Private appraiser Bill Spencer and Benton County employee Mary M. Phillips are in the lead to replace longtime Assessor Barbara Wagner.
Spencer had 38 percent of the primary vote, or 8,251 votes, after the first round of ballots were counted Tuesday at the Benton County Auditor’s Office.
Phillips was a close second with 7,906 votes, or 36 percent of the vote, and Tony Hillerman had 26 percent, or 5,774 votes. All three are Republicans.
The two candidates receiving the most votes move on to the November general election.
Hillerman, an appraiser for Benton County who moved from Yakima just before filing for the office, was disappointed in the results. He said it appeared voters were more concerned about where a candidate lived than job qualifications.
“I guess that’s not technically living in the county but I’ve been here eight hours every day for the past 22 years,” he said.
Spencer, a certified real estate appraiser, previously worked for the Franklin County Assessor’s Office but currently owns Spencer Appraisal Service. He ran for Benton County Assessor in 2010 but was defeated by current Assessor Barbara Wagner, who’s held the office since 1991.
“My having experience at the county level and as a business owner helps and swung votes in my direction,” he said. “(Phillips) doesn’t have real experience evaluating property.”
Phillips isn’t an appraiser but is Benton County’s geographic information systems, or GIS, manager. She’s worked with the assessor’s office, trained employees on mapping technology and analyzed data and maintained mapping of county parcels.
She cites her relationships with other government officials and her ability to offer a fresh perspective on the office after decades under the same leadership.
“I really think I have this advantage, that I don’t come from that office but I’ve worked with it,” she said.
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