Dorey to face challenger Coumbs in assessor's race


Lewis County Assessor Dianne Dorey thinks her experience is a good reason she should be elected for another four-year term.

Centralia City Councilor Lee Coumbs thinks a fresh perspective will improve communication within the courthouse.

In an election that will end Nov. 7, voters will decide which is the more compelling argument.

Dorey, 52, a Republican from Centralia, is seeking re-election to her third full term in office. She started working in the assessor's office in 1975, as a clerk and moved up to supervising the appraisal department before she was appointed to office in March of 1998.

She ran unopposed that November, then ran unopposed again four years later. This is her first contested race.

Coumbs, 63, a Democrat from Centralia, is a former mayor and current city councilor. He's twice made unsuccessful bids for Lewis County commissioner.

Coumbs was a late entry into the race, throwing his hat into the ring during the week after filing week when the parties have a grace period to find candidates for unopposed races.

Ballots for the general election go out Oct. 18 and are due back to the auditor's office by Nov. 7.

The assessor is responsible for determining the values of all properties throughout the county. The job pays $64,167 per year.

Dorey pointed to the development of the county's GIS mapping system and to the transferring of land parcel data to computers as two of her biggest accomplishments during her tenure. In the future, she said, Dorey hopes to give appraisers the ability to bring all that information out into the field in a database.

"Increasing technology, reorganization, and creating high efficiency have helped save the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in employee costs," Dorey said.

The assessor's office is one of the largest in the county, with between 20 and 26 employees. Dorey said her office has struggled with the loss of some employees because of budget cuts, but she recently saw a position added last year and hopes to see more.

In 2003, a state auditor ordered Dorey to revalue about 1,700 properties in west Centralia after the owners received a notice that the value had changed by one dollar the previous year.

Dorey said she changed the value of the properties only as a means to alert the owners that an assessment had taken place. After the reassessment, the state found no properties had been improperly valued, she said.

"I felt it was good to let taxpayers know that their value wasn't changing," Dorey said.

"If I had to do it over again, I would," she added.

Coumbs said he hopes he can improve the communication among elected officials within the county. He said he hopes to reinvigorate the monthly brown-bag lunches, where all the elected officials gather to discuss issues.

"If you can't sit down and meet with people and discuss what your fears and concerns (are), you live in a vacuum," Coumbs said.

Coumbs said he doesn't have any practical experience as an assessor, but said he views the position as managerial. If elected, he said, he would hire a chief assessor so he could focus on managing the department.

Coumbs also said he has a long history of management as owner of the Sausage House and manager at Downey's Auto Center. He and his wife, Marty, operate Coumbs Concessions, and he's a former vocational agriculture teacher, as well as a former Southwest Washington Fair manager.

Coumbs said he has wanted to enter county government for awhile, and the position of assessor seemed like the best option.

"I was looking for a positive fit with my skills," he said.

Coumbs added that he has bipartisan support. In addition to the Democratic Party, Coumbs said he has received the endorsements of Treasurer Rose Bowman, Auditor Gary Zandell and County Commissioner Dennis Hadaller, all Republicans.

If elected, Coumbs said, he would resign from his position on the Centralia City Council.

Erik Olson covers county government and environmental affairs for The Chronicle. He may be reached at 807-8239, or by e-mail at Check out his "County Chat" blog at under Newsroom Blogs.