Keith Albertsen has served as the Douglas County assessor almost as long as the five county assessors who went before him combined. And now after 32 years, he is retiring.

Albertsen’s letter of retirement was approved by the Douglas County commissioners at their regular board meeting Tuesday, Feb. 16.

He was appointed as the assessor for Douglas County in January 1989. However, he has been in the assessment profession for 42 years. His last day in Douglas County will be March 31.

In a letter to Albertsen dated Jan. 29, Douglas County Board Chairperson Jerry Rapp said that the board accepted his letter of retirement and then he thanked Albertsen for “his many years of service to the citizens and employees of Douglas County.”

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In his notice to the county, Albertsen said when he was appointed back in 1989, his goal was to make the property tax process and the results as fair as they could be given the complexity of the Minnesota property tax laws.

When he started his career, Albertsen said there were 17 part-time “local” assessors, all who were hired by each township or city and independent from each other. Today, there are five full-time appraisers working in one office and they contract with every district in the county except for the city of Alexandria, which has its own full-time assessment staff.

He said the staff in his office has gone from fully handwritten and calculated field cards/assessments records to one that is now fully automated. In addition, he said they went from black and white aerial photos that were done every 10 years to color images from multiple angles and higher resolution done every three years.

The number of appeals by taxpayers used to total several hundred every single year, said Albertsen in his letter to the board.

“For the last 10 years, there were less than 100 each year,” he said.

And in the earlier years, there were numerous state board orders with some as much as a 15% land and building increase. However, for the past 25 years, there have been none, he said.

“I am very proud of the professionalism of my staff and the work they do,” said Albertsen in his letter. “I feel I am leaving the Assessor’s Office much better than when I came.”

He ended the letter with an old saying that he said described the assessor’s job pretty well – “Doing a good job around here is like peeing in a wetsuit. It gives you a nice warm feeling, but no one else notices.”

After the commissioners officially accepted and approved his letter of retirement, the commissioners thanked Albertsen for doing such a great job for the county.

New finance position created

Commissioners also thanked Douglas County Auditor/Treasurer Char Rosenow, who also serves as the finance director for the county. It was Rosenow’s last meeting as she will be retiring at the end of the month.

Char Rosenow
Char Rosenow

Commissioners then approved the appointment of Vicki Doehling as the new auditor/treasurer. The approved resolution states that Doehling will take over on March 1, “for the remainder of the elected term of auditor/treasurer position at a prorated annual salary of $89,000.”

The term expires in 2022, at which time Doehling will run for the position.

Vicki Doehling
Vicki Doehling

At a special meeting Feb. 5, the commissioners had decided to leave the finance director position as part of the auditor/treasurer position and said that Doehling would fill both roles. However, at the Tuesday, Feb. 16, meeting, they approved creating a finance director position and will open the position up for one week internally. If it doesn’t get filled, then it would be posted publicly.

An agenda item request in the packet of information provided to the commissioners, it was stated that after further discussion with Rapp, Commissioner Charlie Meyer, Doehling, Rosenow and the assistant finance director Jill Frisell, it was determined that hiring a finance director would be in the best interest of the taxpayers and the county.

It also stated that the voters would continue to elect and vote into office the auditor/treasurer, who would be the part of the internal controls in the checks and balances part of the county finances.

Per Minnesota Statute 3.088, Doehling requested a 10-year leave of absence from her position as election and property tax administrator. The statute entitles an employee, who is appointed to fill a term of an elected official, a leave of absence from employment without pay as long as the request is made not later than 10 years after the granting of the leave, according to a letter to the commissioners from Doehling.

What this means is that Doehling can resume her position of the election and property tax administrator after filling Rosenow’s remaining term and staying in that position for two elected terms.

The commissioners approved the 10-year leave of absence.