The 70-person St. Lucie County property appraiser's office, led by former Senate President Ken Pruitt, has won the biggest annual award the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) hands out -- the 2014 Distinguished Assessment Jurisdiction Award.
The award is presented to a national, state, regionalor local agency that has instituted a technical, procedural, or administrative program that improves onprior programs, and is recognized as a component of a modelassessment system and a contributing factor to equity in property taxation.
The office was the lone recipient representing a local government to receive the award.
"Only one property appraiser's office in the world gets it," said David Reed, chapter affiliate representative manager, speaking from the IAAO's Kansas City headquarters. "In our business, it's a little like getting a Pulitzer -- it's a 'best of world' -- and this year it went to a Florida office."
Said County Property Appraiser Pruitt, This award is a testament to the skills and expertise of the professionals who make up theSt. Lucie County property appraisers office. I couldn't be more proud.
The Distinguished Assessment Jurisdiction Awardwas presented during a ceremony at IAAOs 80th Annual International Conference on Assessment Administration in Sacramento, Calif., Aug. 24-27.
Pruitt has come under his local newspaper's fire for more than a year for "moonlighting" with his Tallahassee lobbying firm, The P5 Group, while he works by day as the county property appraiser. One St. Lucie resident, Judy Turnbull, referred to it during interviews Thursday.
Turnbull, a retired Port St. Lucie teacher whose sister works for the county, said she learned of the award just before Labor Day weekend. "The people in that office do such a fabulous job," she said, "but I'm particularly glad to see Ken (Pruitt) get this recognition since the newspaper has gone overboard questioning how he can run a lobbying firm and still be an effective, full-time property appraiser.
"Well, I think this (award) answers the question. Whether Ken goes or stays should be decided by the voters and everybody else should just keep out of it."
The IAAO's Reed said his organization has 13,000 jurisdictions in 24 countries. Of that number, some 500 members are in Florida. He said members are nominated for the association's awards. Each year an awards committee "of international makeup" is appointed and it comes together in Kansas City to make selections.
IAAO awards recognize excellence in various areas of the assessment profession, he said,ranging from public information programs to journalistic reporting to industry research.
Doug Will, chief deputy property appraiser in Leon County, calls IAAO"the premier" nonprofit educational and research association for individuals in the assessment profession and others with an interest in property valuation and taxation.
Will, who is a past president of IAAO's Florida chapter, said, "I can testify what a big deal it is to win this award. St. Lucie County must have done a lot of very extraordinary things. We won it 20 years ago -- little Leon County won this international award -- by producing the first searchable property appraisal records."
From 1990-2000, Ken Pruitt was a Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives, representing portions of Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties. From 2000-2009, he served in the Florida Senate. In November 2006, he was chosen by unanimous vote to serve a two-year term as Senate president.Pruitt was elected St. Lucie property appraiser in November 2010 following the death of then-Property Appraiser Jeff Furst, then re-elected in 2012. His current term expires in 2016.
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