Next January, longtime county appraiser Jim Williams will be moving to a new desk: his boss’s.

    Williams defeated Sun Valley Appraisal’s Kyle Kunz in the Democratic primary for the open county assessor seat with 54 percent of the vote on Tuesday, clearing the path for him to lead the office he’s worked in for the past 18 years.

    With no other challengers from other parties, short of a write-in upset Williams is the presumptive heir to current Assessor Valdi Pace, who is retiring after 20 years in her post.

    On Wednesday morning, Williams entered the County Annex Building to a congratulatory handshake from Pace. He offered her a thank-you hug in return.

    “She’s taught me a ton over the years,” Williams said. “When I started, I didn’t know anything about appraisal. She taught me how to do it, and how to do it with consistency and accuracy. She taught me to care about everybody—everybody that comes through the door.

    “If they’re coming to us, they have a need. It’s our job to match that need with the level of service we provide.”

    Williams claimed 1,307 votes to Kunz’s 1,110 in the closest race of the open primary.

    During the campaign, he visited almost as many houses as there were votes cast: Along with his wife, Williams estimated he’d knocked on 1,800 doors and went through 96 tubs of Trader Joe’s cookies to get the message out.

    “My wife and my daughters—they’ve sacrificed so much to do this in the past two months,” he said. “We basically lived off pizza and Mexican take-out because we were never home long enough to cook. I couldn’t have done all this without them.”    

    In a message to the Mountain Express on Wednesday morning, Kunz congratulated him on the win.

    “I’d like to thank all our supporters, and wish Mr. Williams good luck in his new position,” Kunz said.

    Kunz will continue to work as a certified general appraiser for the Sun Valley Appraisal Co., which he founded in 1996.

    Barring a November shock, Williams will have seven months to transition to his new post with his old employer.

    “Valdi’s still the boss, and she takes that responsibility seriously,” he said. “The more I can learn from her, the more I can understand, the better off we’ll all be come January.”

    Pace endorsed Williams in a May 2 letter published by the Mountain Express, citing, among other reasons, the smooth transition he’d bring to the office.

“Jim will seamlessly fill the role of Blaine County assessor without a multi-year learning curve,” she wrote. “He has the experience necessary to fill this position.”

In addition to valuing properties, the assessor is responsible for handling records, maintaining mapping procedures, and administering property-tax exemptions and tax-relief programs. In Blaine County, the assessor also manages the Department of Motor Vehicles.    

While Williams looks to continue Pace’s legacy, on the campaign trail he also spoke of modernizing the office. Among the ideas: Electronic assessment notices, public training seminars in the county’s digital GIS and mapping tools, and lobbying county commissioners to reinstate a five-day work week.

    With his main challenger in the rearview, Williams has time to figure that part out. For now, though, Williams said he’s too busy taking it all in.  

    “We’re really pumped,” he said. “It was exhilarating—campaigning, meeting people, all of it.

    “This has been the most fun thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

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