The Natrona County Commission chose the chief deputy county assessor to fill the vacancy left by County Assessor Connie Smith at its meeting Tuesday.

Tammy Saulsbury will serve the rest of Smith's four-year term ending early 2019.

Smith announced her retirement for health reasons earlier this month.

Saulsbury said the work of the office will continue, but will be emotionally hard.

"Everyone's working hard," she said.

"We've got our (assessment) notices coming out on Friday," Saulsbury said. "Always, Connie's in our thoughts. None of us wanted it to go down this way. We'll continue the office running just like she would have wanted it running. We'll continue to streamline and do our best work flow and continue our customer service."

Smith's announcement prompted the Natrona County Republican Party's central committee to hold a special meeting last week to select three candidates for the position. Saulsbury, assessor's office employee Shannan Robinett and county commissioner Matt Keating.

The assessor lists and values all real and taxable personal property in the county, and taxes paid on those properties affect the revenues for state and local governments, schools, and special districts.

Tuesday, the commissioners interviewed the three during a work session, asking them about goals for the office, who would they turn to for advice, how they would deal with budget issues, and whether the assessing process is fair.

Saulsbury, who's worked in the office for 12 years, said she would aggressively handle taxpayers' concerns and office procedures can always use improvement.

Robinett said she would streamline office procedures to cope with pressures from the economic downturn.

They and Keating said they would turn to County Attorney Eric Easton for help.

Keating, however, said his experience with the office has been a negative one for him and people who have objected to their assessments, which he said were out of line with fair market values. "The County Assessor's Office is broke and needs to be fixed."

After the interviews, the commissioners met in executive session, and chose Saulsbury at their regular meeting.

Commissioner Rob Hendry said it was important to keep stability in the office because the assessors office soon will be mailing out property assessments.

Commission Chairman John Lawson added that people who want to run for the position this fall will be able to file for their party's nomination beginning in May.

They and other commissioners acknowledged Keating's concerns, but the immediate need for stability in the short term was more important.

They recommended Saulsbury, Robinette and Keating file to run for their party's nomination in the primary in August.

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