(KNOXVILLE) John Whitehead will once again serve as the Knox County’s property assessor.
Whitehead, who held the post from 2000-08, narrowly defeated Jim Weaver, the office’s current chief deputy, and Andrew Graybeal, a Realtor, in Tuesday night’s Republican Primary.
"I just want to thank the voters of this county for instilling their trust in me," Whitehead said. "People are tired and angry, and I can assure them I will restore their faith in this office.
Whitehead edged Weaver by 70 votes, grabbing 44.3 percent of the vote to Weaver's 44.15 percent. Graybeal got 11.55 percent.
Since no Democrat qualified to run - and barring an almost impossible victory by a write-in candidate in the August general election - Whitehead will take office Sept. 1.
Current Assessor Phil Ballard is term-limited from running for another four years. Although Whitehead served for two terms, he’s allowed to sit out and run again, according to the county charter.
The office is tasked with determining the value of more than 193,000 parcels of land throughout the county.
During his campaign, Whitehead, 67, often said he “would restore accountability to the office,” and implement an “open door policy.”
He also said the office’s new system that helps assessor’s determine property values has a number of problems that should be fixed.
Weaver, 68, has served as the office’s second-in-command since 2009. Prior to Ballard bringing him on board, he spent 30 years with the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office.
During his campaign he followed a three “t” plan: technology, training, transparency and trust.
He often noted that employees under his watch received more than 6,500 hours of training, which the state mostly covered.
The candidates mostly sparred about property values and often disagreed with the office’s accuracy.
Graybeal, 43, claimed that “nine out of 10 homes” were over-appraised, a claim that he could never back up. Whitehead said it was bad but not that bad, and Weaver noted that the county – on average – is actually under appraising property by about 4 percent.
Graybeal’s campaign took a hit earlier this month after he claimed to have an engineering degree from the University of Tennessee. The university, however, said it had no record that he ever took a class there. Graybeal said he also earned a degree from ITT University and that the credits transferred. UT, though said they would never accept credits from ITT.
Graybeal continued to maintain that he earned the degree from UT but failed to provide a diploma, pictures or friends from his time there.
The office’s biggest upcoming task will be conducting its annual assessment in 2017.
Every four years the county property assessor’s office determines the value of the parcels. Residents who disagree with the appraisals can appeal each June to a county board. If a property owner doesn’t like that decision, then he or she can also appeal to a state board.
Records show that from 2013 – the first year of the current four-year appraisal cycle – through 2015, property owners appealed the values of 6,293 parcels, which means 3.2 percent of the values of all county parcels were appealed.
The property assessor’s office employs about 45 workers and operates on a $3.5 million budget. The job pays $135,000 annually.