Tax Assessors appointed, sworn in, Lowndes County, Georgia 2020-01-05

After many years of rising sentiment, the voters in November 2019, approved changing Lowndes County from being one of only two of 159 Georgia counties that elected its Tax Assessors to appointing them, and the legislature agreed. Finally in September 2020 the Lowndes County Commission appointed three new Assessors, and on January 5, 2021, they were sworn in. Their first official meeting is tomorrow.

[Vote, Swearing, Judge, Assessors]
Vote, Swearing, Judge, Assessors

Applying for the Board of Tax Assessors according to the agenda for the 21 September, 2020, Work Session and the Tuesday, 22 September Regular Session were Mr. Gene Felts and Mrs. Gretchen Quarterman. The Tuesday voting was a bit more complicated.

[Nominee Gretchen Quarterman at Lowndes County Commission]
Nominee Gretchen Quarterman at Lowndes County Commission

Here is Lowndes County’s own video of that agenda item in that Tuesday’s meeting.

County Manager Paige Dukes said they had previously on August 25, 2020, adopted a required resolution. August is when they set the number of Tax Assessors at three (same as previously), and set staggered terms of 3, 4, and 5 years to start, with 3 years each afterwards. That Resolution Regarding the Number and Terms of Members of the Board of Tax Assessors of Lowndes County is on the LAKE website.

Chairman Bill Slaughter nominated Felecia Williams to a five-year term, Gary McMillan to a three-year term, and Barry Barr to a four-year term. Commissioner Mark Wisenbaker nominated Gene Phelps to a three-year term, Gretchen Quarterman to a four-year term, and Barry Barr to a five-year term. The Chairman pointed out that he had already nominated Barry Barr to a four-year term, and Commissioner Wisenbaker agreed.

Commissioner Demarcus Marshall wondered if there was an easier way. The Chairman said he would call the vote in order of terms. Commissioner Marshall seemed satisfied.

Commissioner Scottie Wisenbaker nominated James Puckett, then asked if they could do each term separately. The Chairman asked to just nominate for given terms. Commissioner Wisenbaker then said Picket for a three year term.

The Chairman then reviewed the nominations. He read them in the same order. Here they are, with the votes, as near as I can tell from the video:

  • Felecia Williams: 5 years, 4:0 (Commissioner Wisenbaker did not vote)
  • Barry Barr: 4 years, 0:0
  • Gary McMillan: 3 years, 0:0
  • Gretchen Quarterman: 4 years, 4:0 (Commissioner Clay Griner did not vote)
  • Gene Phelps: 3 years, 1:0 (Commissioner Wisenbaker)
  • James Puckett: 3 years, 3:0 (Orenstein, Marshall, Griner)

[4:0 vote for Gretchen Quarterman, Tax Assessor, 4-year term]
4:0 vote for Gretchen Quarterman, Tax Assessor, 4-year term

Here is a summary by the newspaper of record. Terry Richards, Valdosta Daily Times, September 23, 2020, County adds more full-time firefighters; Appoints new tax assessor board,

— Named three people to the Lowndes County tax assessors board — Felecia Williams to a five-year term, Gretchen Quarterman to a four-year term and James Puckett to a three-year term.

Previously, all members of the tax assessors board had been elected, unlike the rest of the state where assessors were appointed by county commissioners. In 2016, Lowndes County voters narrowly approved a measure to move to the county-appointed system starting this year.

The assessors will take their positions Jan. 1, and all future appointments will be for three-year terms.

Meanwhile, the newly-appointed Assessors took various required online classes. While they still could, before they took office, they had several meetings with county staff and with the Assessors’ staff. Once in office, they can’t meet in a quorum without pre-announcing it as a public meeting.

Actually, the new Assessors were sworn in on Tuesday, January 5, 2021. Here is LAKE video of that three-minute process.

[Swearing in: Gretchen Quarterman, Felecia Williams, James Puckett, Judge Detria Carter Powell]
Swearing in: Gretchen Quarterman, Felecia Williams, James Puckett, Judge Detria Carter Powell

There was an audience.

[Afterwards: Commissioner Orenstein, Assessor Puckett, Assessor Quarterman, Chairman Slaughter, Appraiser Hrobar]
Afterwards: Commissioner Orenstein, Assessor Puckett, Assessor Quarterman, Chairman Slaughter, Appraiser Hrobar

The first official meeting of the new Tax Assessors is 9AM, tomorrow, Thursday, January 7, 2021, at 302 N. Patterson Street, First Floor, Valdosta, GA. 31603. Phone: (229) 671-2540.

Maybe soon Lowndes County will update its Board of Assessors web page.

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