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New tax assessor ready for Mecklenburg’s reval challenges

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- UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government
Kenneth Joyner

Kenneth Joyner admits he’s had a “very nice job” as a lecturer at UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Government. But he told reporters he’s always up for a challenge.

In Mecklenburg County, he found a huge one Tuesday – rebuilding the trust of thousands of property owners who felt burned by the office Joyner is taking over.

County commissioners hired Joyner as Mecklenburg’s new tax assessor, its first full-time assessor in nine months.

Joyner’s hiring will mean interim County Manager Bobbie Shields can turn his full attention to the county and not have to serve a second function as the interim tax assessor. Shields has stood in as interim assessor since December, after the previous assessor resigned in the aftermath of a 2011 revaluation that was riddled with problems.

Joyner starts Oct. 1, and his renewable term will expire June 30, 2017. He’ll make $150,000 a year.

In that three-year, nine-month span, he must oversee the county’s legislatively mandated redo of the 2011 revaluation and prepare a new revaluation that, by law, must be done by 2019.

Meantime, he must restore trust in an office that was blistered by property owners complaining that values were set too high and that their concerns weren’t fairly heard.

“Restoring trust has to be at the forefront,” Joyner said. Without it, “the work won’t be successful. It’s definitely a challenge, but with staff’s help and management’s help and the board’s help, we as a group can all move forward and put what’s happened in the past behind us.”

He said every property owner “deserves to be treated equally and fairly.”

Joyner, who earned an accounting degree from N.C. State University, has taught at UNC’s School of Government since January 2008. Before that, he began a property-assessing career in 1993 in Harnett County and was tax administrator for Chatham and Onslow counties and most recently, Durham County.

Commissioner Karen Bentley, who chaired a committee that helped with the assessor search, said she was impressed with Joyner’s credentials.

“I have no reservations at all that Mr. Joyner is the right man for the job,” Bentley said. “He is keenly aware of the legislation under which we are operating.”

Commissioner Trevor Fuller, a committee member, said Joyner rose to the top of a “strong group of (four) candidates. He comes to us with an understanding of the challenges we face in Mecklenburg County. He comes with his eyes wide open as to what it will take to address those challenges.”

Board Chair Pat Cotham said that when commissioners went to Raleigh for advice on the revaluation, state officials pointed them to Joyner.

“He has outstanding communication skills and will be very customer-focused,” she said.

When he starts Oct. 1, Joyner said he’ll spend time analyzing where the tax office is on the redo “and go from there.”

He said he had followed the problems in Mecklenburg and is well acquainted with the state legislation that forced the redo. He said he had read that a previous candidate had called the tax office “toxic.”

“ ‘Toxic’ is an awful strong word,” Joyner said. “There are definite problems. But we’re here to find solutions and work together to move the county forward.”

Perlmutt: 704-358-5061
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