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Assessor Candidates 

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*Don Gaekle – Appointed Stanislaus County Assessor (Incumbent)
Amy Bublak – Police Officer

Both candidates are known quantities; each is professional, likable and well-respected.  But if we were hiring for the position, it would go to Gaekle.  He has years of experience in the Assessor’s office both as an employee and in increasingly responsible management positions including being appointed by the Board of Supervisors as County Assessor.

Click on the circle/plus icon to the left of each question to read each candidates answer.

1.Describe ways in which you as an elected official would encourage a collaborative and cooperative relationship with other units of local government.

Don Gaekle: As the current Assessor I work closely with with the Auditor Controller and Treasurer-Tax Collector in coordinated way to operate the property tax system in Stanislaus County. We also work closely with the Planning and Public Works departments to gather and provide information related to assessment of property. We also work closely with the Stanislaus County CEO’s office, the Clerk of the Board and the Board of Supervisors.
I have provided specific preliminary estimates of 2014-15 fiscal year assessment roll changes to Stanislaus County and the nine cities in the county for use in budget preparation.
As your elected Assessor I will continue these close collaborative relationships.

Amy Bublak:As Chair of LAFCO and as a twice elected Councilwoman for the City of Turlock, I have already established and built relationships that have benefitted my community and constituents. Being able to work closely with not only other Stanislaus County officials but with federal, state and local officials and staff is an important factor in making this office work in a positive, proactive way.
To make this office more efficient and possibly fold it into another county office to save taxpayer dollars will only be possible with someone with my unique background of working closely to find solutions to problems and getting the job done.
With a Master’s degree in Public Administration and Urban Government, a successful career as a Modesto Police Officer and my public service as a Councilwoman I have a record of experience and personal accomplishment that will lead this office hand in hand with other units of local government that my opponent cannot match.

2. Modesto needs jobs. As an elected official, how will you contribute to improving the availability of local jobs?

Don Gaekle: As Assessor I have no direct authority to affect job availability in Modesto. What I do and will continue to do is ensure Accurate and Timely assessments so that all taxpayers are treated fairly and assessed according to the law.

Amy Bublak: County government needs to become more taxpayer oriented to help attract employers to our area. Companies are looking for management in government that has vision and a focus on the big picture of Stanislaus County’s future when it comes to establishing a competitive business environment.
I will be a voice to protect Proposition 13 and make sure our property tax and assessment system is taxpayer friendly, and keeps the big picture in mind that sitting behind a government desk for decades will not allow.
By being accountable to taxpayers and voters and not hiding behind a government desk, we can find new ideas and solutions that will allow all county officials to work together collaboratively to find areas where we can save costs and manage more efficiently. This will attract job creators and spur companies here locally to expand when they have confidence that government is getting the job done and not just there to collect paychecks and feed the bureaucracy.

3. If you are elected or re-elected to office, what will be your top issue? Describe the measures you will take to address this number one priority.

Don Gaekle: I am dedicated to providing Fair, Accurate and timely assessments for all property owners in Stanislaus County.
In order to achieve this I am also dedicated to efficiency through cost effective and paperless technology as well as courteous and professional customer service.
Also furthering this goal is staff training and development on an on-going basis. Our trained staff is our most important asset. I am proud of the work they do and the public can be proud that the
Stanislaus County Assessor’s office has consistently ranked among the top 10 counties in California in cost efficiency per appraisal unit completed based on annual reporting from the State Board of Equalization.

Amy Bublak: My top priority will be to find efficiencies and manage this office in the most effective manner possible that will contribute to economic growth and jobs in Stanislaus County. That means leading and not hiding behind a desk by utilizing new technologies and looking to identify if this office can be eliminated and rolled into another county office. I will be the voice for taxpayers while utilizing my educational expertise and local government experience and knowledge.
While working to achieve these goals, I will keep the career staff focused on helping taxpayers and making sure that our community taxpayers and businesses are receiving information they need that can benefit them and their families on property tax issues they may be facing. With improved web and internet communications technologies, this office can be user friendly instead of just saying it is user friendly at election time.

4. In your own words, describe the role and responsibility of the office you seek

Don Gaekle: The role of the Assessor is to:
Provide an accurate and Timely assessment roll by discovering and valuing all assessable propertys in Stanislaus County, in accordance with all applicable Constitutional and Revenue and Taxation code provisions, by using the most cost effective methods.
Gather information, provide explanations about the property tax system, inform property owners about the basis for the assessment of their properties and to listen to taxpayer concerns or disagreements regarding their assessment.
Work with the State Board of Equalization and other county assessors to ensure that assessment of properties in Stanislaus County is consistent with accepted statewide practices.
Work with other local government offices to ensure efficient delivery of taxpayer services.

Amy Bublak: On a managerial level focus on a fair, timely and impartial assessment system. Always look for new ways to identify efficiencies and integrate new technology into an office that is taxpayer friendly and encourages economic growth by adding a relevant educational foundation into this office. This will enhance the image of professionalism our county should project to job creators.
Deliver taxpayers with a tax assessment system that has a high standard of integrity they can trust. Utilize teamwork and a family friendly atmosphere to encourage positive interactions with taxpayers
My proven leadership, education, experience and professionalism will allow me to effectively lead a professional and modernized Assessor’s office.

