Pitkin County Assessor Tom Isaac is being presented with the Colorado Association of Assessor’s Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony at the Pitkin County Courthouse in Aspen at 1 p.m. Tuesday, November 28th.
Isaac was elected to the post in 1991 not long after suffering a life-changing surfing injury that left him confined to a wheelchair as a quadriplegic. Before Isaac was elected Pitkin County Assessor, he served on the Aspen City Council in the late 1980’s.
On his first day in office, Isaac had to be carried into the courthouse. An elevator has since been added to the historic building. A complex maze of filing cabinets, high shelves and desks greeted him in his new office which inspired him to not only make the building and offices more handicapped accessible but to also modernize Assessor’s office systems.
No sooner than Isaac took office, he was subject to a reappraisal order that had been issued to the outgoing administration. As was fairly typical in the 1990s, all of the Assessor’s data lived in the shared, green screen Data General computer system with individual paper property cards. There was a single PC that was used for the revaluation of the entire county.
According to Chief Pitkin County Appraiser Larry Fite, the majority of the former Assessor’s staff, who were mostly over 70 years old, soon retired leaving Tom with only 3 experienced Appraisers to tackle the state reappraisal order. The reappraisal wasn’t completed until mid-June that year and resulted in significantly increased values that impacted property taxes. Protests lasted through late September that year.
“Tom’s helper at the time, Connie, would meet Tom at the park below his house with a pitcher of margaritas most afternoons after work! After surviving that first year, Tom was recognized as the CAA Rookie of the Year for 1991,” said Fite.
During his 26 years as Assessor, Isaac ushered his office into the 21st century by implementing a computerized mass appraisal system, the scanning of all historic paper records, GIS mapping, the use of I-pads for scanning building plans and field inspections, to name but a few of the upgrades. As an administrator, Isaac has excelled at creating and managing a competent staff, providing them with the tools necessary to do the job, and then instilling in them the expectation that failure is not an option.
Isaac has also been instrumental raising awareness for more handicapped accessibility throughout Aspen. While serving as Assessor, Isaac has also remained an active athlete: skiing, hiking, scuba diving to name a few; has traveled extensively for skiing and enjoyment. He has been an active participant with Challenge Aspen and Craig Rehabilitation Hospital giving talks and demonstrating that even with his injuries he has remained an active member of the community. Prior to his injury, Tom was an avid Skier and kayaker having at least once floated the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon by kayak. Back in the day, Tom was part of a “rat pack” group of skier’s known as “Flynn’s Flyers” that terrorized Aspen Mountain. These guys still make up Tom’s core group of friends to this day. Tom continued to ski until fairly recently and even took up scuba diving.
The reappraisal order Isaac inherited in 1991 was his last. He has been an eager participant in the Colorado Assessor’s Association where he served as President in 1996. He has also been a member of the International Association of Assessing Officers since his election in 1991.
“While 2018 may be Tom’s last year in office, he has blazed a pretty wide trail and won’t be forgotten any time soon,” Fite said.