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State’s longest serving property assessor retires

Posted on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Wayne Harrison (left), who served as the Moore County assessor of property for four decades, is presented with a certificate honoring him as the longest-serving assessor in Tennessee history by Tom Fleming, comptroller of the state division of property assessments.

Wayne Harrison showed up for his last official day of work in the Moore County Courthouse on Aug. 31, wrapping up a 40-year career as the county’s assessor of property, and setting the record for the longest-serving assessor in state history.

But, Wayne said, earning a page in the state’s history books never entered his mind when he took the job.

“I didn’t intend to stay here this long,” the Moore County native said.

Although he didn’t win his first four-year term as the county’s property assessor until 1972, Wayne began serving in the position in 1967, when he was appointed to the post on an interim basis when the then-assessor fell ill.

“His term ended in August 1968, so I decided to run,” Wayne said. Although he was unsuccessful in his first bid for elected office, he was not discouraged. He ran again four years later, and won. He was then re-elected in nine subsequent elections.

Wayne said he is grateful to the voters of Moore County for allowing him to retain the post for so many years.

“I’ve got a lot of friends in the county who’ve helped me over the years, and I really appreciate it,” he said. “I’d like to thank them (the voters) for putting their trust in me.”

One of things Wayne said he enjoyed most about his years as property assessor was the opportunity to spend time working outdoors.

“What I like about it is I grew up on a farm,” the Moore County native said. “And a lot of the work here, you have to go outside to do, so I’m not chained to a desk. I’ve always enjoyed it, You’re not gouging people for taxes, you do help them occasionally.”

Throughout the decades, Wayne has seen a great deal of changes, both in terms of development in Moore County and in the day-to-day operations of his department.

“The only thing I had in ’67 was an assessment roll, it was just a book,” he said. The property assessor didn’t even have an office in the early days, operating from a desk in an office shared with the trustees. He said Jack Daniel’s operations in the county have grown considerably over the years, as has residential development, a direct result of the population increase.

In 1994, Wayne found himself so busy with the county’s six-year reappraisal cycle that he was given the go-ahead to bring in part-time help. Soon thereafter, his wife, Carolyn, began working by his side.

Carolyn had worked for Sears Roebuck for nearly 30 years, and found herself at home after the store closed. When the opportunity to work with her husband presented itself, she jumped at the chance.

“It’s made a big difference,” Wayne said. “Good help is hard to find. I call her the boss and I’m the helper.”

“We work well together,” Carolyn added. “We’re both professional people, that’s what we do. I’m really proud of the work that Wayne has done with the county. They’ve shown that they trust him and he’s shown that he appreciates their trust.”

Carolyn has also decided to retire, but the Harrison family isn’t giving up its presence in the property assessor’s office. Wayne and Carolyn’s son, Darin, was chosen by Moore County voters to be his father’s successor last month.

Before becoming the property assessor, Darin spent more than 13 years as an officer with the Moore County Sheriff’s Department. He said he had considered running for the seat in the past, “but I never figured Daddy would leave.”

Wayne and Carolyn, who spent several days in the office helping Darin learn the ropes of his new job, were pleased to see their son choose a less dangerous line of work.

“We feel safe with him doing this,” Wayne said.

Now that Wayne and Carolyn have decided to retire, they look forward to spending more time on their small farm with family, including their four granddaughters and two great-granddaughters.

“We might take a vacation,” Wayne said.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Darin chuckled.

Although a property assessor’s job can be stressful at times, Carolyn said her husband made a point of treating everyone he who came into his office with respect, answering questions and complaints patiently and informatively.

“Wayne took pride in his job and treated everyone fairly,” she said. “He would just explain how it is and I think people appreciated that. Darin will take pride in it also. He’s going to do fine.”