October 7, 2022

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Lane County Assessor Mike Cowles looks to new adventures

4 min read

Longtime County Assessor Mike Cowles is stepping down as voters elect his successor on Tuesday. We caught up with Mike earlier this year.

[00:00:07] Mike Cowles: I looked back as far as the time and I started back in 1991, which it seems like it was almost just yesterday, but that was almost 30 years ago. And staying 30 years at a job nowadays is pretty rare as far as lot of different positions, but I enjoyed working at the County and enjoyed the different positions that I’ve had and looking back there’s a lot of milestones that I can touch on it. It’s just amazing.

[00:00:35] Technology has changed so much over the years.

[00:00:38] I remember testing bag phones for the county for cellular back in the start of the 90s, as far as out in the Crow-Lorane area getting reception service. And now pretty much everyone, including our kids, have electronic devices and cell phones and everything else.

[00:00:54] When I first started, we were on a mainframe system and so we moved off the mainframe system back in the Y2K scare and moved on to our current CAMA system and assessment system and here we are looking at possibly a new system at some point in time because it’s 20 – 30 years old.

But yeah, it’s a lot of good times, a lot of learning opportunities and a lot of good people, as far as the staff that we’ve had at A&T (Assessment and Taxation) over the years, as far asm it’s just incredible. It’s like a family here.

[00:01:27] John Q: Yeah, I really miss the potlucks.

[00:01:29] Mike Cowles: Oh yes.

[00:01:30] John Q: I remember you had these magnetic a little, it made different sounds like a cat meowing.

[00:01:38] Mike Cowles: Oh yeah. That was the, I hid those and one was a cat, one was like a phone ringing. And those got a lot of use because people would find them eventually because they were magnetic and very small. And after torture for a couple of days of hearing the ringing noise and then they’d appear somewhere else—in the bathroom or in a break room or yeah, they definitely got their life use out of those.

[00:02:02] John Q: You managed the department through this COVID pandemic.

[00:02:06] Mike Cowles: We had to add precautionary measures such as the face coverings and glass barricades for the customer service area and implement other cleaning procedures throughout the last two years. And also we’ve had staff work off and on remotely and utilizing teams and Zoom and all those tools. And it’s taken its toll, it really has, but I think that people are resilient and they’ll bounce back. And I think that again with the great crew we work with here, that it’ll be a thing of the past very soon.

[00:02:40] John Q: I just wanted to ask, were there any mentors you had as a manager and learning to be such a great manager and then any advice for the people who will follow you in this position?

[00:02:54] Mike Cowles: Probably the biggest mentor is actually my dad. On my birth certificate, it said ‘Father’s Occupation: Appraiser.’ And so I was kind of predestined to go this direction. And he was probably the biggest mentor. He passed away a couple of years ago and then also I’ve had a couple of really good trainers over the years. Some have passed, some are still around and a combination of different skill sets that have helped me throughout the years. I can’t say enough about my current management team and current staff, because I would not be able to do hid those without everyone.

[00:03:27] There’s a lot of projects still to do as far as we’d like to still continue on doing reappraisal work, finding a way to optimize staff, moving forward with a paperless system for field inspections. So hopefully the next assessor can take hold of that and fully utilized that process.

[00:03:45] The law changes every year. The laws tweak things just enough to make things a little harder. And so it’s just nice to have for me, it’s nice to know that I can leave with good staff taking care of things.

[00:03:59] And as far as for the next assessor they’ll definitely have projects to work on and definitely be able to keep busy and a lot of opportunity. That’s always a a lot of work for the county to do.

[00:04:09] John Q: And then what’s ahead for you personally.

[00:04:12] Mike Cowles: I would really like to do some traveling. I traveled a little bit out of college and overseas, but I really would like to, I have some friends in Thailand I like to go see. And then I haven’t been to Vegas for, I don’t know, 20 years if it has been on 20 years, but it’s been a very long time. I’d like to take a trip there and just to see all the changes over the years

I do ride a motorcycle. So I’d like to spend some time on some long and motorcycle rides and that’ll be really nice to just to get out there in the nice weather and also not have to worry about it, can stay out and go travel, stay at a hotel and not have to worry about coming back to work for. It’s a little bit, it’s a good feeling.

[00:04:52] John Q: The end of an era in Lane County. Voters choose a new County Assessor on Tuesday.

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