Albany County Dems advance three assessor candidates
Receiving just two applications for the vacant office, the central committee identified a “filler” candidate to meet their statutory requirement of three. The county commission must now choose.
The local Democratic Party has named three contenders for the position of Albany County Assessor.
The office was vacated in recent weeks by longtime County Assessor Grant Showacre, who resigned midway through his fourth term last month. Usually an elected position, the vacancy left by Showacre’s departure has kicked off a replacement process the county is well acquainted with at this point.
The outgoing assessor’s political party — in this case, the Albany County Democrats — must provide three candidates to the Albany County Commission, which will pick a successor from among the three given candidates.
When it came to replacing the Albany County Sheriff, the Democrats had to narrow the field of applicants down to three. But when it came to replacing the assessor, the Democrats were short a candidate.
Just two people — Deputy County Assessor Chelsie Mathews and University of Wyoming Adjunct Professor David Meyer — applied during the window for application. A third candidate, former County Commissioner Tim Chesnut, was added to the pool by the Democrat’s central committee during a public meeting Monday.
“There was some discomfort, some unease, about the idea of putting a candidate up that isn’t a serious candidate, that’s just as a filler — it just feels insincere,” said Carrie Murthy, chair of the Albany County Democrats. “But there was also some discussion that this is indeed our obligation.”
Faced with just two candidates and a requirement to put forward three, Murthy invited Albany County Attorney Kurt Britzius to join the meeting, share his opinion and answer questions.
Britzius said the issue hasn’t been challenged in Wyoming courts, and therefore there is little precedence.
“This is not a unique situation, particularly for one of these technocrat sort of positions — mine and assessor and things of that nature — so it has happened in the past,” Britzius said. “Unfortunately, there is not a ton of guidance in state statute or in case law.”
He added that if the Democrats put forward just two candidates, there was a very low likelihood that anyone would challenge it. Similar instances have gone unchallenged in the past. But if the Democrats put forward three, they would be on even surer footing.
Wyoming State Statute 22-18-111 spells out the process for filling a vacancy.
“At the meeting, the county central committee shall select and transmit to the board of county commissioners the names of three (3) persons qualified to hold the office,” the statute reads. “Within five (5) days after receiving these three (3) names, the board of county commissioners shall fill the vacancy by appointment of one (1) of the three (3) to hold the office.”
To legally qualify for the assessor position, candidates must be landowners in Albany County.
Laramie City Councilor Erin O’Doherty said the committee should identify additional candidates who would be qualified and ready to “answer the call” if something were to happen with the two other candidates and their county needed them.
“They’re good, qualified people and this may not be the job they want, but instead of thinking of it as filler, I think we should think of it as someone we ask, ‘If duty calls …?’”
Chelsie Mathews was vocal about her interest in the office as soon as Showacre’s resignation was announced. As deputy, Mathews has been running the office in Showacre’s absence for weeks now.
And the former assessor has endorsed Mathews for the office.
“She has been my Deputy (for more) than a decade,” Showacre’s resignation letter reads. “Not (choosing) her over any one else would be a mistake. She is smart. She understands the job much better than anyone else I know. To not choose her would be a mistake.”
The committee was not as familiar with the second applicant, David Meyer, and tasked Vice Chair Jason Alexander with finding out more.
Alexander reported that Meyer was, at least in part, interested in the office because of a dispute he had with Showacre. Alexander said the dispute was about the valuation of Meyer’s property.
“He seems genuinely interested in the job,” Alexander said. “He’s literally looked into the algorithms that are used to calculate property values. He feels there are some flaws to the approach that Showacre took, but he also expressed that he thinks (Mathews) is highly qualified and that she would probably approach the job better than Showacre.”
Ali Grossman nominated Tim Chesnut for the third candidate slot.
“I had a conversation with him and he is interested in fulfilling the position if the county commissioners were to choose him,” Grossman said. “I do want to say he has similar sentiments to (Meyer). But he is very familiar with the position through his work as a county commissioner and believes he would be able to serve in that position to the best of his abilities.”
The Albany County Commission’s agenda for its meeting tonight calls on the commissioners to set a special meeting date. The purpose of that special meeting — which must be hosted within five days of receiving the candidates’ names — will be to appoint the county’s next assessor.
Showacre’s successor will serve out the remainder of his term, which ends after the 2022 general election.