Candidates running for San Luis Obispo County assessor faced off Wednesday night, with longtime incumbent Tom Bordonaro Jr. responding to questions from challenger David Boyer about his leadership abilities and work ethic.
The two candidates participated in a forum put on by the Latino Outreach Council in San Luis Obispo ahead of the county's June 5 primary election.
Boyer, who's worked as a deputy assessor for the past five years, said his boss has a habit of rarely coming into the office, leaving taxpayers in need of a new leader.
Bordonaro has served as assessor for the past 16 years, since he beat out Dick Frank, a 25-year incumbent, in 2002. He's run unopposed in every election until 2018.
"It troubled me that an elected official would run for re-election without ever showing up," Boyer said during his opening statement.
Boyer calls for new leadership
Boyer said he never intended to run for public office, but felt compelled to enter the race after witnessing Bordonaro's leadership issues.
He claims the office has not completed its workload on time for years, and assessment appeals and building permit updates tend to drag on.
"I thank Tom for his 16 years, but it is time for new leadership," Boyer said.
Bordonaro says he's not a micromanager
Bordonaro didn't refute Boyer's claims, but he said he's not a micromanager and "in this day and age, a lot of things can be done outside the office."
"Actually being in the office and behind the desk is not something that needs to be done," he said.
Bordonaro said his office has worked proactively to reassess properties, especially during the Great Recession.
The low number of assessment appeals taxpayers have filed is a testament to his leadership and his staff's work, he said: "I'm a results-oriented person."
Housing and Proposition 13
Both candidates said they support Proposition 13, which capped property tax rates at one percent of a home's value at the time of purchase.
Even so, they acknowledged the need for lower housing costs.
Boyer said he'd like to see the homeowner's tax exemption increased and fees on newly-constructed homes reduced.
"Growth is inevitable," Bordonaro said. "You're either going to have to grow up or grow out."
New leadership versus consistency
Ultimately, Bordonaro said he loves his job and he'd like to stay in office "as long as I can." He claimed strong interpersonal relationships and communication skills as his strengths.
"I will make sure that your assessments are accurate and fair," Bordonaro said.
Boyer said it's important for a leader to have the humility to know when it's time to step down.
He said he wants to speed up tax assessments, reduce management positions and be the kind of assessor taxpayers interact with at the office counter.
"I hope voters will not overlook this race," Boyer said.