Jefferson County appoints interim tax assessor

Terry Wuenschell

Jefferson County commissioners approved the appointment of Terry Wuenschell as interim tax assessor collector (TAC) with the departure of J. Shane Howard.

The announcement was made at a meeting of the Jefferson County Commissioners Court Monday, Feb. 3.

Wuenschell will serve until the November general election, when voters will elect a TAC to serve the remainder of Howard’s term, which expires in 2016. Howard resigned after more than three years with the county to become manager and partner of an electrical contracting company based out of Beaumont that is expanding into the Permian Basin area of West Texas.

The executive committees of the county Democratic and Republican parties will select nominees in June to run in the November general election, Howard said, because the filing deadline for the March primary has already passed.

Wuenschel, director of finance and operations, began working at the Jefferson County Tax Office in 1990.

Before her appointment was approved, Judge Jeff Branick asked Wuenschell to confirm that she was not seeking the position in the November election.

“Commissioners Court by history has sought to assure that we appoint someone for vacancies that will not be soliciting for a position on the ballot,” Branick said. “Do you have any intention of requesting either political party to place you on the ballot for the position of tax assessor collector?”

“Not at this time; I am not planning to run in the November election,” Wuenschell confirmed.

Both Precinct No. 3 Commissioner Michael Sinegal and Precinct No. 4 Commissioner Everette “Bo” Alfred expressed concern that Wuenschell WAS planning to run for the tax assessor collector position and asked for further confirmation that she would not run before voting to approve her appointment.

“I’m a little stirred … after the comment you just made,” Sinegal said. “I was told you were not going to run.”

“That’s why I said I am not going to seek ...,” Wuenschell said.

“I know you said, ‘at this time,’” Sinegal interjected. “Tomorrow might be different. Are you planning on running in November?”

“No, sir,” Wuenschell reaffirmed.

After Wuenschell again asserted that she had no intention to run for election in November, Alfred wished Wuenschell success as interim tax assessor.

“I hope you have a successful run and take care of the business of the citizens of Jefferson County as you see fit,” Alfred said.

Howard said he was confident Wuenschell would serve the position well.

“She’s eminently qualified,” Howard said. “Frankly, I’d asked her to consider running, and she’s just not available, so it just makes sense that she serve as interim. It gives us continuity in the office until the next person comes in.”

Wuenschell said she is excited about her appointment.

“I’m excited that they chose someone from the tax office to see us through … until the November election,” she said.

The main duties of the county tax assessor collector are to assess and collect property taxes for the county; to issue certificates of title and license plates for motor vehicles and trailers; to issue voter registration applications and certificates; and to compile election poll lists.