Appraisal district in transition

SAN BENITO — There are big changes at the Cameron Appraisal District.

After nearly 15 years, the board of directors has appointed a new chief appraiser after Chief Appraiser Frutoso Gomez announced his retirement.

The board has named Richard Molina, who served as the district’s assistant chief appraiser, to replace Gomez.

“I’m very excited,” Molina said. “I wanted to make sure the staff continued and felt comfortable. The district has been going in a good direction. Customer service is crucial — being able to explain the property values.”

The board considered six candidates, including Molina, for the job, chairman Vicente Mendez said.

“Richard is exemplary,” Mendez said. “He really believes in the job. Richard goes far and beyond the call of duty. Everything he does, he has a plan. He wants to keep the appraisal district going in the right direction — keep it friendly for the people coming in, make everyone understand how the appraisal district runs.”

A former district finance and human resources director, Molina was hired at a salary of $125,000.

Molina said his staff will continue to work to be “fair, equal and uniform” in appraising property values.

“That’s been our big push,” he said. “We try to be as transparent to the public as we can.”

Molina, whose office includes 27 appraisers, said the district has set aside money to hire two to 10 appraisers to keep up with the county’s growth.

The district will continue to use technology to make information gathering and recording more efficient, Molina said.

Lengthy tenure

Gomez, who had served as chief appraiser since 2003, has held the district’s longest tenure, since at least the early 1990s.

“I’ve been very proud to serve this community. I know the area. I know the people. I treat people with respect and dignity — and customer service,” said Gomez, who was hired as an appraiser in 1982.

“There hasn’t been any controversy since I took over. The key is fairness and respect to our taxpayers. We treat everyone as fair as possible across the board.”

Gomez, who is drawing a salary of $136,500, said his accomplishments include computerizing the district.

“We went paperless. We scan everything into the system,” he said. “It makes it more efficient.”

In the field, appraisers have replaced clip boards with iPads.

During his tenure, the district placed 230,000 parcels of property, with information dating to the 1980s, into computer files, Gomez said.

“We used to have to go look for a (paper) file,” he said. “Now we click on a computer to find that parcel of land and everything we need is there.”

Gomez said he has worked to better train and educate the district’s staff, which deals with as many as 40,000 taxpayers a year.

“It all goes back to my staff,” he said. “They’re doing a good job dealing with people. Our employees can communicate what we do.”