Star-Telegram recommendation: Is a change needed at Tarrant tax assessor office? | Opinion

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The Republican primary race for Tarrant County tax assessor-collector is a rematch — and a grudge match.

Incumbent Wendy Burgess and challenger Rick Barnes faced off in 2018, and Burgess has held the office since. The two are relishing hitting each other in this round, with Burgess accusing Barnes of poor leadership of the county Republican Party. Barnes, a North Richland Hills insurance agent, is saying his opponent didn’t do enough to prevent problems at the Tarrant Appraisal District, where the chief appraiser was replaced in September amid technology problems and a lack of transparency that angered several officials in the governments covered by the district.

We preferred Barnes six years ago, but Burgess, 53, of Fort Worth has performed well in the job and earned a shot at another term.

The tax assessor-collector is a nonvoting member of the appraisal district’s board. It’s fair to factor in his or her effort in that role.

But it’s not the crux of the job. Service to taxpayers is, and on that front, the candidates agree: The office is functioning well. Burgess, in our interview with the candidates, cited improved wait times, technological improvements and expanded service in a growing county without adding significant new staff.

Barnes, 60, former county GOP chairman and Keller mayor pro tempore, seemed to agree that the office is functioning well and expressed little about how to improve it, focusing on the appraisal district issues. That’s not enough, though, to merit firing Burgess.

Early voting in the primary begins Feb. 20 and runs through March 1. Election Day is March 5. The winner advances to the general election to face Democrat KC Chowdhury, who is unopposed in that party’s primary. It’s a four-year term.

Wendy Burgess
Wendy Burgess

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