Kyle Kunz wants to “value Blaine County.”
As a candidate for county assessor, it’s a gentle pun—and a constant reminder of why he wants the job to begin with.
“It’s the right time in my life to give back,” said Kunz, who is 60. “For me, it’s important to remember why we all moved here in the first place.”
On May 15, Kunz will take on county appraiser Jim Williams in the Democratic primary for the assessor’s seat. With no other candidates running, it’s the de facto general election, too; the winner is basically assured to replace long-tenured Assessor Valdi Pace when she retires at the end of the year.
It’s an important job. The Assessor’s Office is tasked with determining the fair market value for every property in Blaine County. While it doesn’t levy the taxes, it determines the tax base. Done accurately, that ensures an equitable distribution of the tax burden among Blaine County property owners. (In Blaine County, the Assessor’s Office also runs the Department of Motor Vehicles.)
Kunz comes to the race with 22 years of experience running Sun Valley Appraisal, a company he started in 1996. He’s a certified general appraiser, the highest class in Idaho, which means he’s licensed to value any property, commercial or residential.
“It comes down to valuation, and my background lends itself to that,” Kunz said. “When a taxpayer gets their bill, they should look at the assessment and know that it is reasonable.”
The Assessor’s Office conducts “mass” appraisals, valuing geographic areas rather than discrete properties like a private appraiser. To Kunz, the goals are the same.
“It’s a different technique, but the skills are transferable,” he said. “Whether you’re doing tax assessments, or doing an assessment of an individual property, the goal is to get to market value.
“In my background, I’m familiar with a lot of these homes, and I’ve been in a lot of the businesses—that’s an advantage I think I have.”
According to Kunz, that will help him deal with the few discrepancies he sees in current county assessments, particularly on high-end homes and commercial properties. Because those properties have less turnover and fewer comparables, they can be harder to pin down—and, Kunz thinks, easier to undervalue. As assessor, he’d address those on an “as needed” basis to bring assessments closer to the market.
“It’s called your fair share for a reason,” he said. “I like to think I represent fairness to the taxpayers, and that they can trust my experience in this market.”
But the Hailey resident said his time running Sun Valley Appraisal is equally important, when it comes to leading the assessor’s 12-person team.
“In my mind, having experience running an office—that’s key,” he said. “If the assessor were not elected, the county administrator wouldn’t interview an applicant without management experience.”
That, he added, would help stabilize the office through its transition in leadership—and beyond.
“Assessor is a tough job—you’re always chasing the market a little bit,” he said. “I’ve been in that administrative position before … and I know how community government works.”
In private practice, he’s been on the other side, representing clients contesting assessments before the Blaine County Board of Equalization. (If elected, he’d step away from his job at Sun Valley Appraisal.)
And he’s worked in city government. Though this would be Kunz’s first elected position, it wouldn’t be his first foray into local government. As a Ketchum resident, he served on the city’s first Affordable Housing Commission in 1997, and later on its Planning and Zoning board.
“My wife and I are part of the fabric of this community,” he said. “We love to live here, work here, play here. We’ve raised our family here.
“To me, that’s what my campaign slogan is all about. That’s what I mean when I say, ‘Value Blaine County.’”