By Roslyn Anderson
A field of nine candidates for Hinds County Tax Assessor is whittled down to two Democratic front-runners.
Uncertified numbers give Dorothy "Dot" Benford a huge lead over Charles E. Stokes, who received the next highest number of votes.
The newly elected Hinds County Tax Assessor will oversee an estimated budget of $1.58 million and a staff of 30.
Former educator and mental health advocate Dorothy Benford, 64, received over 28% of the vote in the Democratic Primary. The Jackson resident had failed bids for a Jackson council seat in 2001 and the District 2 Congressional post in 2006.
Benford did not return our calls requesting an interview. This is the second time she's run for tax assessor.
Benford lost in 2003 against Mike Barnes, who is now retiring after 24 years in office.
The tax assessor's office is responsible for mapping and documenting every parcel of land in Hinds County and determining its value.
Barnes says his successor must be able to complete a state-mandated, four-year appraisal of all properties by July 1, 2008. If not, the county could lose one mil or $1.6 million in ad valorem taxes from the general fund.
"One of the candidates has made the statement that they intend to change the total staff of this office," Barnes said. "If that occurs, the continuation of this update that's now going on will cease."
Barnes is supporting Stokes, the second-highest vote getter with just over 12%.
Stokes, 49, is a married father of two and has been mayor of Utica for ten years. He is also a sergeant with the Hinds County Sheriff's Department.
"I don't see no reason why we can't keep the tax assessor's office running smoothly and doing the same things that Mike has done for all these years," Stokes said Wednesday. "The only thing we want to do is come in and hit the ground running and continue that good leadership he had over there."
Benford and Stokes have three weeks to convince voters they should run the department that factors the fair market value of their homes and businesses.
The starting salary for the Hinds County Tax Assessor is $78,500. The office is under the authority of the Hinds County Board of Supervisors.
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