Most Viewed Stories
Assessor marks 40 years as county employee
Wayne Zoller said Colusa County has not changed all that much in the 40 years since he signed on as an assistant surveyor for the Road Department.
Now in his sixth year as the elected assessor, Zoller said what has changed is the technology and government regulations.
"I don't know where we are going with all the bureaucracy," the 62-year-old Zoller said Monday.
Staying up on the changes to the tax and revenue codes, and regulations that have had a definite impact on farming practices — and therefore the assessed value of property — has been the biggest challenge.
But Zoller said he thinks Colusa County is luckier than most, in large part because it has escaped the rapid urban growth other areas have experienced.
"I think Colusa County is one of the more fortunate counties in the state because it has kept its agricultural base, and because of that, we have not seen the same kind of problems other counties have experienced," Zoller said.
"Agriculture is still king here."
Perhaps the one exception to that is jobs. As agriculture has become more mechanized, it supports fewer jobs than it did in the past.
Zoller grew up in Colusa.
His father sold Caterpillar tractors, while he was active in FFA and other ag programs. Through it all, he always found interest in the farming community and tracked land sales and other changes.
As a teenager, he worked a couple of summers for the Road Department, but that time does not count on his official ledger with the county.
The official clock started in November 1971, when he took the job as the assitant surveyor. It was about then he also got married.
He and his wife, Doris, have three children and four grandchildren.
Two years after joining the Road Department, he became an appraiser in the Assessor's Office.
The job then, as it largely is now, is about getting out and meeting the landowners and developing relationships throughout the county.
That goodwill has prevented a lot of problems, and Zoller thinks when disputes do arise, he believes those personal contacts help to resolve the issues.
"We still go out an review all the properties," Zoller said. "There are going to be glitches, but I think the property owners appreciate us going out and talking to them."
The single biggest change, however, was the enactment of Proposition 13, which changed how property was assessed.
Before the 1978 landmark legislation, the market value of property was set by any comparable change. So if the farm next door sold, then the tax evaluation on neighboring properties changed with it.
Now the tax assessment is largely set by the individual properties alone.
Zoller sees some similarities with the new Proposition 8 changes, as land values have tumbled in recent years.
Still, unlike many counties, where the Proposition 8 assessments are dominating the tax rolls, in Colusa County only about 1,600 of the 18,000 parcels fall under the temporary relief statute, Zoller said.
He can see an even bigger swing if farm subsidies are canceled by Congress.
In a sense, he said, that would bring property values back down to a more realistic market.
"A lot of people wonder why rice ground is $8,000 an acre," he said.
But don't ask Zoller to try to forecast the market. He won' do it.
"People ask me all the time to forecast, and I tell them I don't do that," Zoller said. "I like looking at it after the fact."
When his predecessor, E. Dan O'Connell, decided not to seek re-election in 2006, Zoller threw his hat in the ring. He is in his second term.
Zoller was recognized by the Board of Supervisors for his 40 years of service to the county in early March, but that recognition was actually delayed.
The Personnel Department had never had a 40-year employee, so it took a little while longer to get the bronze pin made for the occasion.
Zoller does not do as many appraisals as he used to, but he does handle natural gas well evaluations and still enjoys getting out and talking to the landowners when he can.
The more he understand where they are coming from, the better his office can do its job.
"I am supposed to be a mirror," said Zoller, who also credits his Christian faith for his good fortunes. "I'm supposed to reflect the county."