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A Message from the President

Susan C. Otis, IAO
President, New York State Assessors' Association
2001 - 2002


Past President Pask, fellow assessors and guests; you have honored me by electing me to this most challenging office and I thank you. As the 57th president of our organization, I promise to work hard for you every day throughout the coming year.

Fred, you have set high standards for this organization and this office. Thank you for the strong foundation on which to continue to build our future. Your commitment and dedication have shaped our destinies and I intend to do the same.

I do not come into this office pretending to reinvent it or the organization itself. We have a rich history and a strong sense of dignity and we need to keep those qualities squarely before us. Last year during our 60th anniversary celebration, there was a replica of the very first Bulletin published in February 1940. The article outlined the objectives of the newly formed NYSAA:
  • To provide a clearinghouse for the collection and distribution of information relating to the assessment of real property
  • To educate the public on the nature and importance of the work performed by the assessor's office
  • To engage in research and improve the assessment technique and practice
  • To sponsor legislative proposals relating to assessing and taxation
  • To cooperate with other agencies interested in the improvement of tax administration
  • And to promote equity in the distribution of the real estate tax burden
I believe we have accomplished all of these things. Through our Bulletin, county liaisons and committee chairs, we are constantly distributing information regarding real property assessment issues. We all work hand in hand daily to educate the taxpayer, and we work side by side with the Office of Real Property in an effort to improve real property tax administration.

I do believe that it is time to re-evaluate ourselves and amend our goals, and I do believe that we should be looking close to home. How are we nurturing our membership? How are we caring for our profession? Where is the next generation of assessors going to come from? If you look around the room, I am sorry to say, we are not getting any younger.

I don't place these challenges at your feet awaiting solutions. The groundwork has been laid. Last year, I asked, then incoming President Pask to create and allow me to chair a Mentoring Program Committee. The key objectives were to design a program that would assist assessor member-ship and their staff, to help recruit new leadership for our association and to mentor new incoming Board Members. During the past 12 months, this committee has created a 3 phase mentoring program that will be implemented for the first time during my tenure as president. This program is designed for you - the membership. In particular, in this reappointment year, we are focusing on the new faces that will be appearing. Each of the 3 phases of the mentoring program are designed to fortify our already strong organization and to ensure it's future. Most of the individuals in our profession inherited their roles in one way or another. I know I've never heard any second grader raise his hand in class to announce that he wanted to be an assessor when he grew up. And there are no colleges that offer degrees pertaining to our profession.

In the past year every county president has been asked to supply names of volunteers to act as mentors within their counties. This is not a new concept. Most of us had someone early in our careers that we turned to for advice. For me, it was people like Emily Martin, Cole Westcott, and Shirley Royak. And certainly, we have all returned the favor many times over. With 2001, being a reappointment year, we will undoubtedly have a fresh crop of new assessment officials. This year, we will be able to provide them with information packets and an assessor in their county formally appointed to assist, guide and mentor them in many areas including planning a logical sequence of course study.

With the use of our website, a list of assessors with experience in valuing unique property will be available to all of us with special assessment problems. Assessment staff will be encouraged to participate. They may be our next generation. Mentoring staff members will create that new pool of assessors.

It is our responsibility as members to seek out and elect the best qualified people to represent us on the Executive Board. Regional representatives will be recruiting interested assessors to participate in the prospective board member program. These volunteers will mentor with a sitting board member for a year, observing the duties and activities of the Executive Board. The intention is to encourage membership, to take an active part in the administration and policy making of our organization, and to attract board candidates in all regions so that everyone is equally represented.

It is crucial to the strength of our organization that all Executive Board members are well-rounded, knowledgeable and understanding of their role in representing the entire membership. An incoming board member should have guidance in their first year in the areas of policy, procedure, committee work and reporting, as well as the many other areas entailed. This year each new member will be mentored by a sitting board member to assist them with the multitude of questions they will have.

I am asking for your help. Please participate. Please offer your services and support this program. Please help nurture our profession and our association. With the pace of change affecting the Real Property Tax System, we need to be strong, we need to be united and we need to help each other.

I am fortunate enough to have my father here supporting me tonight. When I was growing up, I remember him saying, "You need to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps". He used those words to convey the ability to do it on your own. How appropriate to this professional organization, for that is how most of us got here - learning in the trenches and on our own. We are here, 'by our own bootstraps'. That, in fact, is what we are all about. Let's take the opportunity this year to protect that, care about our membership and the New York State Assessors' Association.

I care very much about our profession and our Association so in closing, I'd like to paraphrase Thomas Dolan, President and CEO of the American College of Health Care Professionals. He said, "The future of our field is in your hands. With your help we can ensure that we will have a lasting impact on tomorrow's members and our future leaders."

Thank you so much for the opportunity.