Tulsa Leaders’ Essays: Ken Yazel

When I took office in 2003, I spent the first few months discovering just how little I knew about the duties and responsibilities of the county assessor.  There is a complexity of constitutional, statutory and administrative provisions, as well as judicial decisions and professional standards to take into account.  In addition, the methodologies used by assessors are quite sophisticated, requiring a great deal of knowledge and training.

Most taxpayers probably don’t understand this any better than I first did.  So I committed myself to educating the public.  I drew statistics and resources together and began a program of speaking to homeowners associations and professional groups.  We completely overhauled the content and functionality of our website.  I believe that the better informed the public, the better decisions they can make about things impacted by property taxes. I was also determined to upgrade the capabilities of my office.  We implemented new policies and programs for hiring, training and educating our employees, and we upgraded our technology.

In addition, there were several issues we took on that might be categorized as politically difficult, tackling things that should have been addressed a long time ago.  I often upset those who thought they deserved different treatment from the rest of the taxpayers, but most people appreciated the fact that I was willing to take on these challenges. Through all of this, I have been sustained by the assurance that we are doing the right thing and what is good for the taxpayers.  My approach is further validated by this year’s Oklahoma Tax Commission performance audit, where my office achieved a score of 100 percent.

As we enter a New Year, I remain committed to the continual improvement of my staff, our systems and our service capabilities.  And I am very grateful to those citizens who have chosen to support me in my efforts.