published Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Two challenge property assessor

For the first time in three election cycles, Hamilton County Property Assessor Bill Bennett will have opposition.

Bennett, a Republican who's served in county government since 1980, has been property assessor since 1994. Before that, he spent 14 years as a county commissioner.

Bennett, whose last contested race was in 2000, is being challenged next year by Democrat Jelena Butler and Independent Conrad Taylor. The assessor's office will be tasked with reappraising properties in 2013 as part of a four-year cycle.

"I'm basing my campaign on my experience," Bennett said.

The state named Bennett Assessor of the Year in 1996, and he served as president of the Tennessee Assessors Association from 1999 to 2000.

Butler works for KW Commercial as a director in the commercial division.

"It seems to me that a property assessor should have a real estate background, which I do," she said.

Born in Serbia, Butler has lived in a number of cities and countries, settling in Chattanooga in 1997. Butler has a degree in business management from UTC and one in fashion design from a university in Switzerland.

She said the reappraisal should create more value in land, not just improvements.

"It's a great time for a woman in Chattanooga," she said.

Taylor, also a political newcomer, said he wants to challenge Bennett after discovering Bennett had been unopposed in the last two election cycles.

"Mr. Bennett had not had an opponent in quite some time, which I think is a travesty, that you'd have a candidate without an opponent," he said.

Taylor works as a technical specialist for the molecular diagnostics company Cepheid and lives in East Brainerd.

He's worked in health care for 18 years.

"Some of that has been in management, so I've got management experience," he said.

Taylor said he's chosen to run as an independent because he thinks the assessor's role should be nonpartisan.

"I grew up in a family where I had one parent who was staunchly Democrat and another who was staunchly Republican, so I have chosen to be independent," Taylor said.

about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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