It's an enviable situation county voters find themselves in. Both of the Republican candidates seeking to be the next Beaufort County auditor are worthy of the office.
But we believe candidate Jim Beckert has the slight upper hand and deserves the public's support.
Both George Wright, a programmer for Beaufort County who has been endorsed by county treasurer Doug Henderson, and Beckert, a Beaufort County school board member since 2012, are committed to ensuring that property tax bills are accurate. Both have backgrounds that lend themselves to the kind of detail-oriented, financial work an auditor must do. And both understand the county's current tax system and offer specific recommendations on how to improve the auditor's office.
As a county programmer for the past 11 years, Wright says he's an expert on the county's tax system who likely knows it better than anyone else. The retired gunnery sergeant wants to leverage that knowledge to eliminate old, inactive personal property accounts still in the system, better use technology to reduce taxpayers' visits to county offices and track down county residents with out-of-state license plates who are not paying their vehicle property taxes.
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Beckert also exhibits strong business skills. The founder and manager of a small, family-owned business, Pinpoint Document Solutions, Inc., he has previously worked in human resources, including as the director of human resources for the Beaufort Memorial Hospital. The retired Army Reserves officer wants to audit tax rolls by cross-referencing records the county already keeps with information from the auditor's, assessor's and treasurer's offices to increase accuracy, create a new focus on serving customers, including expanding office hours, and increasing the amount of tax information residents can view online.
While either would do a good job, Beckert is a tested public official who has served the public well during his time on the school board. He asks hard questions, takes his time with the issues and only agrees to spend public funds after much deliberation. A proven fiscal conservative, we admired his willingness to lessen funding for the Academy for Career Excellence or ACE program despite pressure to continue it.
We hope Wright will continue on in his programmer post -- and share his ideas with Beckert. The two could make a great team.
In the future, the public should not have to pick an auditor. The position should be appointed by the county administrator -- not elected. Most citizens do not know what the county auditor does, whether the current auditor is doing a good job and what criteria to use to choose a new one. And the best candidate can sometimes be someone with financial skills, but limited political skills. The county's top boss, not the public, has far more expertise to make the choice.