Dianne Dorey to Retire After Serving in Lewis County Assessor's Office Since 1975

Dorey Was First Elected Assessor in 1998


In her time working for the Lewis County Assessor’s Office, Assessor Dianne Dorey, 68, has seen the dawn of the digital age, the rise of the internet, the collapse of the housing market and the recent, unprecedented growth in housing values.

Dorey, who was elected as the Lewis County assessor in 1998, has decided not to run for reelection this year and instead embark on a rewarding time of retirement.

She began working in the Lewis County Assessor's Office in 1975 after being the office manager of the Chehalis bureau of The Chronicle in the early ‘70s.

Dorey recently reflected on times of revolutionary change that have affected how the assessor’s office — and the world for that matter — does business.

“In 1975, we didn't have a computer system, so everything was done manually — hand-done tax roles, hand-done assessment roles,” Dorey told The Chronicle. “We had these huge calculators … that sat on our desks and you'd put in a number and it’d go, ‘blub, blub, blub, blub’ for a little bit. And then you'd put in another number — ‘blub, blub, blub, blub, blub’ — and at the end you would get a number.”

In 1979, Dorey assisted with the installation of the county’s first computer system, which the assessor’s office and the sheriff's office shared.

She said while computers didn’t necessarily make her work any easier, they certainly made it more streamlined.

“They've done a lot of the number-crunching that used to be done by hand, which is a huge deal,” she said. “I mean, it took us literally months to do the assessment roll and the tax role and come up with taxes so that the treasurer could send out bills.”

She said those early machines did only basic functions and were hampered by a lack of memory, but they made it possible for a reduction in staff from 36 to 26 by the time Dorey won her election in 1998.

Even with the reduction in staff, the computers paved the way for Lewis County to be able to handle an increase in the number of parcels it governs from about 49,000 to today’s 70,000.

“(Computers) changed our entire business model and how we did business,” Dorey said. “It was a long time coming.”

But then, in the late 90s, the rise of the internet changed things even further.

Dorey said she was the driving force behind the assessor’s office moving all its data online, something that was novel at first but quickly became essential.

“And that was the second evolution of change,” she said. “I mean, big change. So we used to have 20 to 50 people a day in our office at certain times of the year looking up information. And once it was out on the internet, now they can do it from anywhere they want anytime.”

Going live for customer use in 1999, the internet provided a major culture shift in how Dorey’s office did business.

She said the office used to be packed all day with business people going about their daily tasks, for which there were three customer service representatives.

“Attorneys would come into our office and look things up and then they'd go to the auditor's office and file or record things, or they (would) go to the treasurer's office. And so they just made the circuit every day or once a week, (or) whatever their business necessities were,” Dorey said. “So it was a little bit rough for them in the beginning because it was kind of a social thing — nine o'clock they'd be at the courthouse.”

With the internet’s usability, the assessor’s office now staffs only one customer service representative for about 10 to 20 customers in the office per day.

Since 1998, the office has seen a reduction in employees from 26 to 16. Technically, there are 18 positions, Dorey said, but two are currently vacant.

For most of her career, Dorey has worked normal office hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but in recent years, her workload has increased substantially.

“This last five years, it's been 14-hour days, seven days a week. See all this stuff sitting around?” Dorey said while gesturing to piles upon piles of paperwork sitting in neat piles all around her office. “I mean, we have been inundated this last 18 months. We used to get between three and five (parcel separations) a week. Now we get between three and five a day. We used to get 10 to 15 money sales a day. Now it's like 35 is our average.”

And the processing of new Lewis County parcels a year has increased almost ten-fold.

All that is because people are moving to Lewis County in droves, Dorey said, though all that could change overnight, as it did just about a decade ago.

“It might all end,” Dorey said. “The weirdest thing (happened) in 2009. I'll never forget the day — (on) March 13, 2009, the sales in Lewis County stopped. … We went from like 25 sales a day down to eight and it just kept that way. And it was literally overnight. And that was a crash in the housing market.

“But we hit a wall just that fast. It could happen again,” Dorey said. “I don't see it happening that way again because we have too many jobs here right now, and too many people that want to move here, but nowhere to live.”

Since the housing crash, however, Dorey said she’s seen housing values skyrocket, especially in recent years.

“I can't believe how many million-dollar residential home sales I've seen,” Dorey said. “I didn't think I would ever see that many.”

She said there were always one or two $1 million sales here and there, but since 2018, they have increased exponentially to the point that there have been about 200 in the last 12 months.

Ultimately, Dorey said she decided to retire because she’s had three friends about her age die recently, before they got to enjoy retirement. She said she wants to experience life past the 9-to-5 — to travel and spend time with family.

“I have my grandson, who's 6, who's anxious to have his grandma pick him up from kindergarten,” Dorey said.

She said the “best part of life is your friends and your family and the rest of it just doesn't matter.”

Yet Dorey said she’s proud of the work she’s done, and wouldn’t change the people she’s met, the things she’s learned and the time she’s devoted to the county for anything.

“I've served the county well for 47 years and it's time for somebody else to sit behind this desk and make the decisions and do the work,” she said.