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County tax assessor's race to be decided on Tuesday

By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
August 3, 2003
As elections go, the race for Lauderdale County tax assessor is not normally one to spur heated debate because it's not a policy-making position like a county supervisor or city councilman.
It is, however, a race that will be decided in Tuesday's Republican primary because the only two candidates for the job incumbent Jimmy Slay and challenger Linda Fortenberry are both Republicans.
The Lauderdale County tax assessor's race is one of several county, legislative and state races on the ballot in the Tuesday GOP and Democratic Party primaries.
Some, including the tax assessor and District 1 and 3 supervisor races, will be decided in the primary. Other races will be decided in the Nov. 4 general election, in which party candidates and independents square-off.
The tax assessor's responsibilities include placing value on all property in the county. The assessor's office also keeps up with homestead records, tax exemptions, building permits and land records.
While Slay is a political veteran, Fortenberry is making her fist run for elected office.
Office responsibilities
Slay said the biggest misconception he has seen among voters is that tax assessors raise and lower taxes. A tax assessor does neither.
The board of supervisors has the ultimate authority in setting the values of property, although it is based on the appraisal from the tax assessor's office.
In his first run for the office, Slay came out on top in a run-off that developed from a field of five candidates. That was four years ago. Now he is running on experience.
Slay's platform
Slay said he is trying to inform voters about his platform.
Fortenberry, a paralegal with the law firm of Bourdeaux &Jones, thinks there is room for improvement in the tax assessor's office.
She said she sees a need for better communication with the public and she is offering her 20 years of experience in land abstracting as an alternative.
Fortenberry also sees the tax assessor's position as a natural continuation of her career.
Fortenberry's concerns
In doing land work, Fortenberry said she is in the tax assessor's office daily.
She said she also has seen problems with descriptions of land plats, which she said are partly due to the mapping being done by an out-of-town company.
The mapping has been contracted out as the tax assessor's office has worked on becoming an all-computerized system the groundwork of which Fortenberry said was already set when Slay took office.
She thinks the transition should have come about quicker.
Slay offered a different take.
Although she admits there are bugs that have to be worked out with any system, Fortenberry said the tax assessor's computer system is vital to the office and has been sorely missed by professionals as well as residents who have needed it.