CEDAR RAPIDS — Most children grow up with dreams of exciting professions like astronaut or racecar driver, not necessarily becoming an assessor, Julie Kester admits.
“Everybody kind of accidentally gets into this profession,” said Kester, who has been Linn County’s assessor for nearly 10 years.
Now, after more than three decades in the county Assessor’s Office, Kester is retiring to focus on her personal life — including 10 grandchildren. Her final day was Friday, her 56th birthday.
“I love my job. It’s just time,” Kester said. “For 35 years, I’ve dedicated my life to my job. I want to dedicate more time to my family.”
Coming from a private appraisal firm, Kester found a job as a clerk in the assessor’s office and worked her way up the career ladder. She was appointed the county assessor in 2009.
“I’ve held about every position in this office since I came here in 1982,” she said.
Kester said there have been many changes in the department over the years — several of them involving transitions to new technologies.
“When I started, we had one computer in our office,” she said. “It was our mainframe so everything was done by hand.”
At that time, property assessments were done by hand, using maps and file cabinets full of pull cards, she recalled.
Today, office employees use aerial photos and GIS maps to quickly pull property information and perform on-site assessments using computer tablets.
The office’s workers determine a property’s value. They don’t set your tax rate — that’s up to county supervisors. Cedar Rapids has its own city assessor for properties inside the city limits.
On Monday, former Tama County Assessor Jerry Witt will take over as Linn County’s new assessor, fulfilling the remainder of Kester’s term, up to 2021.
The assessor is appointed to a six-year term by a three-member exam board within a conference board made up of representatives from the main local taxing entities — the county, city mayors and jurisdiction leaders and representatives from each local school board.
The county assessor, paid about $110,000 a year, has a separate budget from the county.
Kester said she knows she is leaving the department in good hands.
“It’s very scary to retire,” she said. “But I feel Jerry will come in and do a good job and continue to make improvements to the office. I have a great staff.”
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