Retired Navy officer named assessor

Douglas “Bernie” Upchurch is the new Island County assessor and will serve at least until the end of the year.

Douglas “Bernie” Up-church is the new Island County assessor and will serve at least until the end of the year.

The Island County commissioners appointed the Oak Harbor resident to the position Tuesday night after interviewing three candidates and discussing their qualifications in executive session for just 10 minutes.

Mary Engle, a Republican, resigned as assessor earlier this year to become planning director for the county. Following state law, the Island County Republican Central Committee presented the commissioners with three candidates to choose from.

In addition to Upchurch, the two other candidates were South Whidbey School Board member Damian Greene and Dennis Roland, a Camano Island resident and manager in a large food services company.

Upchurch was the only candidate who has experience in the assessor’s office, having worked there after retiring from a 29-year career as a senior officer in the Navy. He confirmed that he will run for the assessor position in the general election.

Upchurch said Engle’s office embodied its mission of fairness to all taxpayers and operating in an open and transparent environment.

“I think I have the skills to continue that effort and lead the office forward,” he said.

Upchurch said all assessors in the state do business the same way, as described in state law and work with the state Department of Revenue for guidance.

“I could hit the deck running tomorrow,” he said.

“I believe in the mission. I believe in the job,” he added.

Greene emphasized his decades of experience as an insurance agent, which he said included work in assessing property, as well as his experience as a school board member.

Greene said he’s worked closely in developing the district’s budget and considers himself “a good numbers guy.”

Greene said he wouldn’t have trouble getting up to speed with the work the office does.

“I am a fast learner as well as a lifelong learner,” he said.

Contrary to Upchurch, Greene said there are issues he would like to look into to see if things can be done differently, like the “mass appraisal system” that the office uses and the way hotels are assessed compared to Airbnbs and bed and breakfasts.

Roland emphasized his experience in leadership, his commitment to customer service and his work ethic.

Roland said he read a lot about the responsibilities of the assessor and is willing to take classes on the internet.

“I want to contribute as much as I can to the community,” Roland said.

Upchurch started work Thursday.