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Gregg appraisal districts names two finalists for chief

By Glenn Evans
Feb. 14, 2017 at 10:51 p.m.

Libby Neely

Gregg County Appraisal District trustees narrowed their search for a chief appraiser to two candidates Tuesday, one from a family of Texas property appraisers and the other second-in-command at the office in Longview.

Chief Appraiser Tom Hays announced in September that he will retire May 1. The chief appraiser hires the staff that sets property values on which land and other holdings are taxed.

The chief appraiser, and the district's lawyer, are the only positions at the appraisal district that is hired by the board.

"We've got two folks we're going to interview," said Jim Cerrato, leader of the board subcommittee that culled the finalists from five applicants.

The finalists are Deputy Chief Appraiser Mary "Libby" Neely and Cass County Chief Appraiser Jordan Klein.

Cerrato said Tuesday that no times have been set for the finalists' interviews with the whole board, but he added that trustees are intent on naming Hays' successor in time for some overlap.

"Our timeline is still to have a decision by the 15th of March," Cerrato said.

Neely's role at the Gregg County Appraisal District is second to Hays. She has worked in the district for 20 years, arriving in 1996 from the Harrison County Appraisal District, where she worked the previous three years.

She entered the real estate appraisal business in her hometown of Wichita Falls in 1983, serving there for 10 years.

Here, Neely has led automation of the commercial valuation process and developed daily work calendars for each department.

"Libby was given the duties of the appraisal director, to oversee the daily work of all the appraisal departments and their functions," Hays wrote on her behalf. "She continued to work well and performed all the necessary work and help in the decisions of assisting the chief appraiser."

Letters of recommendation included in Neely's application are from Gregg County Chief Deputy Tax Assessor/Collector Michelle Terry, the tax assessor/collectors from Pine Tree and Gladewater ISDs, and Amanda Nobles, director of the Kilgore Economic Development Corp.

Klein has been chief appraiser in Cass County since April 2015.

His career began in 2010 at Fort Bend Central Appraisal District, in clerical and customer service roles. He joined the Galveston Central Appraisal District later that year, rising to director of residential appraisal by the time he left for the job he holds in Linden.

Klein also is something of an appraisal legacy.

Several members of his family, including both parents, work or have worked in the appraisal district industry. Two uncles are chief appraisers in Texas, and his grandmother was chief appraiser for two counties.

"(T)his profession literally runs in my blood," Klein wrote in his resume cover letter. "As you can see, this will allow me to come in and hit the ground running as I will require no training."

His references include two chief appraisers, who are unrelated to him, and a partner at the statewide property tax firm, McCreary Veselka Bragg & Allen.

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