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For assessor-treasurer: Tim Farrell or Billie O’Brien

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on July 8, 2012 at 3:50 pm with 8 Comments »
July 6, 2012 6:27 pm

Billie O'Brien

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

It might be hard to explain to an outsider why an office like assessor-treasurer is such a hot race in Pierce County this year.

You sort of have to live here. The incumbent is Dale Washam – a perennially unsuccessful candidate who managed to get elected under a fluky ranked-choice system in 2008. It was a year in which many new voters weren’t aware of Washam’s long and checkered history in Pierce County.

Tim Farrell

That’s not the case today. A voter would have to have been holed up in an isolated cabin in the Cascades not to have heard about all the trouble Washam has caused. His incompetence and abuse of county employees have cost taxpayers millions. If he’s re-elected, he’ll keep ratcheting up the bill.

Fortunately, he has four respectable challengers in the Aug. 7 primary – any of whom would be a huge improvement. The top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 6 general election.

Three candidates are political veterans familiar to local voters: Pierce County Councilman Tim Farrell and former Tacoma City Council members Mike Lonergan and Spiro Manthou.

The fourth, Billie O’Brien, is the non-politician in the field. But she must have at least some political savvy. As the administrative manager handling non-appraisal duties in Washam’s office, she’s managed to survive despite running against her boss and supporting last year’s unsuccessful effort to recall him.

Of the four candidates seeking to replace Washam, we think that Farrell and O’Brien are the two best candidates to face off in November. And their differing backgrounds and qualifications present voters with a real choice, depending on what they think the office needs to thrive in a post-Washam world.

O’Brien, a Summit resident, is the insider familiar with the inner workings of the department – whose main duty is to assess property for tax purposes – and its staff. That knowledge means she would have virtually no learning curve on Day 1.

O’Brien has done appraisals, she’s managed more than 35 employees during her 21 years with the office and she’s worked closely with several other county departments as well as the state Department of Revenue. We think she would easily step into the top job.

However, there’s a plausible argument to be made that the office needs someone from outside coming in with fresh eyes. The staff has been through the ringer with Washam, and voters who think it needs a newcomer’s approach should consider Farrell.

The Tacoma resident, who is being term-limited from his seat on the County Council, has a master’s degree in business administration and has been taking appraisal training courses given by the state Department of Revenue to prepare for the job. He’s bright and energetic. A Democrat, he has been endorsed by several prominent local Republicans as well as members of his own party.

Also running are Lonergan, the executive director of Youth Marine Foundation and past director of the Tacoma Rescue Mission, and Manthou, general services manager at Bates Technical College. Lonergan has excellent credentials, and Manthou would be satisfactory. But we think O’Brien and Farrell are the top choices. Both are likely to improve the morale and culture of a department suffering an acute case of Washam-induced shellshock.

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Leave a comment Comments → 8
  1. TheMASO says:

    Are they Democrat or Republican…it does make a big difference…non-partisan office means nothing!

  2. wannacry2 says:

    Billie’s on the job training makes her the right choice. Farrell is just looking to continue supplying his retirement with the county. Another career polition.

  3. The impending writ of mandamus, hopefully to be filed by the time this endorsement appears in full fledge, is yet another telling twist in the saga of this public serpent who at every turn bites himself while hissing at his critics, many of whom are, to quote Dale’s web page, “you, my employers the citizens of Pierce county.”

    Predictably, the resident pro Washam legal scholar is painstakingly explaining the legal complexities of the county’s writ, but an actual attorney friend of mine assures me that the legal scholar’s legal chops are pork, and best served with beans and cheesiness.

    Hot Diggity Dog, the spectacle abides! When Dale is ejected from office in the upcoming election cycle, I will be chopfallen – such entertainment as this rare indeed.

  4. auwing1978 says:

    Is there any truth to the rumor that the Annex bldg. is being renamed the Ken Madsen County Office Complex?

  5. auwing1978 says:

    On a more serious note, if Dale loses in the primary, I hope to God that the employees at the Assessor Treasurer’s office are protected from any Lame Duck retaliations before his departure.

  6. olympicmtn says:

    Vote Washam. End the political Democrat poster children playing political musical chairs

  7. tommy98466 says:

    Has anyone noticed that the Non partisan TNT usually picks the democrat over a republican most of the time? The best example is the Assessor Treasure race. The political affiliation of Farrell is democrat of course. For O’brien, we don’t know. But why a glowing endorsement of the democrat? Are you sure you are non partisan, TNT? How about just give the qualifications about the person and not mention the political affiliation?

  8. PumainTacoma says:

    I love the headline by the Tribune… telling the assessor to do his job. Where were they when Madsen was NOT doing his job? Where is the Tribune when the prosecutor isn’t prosecuting crimes that King County prosecutes? Where is the scrutiny? Answer: Lacking.

    Then come to find out some letters to the editor may or may not be real?

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