The Natrona County Republican Party selected three candidates to replace retiring Assessor Connie Smith during a meeting of its central committee on Wednesday.

They are County Commissioner Matt Keating, Chief Deputy Assessor Tammy Saulsbury and Assessor Office employee Shannan Robinett.

The central committee is required by law to field three candidates to fill a vacancy in a county elective office, and Keating, Saulsbury and Robinett were the only applicants.

Republican Party Chairman will forward those names to the Natrona County Commission.

Commissioner Rob Hendry said after the half-hour meeting that commissioners will interview the three at their work session at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

"We'll do interviews and we'll have some questions prepared for each one of them, and that's the way we've done it before," Hendry said. "Depending on that interview, we'll pick a candidate."

They will chose the finalist at their regular meeting at 5:30 p.m.

Smith recently submitted her letter of retirement, effective March 31. She was appointed to the position after the resignation of former Assessor Susan DeWitt in 2013. Smith won re-election in 2014, and would have been up for re-election this fall.
The assessor's primary responsibility consists of discovering, listing, and valuing all real and taxable personal property including commercial real property, personal property and residential property, according to the department's website. The taxes paid on that valuation affects the revenues, budgets for the state and local governments, schools and special districts.

The Assessor's salary is $90,000 a year, Natrona County Clerk Renea Vitto said last week.

During the meeting at the Ramkota Hotel, the candidates introduced themselves and were asked about their qualifications, why they want the job, and what issues they would address if appointed.

Besides being a county commissioner, Keating said he was a firefighter for 25 years and has worked in the oil patch for seven years.

He criticized what he said are inconsistencies in how properties are assessed, such as a county resident who bought 100 acres for $29,000, had the property appraised at $31,000, but it was assessed at $730,780.

Keating would bring a private sector ethic to the office and use market information from the Multiple Listing Service to assess properties. When fair market values increase, so will assessments, he said.

Robinett said she has learned a lot from Smith since she joined the Assessor's Office in 2008, and is accredited with the International Society of Appraisers.

She would give the office a better public presence so people know what the Assessor does, and would work to better explain why and how people's properties are valued.

Saulsbury said she's worked in the office for 12 years and has been Chief Deputy Assessor for four years. Like Robinett, she is accredited with the International Society of Appraisers, she said.

Saulsbury also would foster better communication with the public, she said.