By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The only local political race on the Nov. 4 ballot is for an important yet often overlooked office that even one of the candidates admits "is not all that sexy."
Yet the race for Kenton County Property Valuation Administrator (PVA) has emerged as a pointed partisan debate over experience and credentials.
The PVA assesses the value of all property in the county. Government and public agencies - libraries, fire departments and others - then use those values when taxing property owners.
The PVA race is on the state-dominated ballot this year so voters can fill the unexpired three-year term of former PVA Mark Vogt.
Vogt, a Democrat who always ran unopposed, retired in January after 26 years on the job. Gov. Paul Patton appointed Vogt's chief deputy, Edgewood Democrat Merrick Krey.
Krey, 50, worked with Vogt for 26 years, including 15 as chief deputy.
He is opposed by Republican Kevin Black, 24, a former one-term Taylor Mill city councilman who handles marketing for the Atria Summit Hills assisted-living community in Crestview Hills. Black may be best known as a former political aide to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and the son of Kenton County Commissioner Barb Black.
Krey said experience is the issue in this race. "I have it," Krey said. "He doesn't."
In addition to more than a quarter-century in the office, Krey said, he is a certified real estate appraiser with advanced training in assessments.
"Voters can choose between my experience or a 24-year-old politician with no real estate valuation experience," said Krey, who holds a bachelor's degree in business administration.
Black said if he's too young "so was Mark Vogt, who was younger than I am when he was appointed to the office."
"Obviously the citizens of my city, Taylor Mill, didn't think that I was too young three years ago when they elected me to represent them," Black said.
"Isn't it kind of hypocritical to bring up age? Are they saying Mark Vogt shouldn't have been appointed to PVA?"
Black also said he established a record of "fiscal responsibility, limited government and controlled spending" while on a City Council that lowered its tax rate without cutting services.
Black has a master's in business administration, which he said would be valuable in overseeing what he described as an administrative position.
"The PVA's office is not a sexy job," Black said. "The 'A' stands for 'administrator.' It doesn't stand for 'assessor' or anything else that perhaps they'd like it to stand for. It's an almost totally administrative position ... with assessors doing the fieldwork, the actual assessing of the property.
"The PVA is charged with budgetary matters, personnel issues, making sure the work is being completed in a fair and efficient manner," he said.
Black's supporters are also hoping for a big turnout on Election Day. Though county voter registration numbers give Democrats a slight edge, Kenton County has been electing Republicans to most courthouse and statehouse offices.
"I don't look at this as a political job," said Krey.
"I look at it as a public service, and we'll continue doing a good job serving the public."
Krey said he has opened a satellite PVA office in Independence, expanded hours at the main Covington office and improved technology and employee training.
Black said, if elected, he will have the office audited.
"Elections tend to create a sense of accountability," he said. "There hasn't been an election for this office in such a long time ... that I want to have an audit performed to make sure the office is operating as efficiently as possible."
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