The race for the Knox County Property Assessor job is already turning ugly between former friends John Whitehead and Phil Ballard.
Whitehead, who previously held the job, and Ballard, the current assessor, are battling for the Republican nomination for County Assessor and while the election isn’t until March, the campaign already seems to be in full swing according to this Knoxville News Sentinel story.
The story quotes Ballard as saying Whitehead is “nothing but a face in the crowd,” and Whitehead calling Ballard “arrogant.” Whitehead says Ballard’s hiring practices are poor and Ballard said Whitehead’s relationship with one of his longtime friends is a major issue.
Neither believes the other is capable of handling the $123,000-a-year job that oversees a budget of $2.8 million and a staff of 47. The office reappraises every Knox County property every four years. The next round is set for 2013.
The 63-year-old Whitehead held the job from 2000-08 before term limits ended his reign. Ballard, 57, took over the office at that point. The friendship had a falling out in 2007 when Ballard voted against a plan he said was developed by Whitehead and his son-in-law, Scott Moore, who was then the county commission Chairman. The Sentinel story says Whitehead asked Ballard to vote to make 12 appointments to fill vacant county offices before the upcoming primary but Ballard voted to delay the appointments until after the primary. In retaliation, Whitehead endorsed Ballard’s opponent in the assessor’s race, Mike Lowe. Ballard ended up winning anyway, setting up an awkward situation as Whitehead stayed on as a training coordinator and supervisor of appraisals for almost a year.
While both candidates said they plan on focusing their attention on why they would make the best assessor rather than why their opponent would not, personal feels have crept in. Ballard has expressed displeasure at Whitehead’s recent get-together on the luxury yacht Volunteer Princess. The yacht operates out of Volunteers Landing Marina and Ballard said the Mariner president, Walter LeMasurier, did not pay taxes on the boat in 2006, when Whitehead was in office.
The Tennessee Office of State Assessed Properties, though, told Ballard that the boat was a state matter and not a county matter. The boat did have taxes paid on it in 2009 and 2010, though it did not pay local taxes in 2006 or 2007.
Both Whitehead and LeMasurier say Ballard is simply being difficult out of spite. LeMasurier said he charged Whitehead the same $1,700 fee he charges anyone to have the event on the yacht and said he has paid taxes on the boat. He added that he contributed to Ballard’s initial campaign run.
With seven months still to go before the primary election, there’s still plenty of time for Ballard and Whitehead to go back-and-forth, make allegations and generally come across as typical unlikeable politicians. So sit back and watch the show as Knox County residents figure out who will be in charge of placing values on their homes.