Assessor retiring after 36 years with county

Clark County Assessor Mark Schofield will retire at the end of this year, putting his office up for grabs in the general election.

Schofield, 54, is leaving at a time when assessors statewide are under fire by anti-tax critics who contend there is no uniform system to determine property values.

And for the second year in a row, Schofield's office has dealt with a record number of property owners challenging their assessments. There were more than 6,000 appeals last year and 8,000 appeals this year.

Schofield, a Democrat, insists that the public's mounting dissatisfaction with how their properties are assessed in the weak economy is not pushing him out the door. He said he has worked 36 years in the assessor's office -- including 18 years as the assessor -- and he is simply ready to move on.

"It's time to forge ahead and start a new career," Schofield said. "I stated from the beginning, this would be my last term."

He plans to launch a consulting firm to help people resolve disputes with government agencies on every matter except property assessments.

"I just wouldn't feel comfortable working in that venue," Schofield said.

Schofield is endorsing assistant assessor Michele Shafe , 46, a Democrat who has worked 14 years in the assessor's office and a total of 23 years for the county.

Shafe said she would take a 29 percent pay cut if she became assessor but is willing to make the sacrifice to "preserve the integrity of the office."

"If someone came in without experience, they could do a lot of damage," Shafe said.

The assessor's $107,000 salary is set by statute and can be raised only by the Legislature. Shafe earned $151,000 last year.

Still, she said that $107,000 would be nothing to complain about.

The other candidates are Brent Howard, independent; Curtis Christianson, Independent American Party; Sean P. Morse, Libertarian; Gerrit C. Hale and Nick Starling, Republicans; and Richard R. Sevigny, Robert Blakely and Toni Wernicke, Democrats. Blakely, Hale, Morse and Wernicke filed Friday.

Howard, 53, said the county lacks consistent methods to assess properties. His five parcels, ranging from residential to commercial to vacant land, were assessed with wide variations, he said.

He plans to sue the county over the lack of uniformity.

As assessor, he would insist that the county create an easy-to-understand guide for the public, he said.

"I will be the friend of the taxpayer, and not the antagonist at odds with the taxpayer," Howard said.

Schofield said his office follows Nevada guidelines for assessing properties. Critics want the methods and how they're applied to be even more specific, Schofield said.

He said he was confident that Shafe, if elected, could handle the turbulent times.

"She's got the common sense and integrity, and will do a great job for the people," he said.

When Schofield was re-elected four years ago, some people predicted he would use the job as a springboard to higher office, he said. He promised he would not pursue higher office, and plans to keep his word, he said.

Schofield recalled how he began working for the county when he was 19. He spent 14 years as an appraiser and four years as an assistant assessor before landing the top job in the early 1990s.

"It's been a rewarding 36 years," he said.