Assessor calls it a career

Robert Smith

After 40 years of making her living at the ticklish business of property valuation for tax purposes, a smiling Gail Hedgcoth called it a career Monday.

Hedgcoth, 58, who has been Osage County’s assessor for 28 years, did not seek re-election. She was already a seasoned veteran of the office by the time she took over the top job.

Colleagues, former colleagues, family members and friends Monday afternoon packed the small boardroom at the courthouse used by the county commissioners to share hugs, laughs and a boatload of memories with the outgoing assessor.

“She must have started when she was 10,” District 2 Commissioner Kevin Paslay joked, as he prepared to make a presentation to Hedgcoth. He wasn’t far off. She was 18, just a year out of high school, when she went to work for the County Assessor’s Office.

“It has been a long 40 years that have gone super, super, super fast,” Hedgcoth said. She thanked everyone for the retirement party, and found herself taken slightly off-guard by the arrival of her twin sister. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Hey, my sister, too …”

Former county commissioner Scott “Scotty” Hilton characterized Hedgcoth as someone who could also be a demanding “teacher” in her role as assessor. He recalled her active response to other county officials giving dubious tax advice.

“She’ll find you out and come after you,” Hilton recalled learning.

Donise Rogers, president of the state association of county assessors, attended the retirement occasion and offered high praise for Hedgcoth’s devotion to her work.

“No one has done more for the county assessor’s association than Gail,” Rogers said. She is county assessor in Major County.

Asked what one thing people seem most to misunderstand about the assessor’s office, Hedgcoth replied that many people seemed to think she was setting their tax rates.

“We work with the value of the property and not the taxes,” she said by way of clarification.

Hedgcoth will be succeeded in January by Ed Quinton Jr., 40, who has been working nearly 15 years in the assessor’s office.

Also honored Monday on his retirement from the assessor’s office was Bill Caughman, who said he has worked there 19 years.