Vissia resigns as county DOE

Custer County is in search of a new director of equalization after Leah Vissia resigned following an executive session at the Custer County Commission’s June 20 meeting. Her final day in the role is July 5.
Vissia started as the head of the county’s equalization office Oct. 21, 2019. Since that time property valuations and subsequently property taxes have skyrocketed as Vissia’s office struggled to get the county in line with state-mandated valuations in regards to full and true value of county property sales.
Custer County Commission Jim Lintz said Vissia was under a great deal of stress, much of which was caused by some people’s vitriol toward the equalization office.
“People don’t realize...they make it a personal thing,” he said. “They attack our employees on a personal basis. They are just doing their job. It’s a tough deal.”
Lintz said the commission did not ask her to resign, and that he had always tried to back Vissia when people came to the commission to complain about the equalization office and taxes.
“She tried to follow her interpretation of state law. When she did things she tried to follow state law,” he said.
Compounding matters for the county’s equalization office is that Vissia’s top assistant in the office, Tara Haswell, recently switched from the equalization office to the sheriff’s office, which will leave only three people in the equalization office, one of which may also be leaving, Lintz said.
The office has had quite a bit of turnover over the years in terms of both department heads and office staff.
Lintz said the job is highly stressful, and feels the state does not do enough to give equalization heads guidance.
“I know how hard the job is,” he said.
The upheaval will also slow way down the ongoing county-wide assessment that has been launched, although Lintz said there were aspects of how that was being conducted that were concerning to some commissioners, as some felt the assessment was focusing less on square feet and the big picture than more “trivial” aspects of property.
The county has begun its search for Vissia’s replacement, which Lintz said won’t bring a dramatic change to how property is assessed in the county.
“They have to follow the rules,” he said. “I don’t see a big change. We might try to get them a little more guidance as commissioners, but they still have to follow state law.”
For her part, Vissia said her departure has nothing to do with the taxpayers, but declined further comment as to the root of her decision to leave the county. She said she has accepted the head of the equalization department position in Davison County.
“I wish the new person good luck. I did my best,” she said. “I gave 150 percent to this office.”

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