The office of San Mateo County chief elections officer and assessor-county clerk-recorder is a highly technical one with many moving parts. It’s most noticeable component is that of elections. While elections are not an everyday occurrence, they take up a lot of time and require essential management skill leading up to election night and following through until all the ballots are counted.
Its other most notable component, assessor, is key for those who own property and must pay taxes on it. Determining the tax rate is both complicated and important — and it has been put through significant work with the fair and equitable lowering of assessed values after the economic downturn and subsequent recovery.
The county clerk and recorder aspects of the job have less visible aspects but are also important in keeping official records of the county’s residents.
In his time in these offices, incumbent Mark Church has managed the changes with finesse while also engaging in a reorganization of the department to best meet the needs of the new era. In the Elections Office, there was a situation in which some provisional ballots were lost temporarily. While it did not affect the result of the election, Church conducted a thorough review to ensure that a similar “human error” did not take place again by reinforcing the protocol required to ensure all ballots are tabulated promptly and correctly. The Elections Office also had some questions about its ability to verify the qualifications for candidates of certain offices, most notably the county controller, Church has changed the policy to require candidates submit documentation to verify their qualifications. While there are some concerns about the length of time needed to count ballots on election night, it is better to be right than quick yet Church believes the issue could be ameliorated through more all-mail ballots.
His challenger, John Mooney, believes more could be done to clean up voter rolls though Church emphasized those rolls are cleaned up regularly.
With the assessment process, there were substantial appeals regarding a property’s value and its tax liability in the past several years and the office met that obligation head on through the creation of an appeals team and an improved process to meet the growing decline in values of properties in the county. The office has made significant headway in providing for a new system for property assessments and is in the midst of developing requirements for the new system. Church is also leading the charge for the preservation of the county’s historical documents which will maintain documents, some of which have been stored since the county’s founding more than 150 years ago.
Church is a steadfast and matter-of-fact leader for these offices and is embarking on new challenges to ensure the county’s elections, assessments and records-keeping stays with the times while achieving new efficiencies. Though he has been in office less than four years, he took to the job quickly and is embarking on new projects at a rapid pace while facing everyday challenges head-on. Church definitely deserves another four years in office.