Contract point of contention

GREENFIELD — With Hancock County Assessor Mary Noe retiring at the end of 2018, the office is now sought by two Republican hopefuls.

The county assessor is responsible for listing and calculating the assessed value of all personal and real property in the county. The county assessor also assists the local township assessors as needed.

Katie Molinder, who works with the Tippecanoe County assessor, is running for political office for the first time, hoping to bring some of her office’s best practices to Hancock County. Her opponent, Cindy Roberts, is also a political newcomer but has been working in the Hancock County assessor’s office for the past 28 years.

No Democrats have filed for the office.

Katie Molinder

Born and raised in New Palestine, Molinder jumped into the world of assessing in 2009 while her husband was completing Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program in Lafayette. She joined the Tippecanoe County assessor’s office as a part-time data collector. In time, she was promoted to residential deputy and then field staff supervisor.

She and her family moved back to New Palestine in 2014. Since coming home, Molinder worked for the Hancock County Department of Child Services before joining Brent Eaton’s staff as the victim’s assistance coordinator for the Hancock County Prosecutor in 2015. After the birth of her second child in 2016, Molinder went back Tippecanoe County.

Molinder touts both her certification as a Level III certified assessor and her experience working with three different county assessors over a six-year period as making her the most qualified candidate in this primary race.

Molinder currently serves as the chief deputy for the Tippecanoe County Assessor’s office and touts her work eliminating outsourcing work, something she said she wants to bring to her home county.

Her main campaign message has been aimed at the $90,000 annual contract the current assessor has with Nexus Group.

Nexus provides legal assistance at any time, assists with staff training and audits the county’s personal property and real property abatement.

“It seems like they’re outsourcing all of the tedious work,” Molinder said.

In Tippecanoe County, Molinder said they had a similar contract with an outside firm before deciding to end it and hire more office workers to handle the load. Simultaneously, Molinder worked to increase awareness about what the assessor does, enhance customer service and raise the expectations of the office, she said.

The public having a better understanding of what the office does and how employees arrive at their assessment values has led to a decrease in the number of appeals in Tippecanoe County, Molinder said, saving the county money on legal fees. All told, Molinder says she has helped save more than a million dollars by hiring local employees, cutting out the expensive outsourcing contracts and cutting down on the number of legal appeals leveled against Tippecanoe County.

Cindy Roberts

Roberts, a lifelong Hancock County resident, has been working in the assessor’s office for 28 years, bringing with her a wealth of experience that no one else has into this race, she said.

Roberts jokes that when she started, the office didn’t have computers — and everything had to be entered by hand. It’s that kind of experience and insider knowledge she is leaning on to sell herself to voters. She knows how the assessor’s office does business in Hancock County and how the county offices work together.

After almost three decades of working under someone, Roberts, who also has a Level III assessor certification, decided 2018 is the year to run for assessor herself.

“I love working with the public, I like the problem-solving aspect of this job,” she said. “This community knows me and I want to continue to serve.”

She pledges to follow in the footsteps of her predecessors, continuing the fair and accurate assessment process residents of Hancock County have come to expect, she said.

Roberts defended the office’s contract with Nexus Group, saying it is a good value.

“I think it’s a needed service. We’re not just out there throwing money away,” she said. “Every business that builds now, they want to appeal (their assessment). So we end up needing tax attorneys to help us out.”

If elected, she would continue to analyze that contract and any other contracts the office has on a year-by-year basis.