Darlene Johnson’s duties as chief deputy clerk go beyond elections, however, and she feels her previous experience prepared her well for the assessment side of the job.
Johnson is former assessor for Klickitat County and previously worked for three years as an appraiser for Hood River County before being hired in December to succeed Kim Kean as chief deputy. Kean retired in December after 30 years in the post.
Johnson served for four years as Klickitat County assessor — an elected position in Washington.
“The elections side is new to me,” she said. “I just got back from Oregon Association of County Clerks conference in Salem in early February. It was very interesting because elections have been declared critical infrastructure by the federal government, of the same importance as dams and electrical,” she said.
Infrastructure refers to “the whole process — how we mail out, collect, and store the ballots, and how we secure them once we do get them in the office. It’s the building and the whole collection process.
“It happened after the interference in 2016,” Johnson said. “The federal government decided to make election offices critical infrastructure because of interference from the Russians.”
Homeland Security will be making a physical visit to the county building to review how things are done in Hood River County.
“It’s a unique office because the assessment and clerk are together,” Johnson said, “and I’m very familiar with the assessment side. I did a lot of the duties such as segregations and removals,” she said. Removals refer to the special tax assessment programs affecting forest and Exclusive Farm Use (EFU) areas. Depending on actual use of forest and EFU parcels, a different tax rate applies. Her task is to calculate the removals — “a fairly complicated process” and to monitor the uses and work with owners on compliance.
“Kim (Kean) is going to come back and show me exactly, because while I’ve taken the courses and I’m familiar with the processes, I want to make sure we’re doing it accurately here.”
Segregation refers to dividing parcels into separate uses, which creates new and variable tax calculations.