5. Is the organization for which you seek office operating with a balanced budget? If not, what are you plans to make the organization more sustainable?

Don Gaekle: The Stanislaus County Assessor’s office operates within budget parameters established in concert with the Chief Executive Office and approved by the Board of Supervisors.
The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors sets balanced budgets consistent with available revenues.
As Assessor I will seek any other available funding for property tax administration that is consistent with the goal of providing Fair, Accurate and Timely assessment of properties in Stanislaus County.

Amy Bublak: I trust that the leaders we have on the Board of Supervisors are keeping this office in line and keeping the budget in check. I look forward to taking a harder look at the budget if the voters of Stanislaus County honor me with their trust in the June Election.
I am positive that an outside, experienced budgetary eye with a focus on the taxpayer will be able to bring leadership and encourage innovation and a family friendly atmosphere. That will contribute to the sustainability and possibly allow the modernization through efficiencies of staff expenditures, technology upgrades or both.
I am educationally prepared for this office with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Urban Government, have handled large budgets and led my community in a tough economy.

6. Do you have any experience running a business or any similarly organized enterprise?

Don Gaekle: Prior to returning home and starting my career in the Assessor’s office, I spent six full years and parts of nine other years working in and learning the operation of my family’s cattle ranching business in Colorado.
As Assessor and previously as an Assistant Assessor I have worked to develop office budgets and operated within those budgets.

Amy Bublak: I have managed multi-million dollar budgets as a Member of the City Council for five years and have worked closely with our business community throughout Stanislaus County either in my role as a Councilwoman, Chair of LAFCO or as my job as a Modesto Police Officer.
I see and hear every day the challenges businesses face and interact with them face to face. Our business men and women have to earn their way every day without entitlement. Leadership and minimizing the urge to micromanage strong staff with skills are important to any successful organization or enterprise.
That is why I have taken a strong stand to protect Proposition 13 by reaching out to taxpayers if elected. Protecting and supporting families is important to me and I hope to do that as Assessor with both taxpayers and staff.

7. Will the decisions you make as an elected official be evaluated as appropriate when the decision impacts local businesses and the economy?

Don Gaekle: As Assessor I am charged with assessing all property in Stanislaus County. The decisions of my office can have significant impacts for all real property and business property owners in the County.
I will continue ensure that all properties are assessed fairly using accepted appraisal practices and in accordance with State laws. I am confident that the resulting assessments will be evaluated as appropriate.

Amy Bublak: Yes. I am the candidate in this race that has a proven record of fighting for jobs and economic development in Stanislaus County. I proudly take the arrows and wear the scars from those battles to create jobs and make life better for our residents.
While there is a limited amount of impact that can be made in a bureaucratically driven office such as this, I believe that my focus on phasing out this office over time and finding staff efficiencies and new technologies make me someone the business community of Modesto and Stanislaus County can rally behind and support.

8. What is your relationship with locally elected officials in the state legislature? When did you last meet or correspond with one of our locally elected state officials?

Don Gaekle: I have interacted with Assemblyman Gray, Senator Galgiani, and Senator Cannella through the Modesto Chamber and Latino Community Roundtable events in the past year. I was and also able to help resolve a constituent issue for local field representative Helen Condit of Senator Cannella’s office during this last year.
I am in contact with the legislature generally through the California Assessor’s Association where the Assessors throughout the state discuss pending legislation affecting property assessment. We work in unison to recommend changes we feel are consistent with constitutional mandates, the Revenue and Taxation code as well as Appellate and Supreme Court decisions.

Amy Bublak: I have very strong, long-lasting relationships with our delegation. I truly enjoy talking to them about how the “winds are blowing” in Sacramento when it comes to possible new laws as well as proposed changes to old ones like Proposition 13. That will allow me to be a more knowledgeable Assessor who can guide staff appropriately and prepare them for possible changes and challenges by knowing what issues will be coming forward.
That will directly benefit the office and provide insight for both state and local stakeholders into how best to craft laws to help in areas like job creation, technology and administrative compliance with state laws. I am proud to be a visible leader who has established these relationships that will help move this office forward if elected.

9. Do you have any potential personal or business issues that may conflict with the office you seek? If so, how do you intend to contend with these issues?

Don Gaekle:I sit on the Boards of several non-profit organizations. Any assessment issues involving these organizations will be handled directly by my staff.

Amy Bublak: If elected, I will resign my seat on city council as I will have two years remaining on my second term in office and also leave my job as a Police Officer with the Modesto Police Department so that Stanislaus County has the full time Assessor it deserves to move this office forward.

10. Are you a member of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and what is your opinion of the Modesto Chamber?

Don Gaekle:I am not currently a member of the the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, but I do see it as a strong and active voice in support of free enterprise and economic development in Modesto.

Amy Bublak: I am not currently a member but have been proud to work with my local Chamber in Turlock and the Stanislaus Alliance to create a regional partnership for job creation and economic development. I believe the Modesto Chamber of Commerce is a voice for business in Modesto and lobbies effectively on behalf of its members. I look forward to building an excellent long-lasting relationship with the Chamber if I am honored to receive the voter’s confidence in June and humbly ask for your support.

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