When Trammell Suddeth started at the Whitfield County tax assessor’s office in 1969, the county’s total tax digest came to just $95.3 million. Last year, the county’s tax digest was valued at $3.3 billion.
“The growth of the carpet industry and the growth of the population have really been tremendous, and that has had an obvious impact on the tax digest,” said Suddeth.
After more than 45 years in the tax assessor’s office, including more than 30 years as chief appraiser, Suddeth says it’s time for someone else to try to keep up with that growth. He has announced he will step down effective Sept. 1.
“There comes a time in everyone’s life when it is time to retire, and I think after 45-and-a-half years I have reached that time,” said Suddeth, 71.
Suddeth said the tax assessor’s office remains one of the least understood county offices.
“This office is responsible for all real and personal property,” he said. “This office does not set the taxes. The commissioners, the City Council, the school board set their own millage rates. This office establishes the value of all real and personal property — land, buildings, machinery and equipment, boats, aircraft.”
Suddeth said the variety of property the office must appraise has increased as well.
“It has grown more complex, and all of our appraisers must be certified by the state Department of Revenue. We have to maintain that certification by attending 40 hours of classes and passing them every three years. But we have year-round training for all staff,” he said.
As the job has grown, so has the office.
“When I started we had a three-person Board of Assessors and probably six to eight on staff. Now, we have a five-person board and 22 on staff,” said Suddeth, who served on the Board of Assessors from 1982 to 2006.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Babb said Suddeth will leave behind a large legacy.
“You’ve heard of institutional knowledge? Well, we will be losing someone with a lot of it,” Babb said. “But there comes a time for all of us to retire, and we wish him well.”
“We need to remember that he is actually filling two jobs. He is the chief appraiser and the director of the office,” Babb said. “Normally, the office director is a department head appointed by the commissioners, and the chief appraiser is appointed by the Board of Assessors, so we may have to conduct two searches.”
While Suddeth may be stepping down, he says he plans to remain active.
“I have three children, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, so I plan to spend a lot of time with my family,” he said. “I’m active in my church, where I direct music, and I plan to continue that.”