ballot in 2014 after multiple delays. As a state senator, he played a key role in negotiating that bond measure; there have been numerous calls for it to be rewritten.

Cogdill spent 10 years in the Legislature and rose to become Senate minority leader before his fellow Republicans pushed him aside for the perceived sin of compromising with Democrats. After losing the leadership position, Cogdill opted not to run for a second term in the Senate and instead ran for county assessor in 2011. He was an appraiser in commercial practice and early in his career worked in a county assessor’s office. No one challenged him in 2011.

State law does not allow the Board of Supervisors to call an election to fill this opening, and that would be a waste of money given that the next assessor will be chosen in 2014, conceivably as early as June. If one candidate gets more than 50 percent of the votes in the June primary, then we would encourage the board to appoint that winner to lead the office for the rest of 2014, until the official start of his or her new term in January 2015.

If no one is a winner in June, then the top two vote-getters will be in a runoff in November 2014.

So the question is who will lead the office between Cogdill’s departure on Oct. 18 and either the June or November 2014 election. In his resignation letter, Cogdill recommended his top two deputies as capable replacements. The board could appoint one or the other – or have them share responsibilities.

The board also could seek outside applicants, but that would be time-consuming and doesn’t seem necessary for a short-term assignment.

In some counties, the assessor is combined with other positions, but that would be a fairly radical change for Stanislaus County and would deserve some substantial study and public review, including maybe a vote of the people. Stanislaus County has a good record with a stand-alone assessor’s office, and we don’t see any arguments for a dramatic change now.

Other than Cogdill, who as we noted had substantial experience as a commercial appraiser, the elected assessors in Stanislaus County have been people who rose through the ranks of the department.

The only argument against an interim assessor appointed from within is that it might be perceived as giving that appointed incumbent an edge in the election if he or she chooses to run. But we don’t see that as a deal-changer. The county appears to have capable internal candidates, and it makes sense for the board to appoint one or both of them for this short-term role as interim assessor.

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