Election 2022: The race for Santa Clara County assessor
Santa Clara County Government Center located at 70 W. Hedding Street in San Jose. Photo by Newsha Naderzad.

Santa Clara County’s longtime assessor is squaring off with a younger opponent who wants to shake up the office.

Incumbent Larry Stone has been assessor of Santa Clara County for 27 years and he is seeking a seventh term to take him into his third decade in office. The assessor’s office determines the value of property in Santa Clara County and shares property tax information with the public. The office doesn’t have term limits.

Stone’s only opponent in the race is Andrew Crockett, a certified public accountant and a former employee in Stone’s office for a brief period..

Gary Kremen, a prominent tech entrepreneur and the chair of the Valley Water board of directors, was widely considered Stone’s top competition in the election. Kremen, who founded Match.com, raised $241,273 for his campaign by January of this year. Kremen dropped out of the race in February after San Jose Spotlight reported about a former campaign aide who accused him of sharing partially nude photos in a campaign Dropbox. Kremen has denied any wrongdoing.

Kremen and Crockett have criticized Stone for being technologically behind the times. Stone’s own employees successfully petitioned the county in 2020 to let them work from home due to fears about COVID-19, with Stone saying the issue was driven by politics not concern for health. After the county ordered workers back to in-person attendance last summer, the assessor’s office saw outbreaks of COVID-19 infections.

Here are the two candidates in alphabetical order.

Andrew Crockett. Photo courtesy of candidate.

Andrew Crockett

Accountant and appraiser Andrew Crockett wants to make the assessor’s office more transparent and helpful to county residents.

Crockett, 36, entered the race last July, motivated in part by concerns with the region’s housing crisis. He graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a double major in politics and philosophy. After briefly working as a gardener, Crockett became a certified public accountant. He worked for the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters where he trained election officers for the 2010 primary and midterm election. He also worked for several years in the assessor’s office, starting in the mailroom and later becoming certified as an appraiser. He currently works as a financial analyst at Valley Medical Center.

Crockett, a registered Democratic candidate, wants to bring a paradigm shift to the public service function of the assessor’s office. He noted the office produces an enormous quantity of data to perform assessments, and he believes it should be made freely available to other agencies and nonprofit organizations. Crockett said he plans to modernize the assessor’s obsolete database, which hasn’t been upgraded in 30 years, and strengthen partnerships with other municipalities in Santa Clara County.

“Honestly, we need to bring as much sunlight and transparency into this office as possible,” Crockett told San José Spotlight. “This is an agency that has incredible amounts of useful information it’s kept in the dark, and I want to bring that to light and to service in every way we can manage.”

Crockett, who is passionate about mitigating climate change, says he will make the office carbon neutral. He also plans to ask the county Board of Supervisors for an enhanced budget for outreach to residents to explain the agency’s services and make materials available in more languages. He believes the agency can improve its customer service by creating virtual meetings where people can talk to experts about property assessment-related issues, such as learning about the property tax obligations of buying a house.

The candidate says he has the technical experience to run the assessor’s office. Crockett claims that unlike the incumbent, he believes in a managerial style that emphasizes interfacing frequently with employees.

Crockett has been endorsed by the Santa Clara County Management Employees Association and Peter Fiekowsky, the founder of the Foundation for Climate Restoration. As of January, he has raised $18,665.55.

“I believe the purpose of government is to serve us,” Crockett said. “If you believe that too, I look forward to your vote.”

Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone stands outside his office in San Jose in this file photo.

Larry Stone

With nearly three decades of experience under his belt, incumbent Larry Stone believes his record as assessor speaks for itself.

Stone, 81, was elected as assessor in 1995 and has been reelected to the position six times. Prior to working as assessor, Stone served as mayor and a councilmember for Sunnyvale for nearly 17 years. He previously ran his own brokerage firm, which morphed into a real estate investment company, until his partners bought him out in 1990.

Stone says he’s managed the assessor’s office with maximum efficiency, even as the assessment roll—the value of all real estate and business property in the county—has increased and his staff size has stayed the same.  According to Stone, the county’s assessment roll has increased 402% since he was first elected in 1995, growing from $150 billion a year to $575 billion in 2021. During that same period, the assessor’s office has only grown by seven employees. Stone says he’s returned $23.2 million of unspent money in his budget to the county general fund, and only overspent his budget one year—2002.

“The largest single asset most people own is their homes. If they believe they’re not being properly assessed or there’s funny business going on, it comes unraveled very quickly,” Stone told San José Spotlight. “So experience and integrity are essential to the job.”

Stone says the state board of equalization’s most recent audit reported Santa Clara County’s appraisals were 99.48% accurate. He noted every interaction between assessor workers and residents is an opportunity for feedback, and the most recent internal customer service satisfaction survey found 89.6% of people had positive experiences with the office.

Stone said he wants to set up a new computer system for the assessor’s office, and there’s a contract in place to create a more modern one within a year or two.

Stone has been endorsed by the Mercury News, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, former state Sen. Becky Morgan, and other current and former elected officials. As of January, Stone has raised $330,025.

“This is not a job for somebody who wants to climb the political ladders—that’s why I’ve been here for 27 years,” Stone said, adding he’s had opportunities to run for other elected positions. “I never wanted to do anything else.”

Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter.

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