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The way government should work

| May 22, 2020 1:00 AM

Government and efficiency aren’t mutually exclusive.

Take the tragic case of the Kootenai County assessor’s office.

Leaving a wake of broken hearts and chagrined employees and co-workers, Assessor Rich Houser passed away May 3 after a short, terminal illness. He was only 58.

Houser embodied a great assessor, having first worked in the Kootenai County office as a real estate appraiser back in 1986. For the vast majority of the following years, Rich worked his way up to deputy assessor before being elected to the top job in 2018. When brain cancer claimed his life, Houser was astutely overseeing more than 75 employees, including those in the local Department of Motor Vehicles offices.

Assessor is a huge job, though not a politically glorious one. The Kootenai County Republican Central Committee clearly understood its role and its responsibility to the general public by recommending three capable candidates, one of whom was to be selected by the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners to fill out Houser’s term.

Any of the three could likely have done the job, and done it well. But among Bjorn Handeen, Roger Garlock and Bela Kovacs, Kovacs stood out. He’s got extensive experience not just in real estate with Windermere Coeur d’Alene Realty, but public service is in his blood. Kovacs, a longtime Coeur d’Alene resident, spent some 20 years in public administrative positions, including director of purchasing for Spokane County.

With an equally impressive academic background that includes a degree in economics with a minor in math, Kovacs is ready for the daunting task at hand.

“To be a good leader, one needs to be a good listener,” he said Wednesday, going on to list his priorities as listening to the people who work for him and learning all he can from them as quickly as possible while also immersing himself in the laws that guide his office. He’ll also manage to get more familiar not just with other county officials, but community leaders.

The Press applauds the KCRCC and Commissioners Leslie Duncan, Chris Fillios and Bill Brooks for taking a devastating situation and making the very best of it. We feel certain Rich Houser would approve.