DALLAS — Valerie Patoine, Polk County’s newly appointed assessor, has spent much of the last year preparing for her new role.
Patoine was hired 16 years ago and has served as the chief appraiser for the last 10 years. The Polk County Board of Commissioners appointed her interim assessor on Feb. 6. She took the oath of office on March 1 and will finish former assessor Doug Schmidt’s term. It expires in 2020.
Patoine said she’s worked hard to learn the role she is stepping into.
“The past year, I have worked closely with Doug in what he does on a daily basis,” she said. “There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with being the assessor. Not only the responsibility to the taxing districts, but to the taxpayers and the office itself.
“So, yes I’ve had some anxiety, but I’m also confident I can do the job,” she added.
Before serving as the chief appraiser, Patoine was the data analyst for the office. In that position, she reviewed sales and calculated how much values would change in a neighborhood or area of the county.
Patoine will run to be elected assessor in May 2020.
“It gives me a good year, year plus, of being in the job before I run,” she said.
Patoine grew up on a farm just outside of Dallas.
“My grandma actually graduated from Dallas High School and my mom graduated from Dallas,” she said. “My husband’s family are farmers in Polk County, so long ties to the community.”
Her father, Rod Watson, the chairman of the Southwest Polk Rural Fire Protection District board, gave Patoine her first challenge as she transitioned into the office. Southwest, along with two other fire districts are seeking to consolidate and potentially form a new taxing district to pay for fire service within those jurisdictions. He wanted to know if that new taxing district would cause what is known as “compression.” Compression occurs when taxing districts in jurisdiction combine to tax at a level that is higher than the statutory limit of $10 per $1,000 of assessed value for non-educational government.
“He gave me my first hard question,” she said. “That, I couldn’t answer. Thankfully Doug was still around to help answer the question.”
That may not be the last time that she looks to Schmidt to find information.
Last year, Schmidt guided Patoine through her most complicated responsibility, preparing property tax bills that go out in October. He will be on hand to help her through that again this year.
“A lot of the jobs we do, we do once a year, so not like there’s a lot of repetitive processes that help us get to know our jobs really well,” she said. “You do it once a year and it’s almost like every year, you relearn it again because it’s complicated, so having Doug come and help me through that process it vital to me.”
Schmidt said he’s confident that Patoine will be able to do the job with little or no help.
“I think Valerie is going to be able to figure out the vast majority of things that are done as the assessor,” he said. “I don’t see coming over here a lot.”