Listen. Educate.

Libby Neely, who has been chief appraiser for the Gregg Appraisal District since 2017, reflected on those key steps when it comes to working with the public in what can be a challenging job — setting property values that are then used to help determine tax bills for people’s homes and businesses.

“It most certainly is (challenging), but it is very interesting,” said Neely, who has worked for the Gregg County Appraisal District for 20 years. Before that, Neely, who has a degree in language learning disorders, also worked for two other appraisal district offices in Wichita Falls and Harrison County for a total of 40 years.

Neely will retire at the end of October. Mark Cormier, assistant chief appraiser, will begin filling Neely’s role on an interim basis starting Nov. 1. He has worked for the appraisal district for 20 years.

Neely said her husband retired a couple of years ago, and the time is right for her to stop working so they can enjoy retirement together. They love camping and nature, and they plan to travel.

“We have a whole bucket list,” she said.

As a “numbers person,” she’s enjoyed working in appraisal district offices, she said.

“And there are a lot of numbers to work with here,” Neely said.

It’s important for people working in an appraisal office to educate the public on the tax process and how state laws control that, she said.

“Unfortunately, our part is the money part,” Neely said, and it’s important for staff in her office “to always educate the public on why we do what we do and how we do it.”

“They’re interested to know how do we determine what their (property) value is ...” she said, describing the values she’s tried to teach her employees about working with the public. “There’s a couple of things you can learn about how to make it work out where the person you’re talking with — they may not be happy but they understand why. They understand why we’re doing what we do.”

People her office deals with are often angry, or have “high stakes emotions because it’s their pocketbook,” Neely said.

“You’ve got to listen to what they have to say,” Neely said.

The appraisal district’s board of directors will begin the process of searching for Neely’s permanent replacement.

“I’ve been proud to serve the property owners of Gregg County,” Neely said, and she said she’s built a good working relationship with the people who work at the various taxing entities her office works with — county and city governments and school districts.

“I feel like the district is in capable hands,” Neely said.

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