ST. FRANCISVILLE — West Feliciana Parish voters will have a choice between two candidates for parish assessor in the Oct. 22 primary election: incumbent Randy Ritchie and challenger Hamilton Willis.
Early voting continues through Saturday at the West Feliciana Registrar of Voters Office, 5932 Commerce St., St. Francisville.
The assessor establishes values for certain types of property in the parish, from which property taxes are calculated. West Feliciana Parish’s largest taxpayer is the River Bend nuclear power plant, but the Louisiana Tax Commission sets its assessed value.
Ritchie, 60, is serving his second term in the office and has worked in the assessor’s office since 2000. The new term for assessors begins Jan. 1, 2013.
Willis, 53, is the owner and operator of Tanglewild Plantation and Woodhaven Development, a proposed residential development north of St. Francisville. He previously was owner of Finewoods Lumber Co. and worked with a Baton Rouge nonprofit organization that supports a hospital in Cameroon, West Africa.
Ritchie touts the technological advances his office has made since he became assessor, including a web-based program to access parcel maps through a cooperative endeavor with the Police Jury, parish Communications District and Assessor’s Office.
The Assessor’s Office has an agreement with the Clerk of Court’s Office for electronic access to public conveyance records and Ritchie said he has installed public computer terminals for taxpayers, abstractors, appraisers and others to use in accessing records, Ritchie said.
Willis said he is running because he believes the parish is not prepared to meet near-future challenges.
Willis said Ritchie has adjusted assessments on homeowners and landowners to have tax revenues keep pace with the loss of revenues caused by River Bend’s depreciation.
He said the parish has an opportunity, with the oil and gas industry on West Feliciana’s horizon, to have help in shouldering the tax burden “if we can find a base in the oil fields under us.”
Ritchie is a Democrat and Willis is running without a party affiliation.