Long-time assessor reflects on time in office

Gail Gramelspacher, second from left, who has been Dubois County’s assessor for the past 12 years, will officially retire Dec. 31. (Photo courtesy Dubois County Government)


Gail Gramelspacher used the skills she learned as an educator many times to help taxpayers understand their assessments.

It’s not always been easy to explain, especially since the system has changed a few times during the past 32 years.

“I feel like I used my assessor skills and my teaching skills in this position,” she said, “to help people understand their assessments, and if they don’t agree, to understand the steps they can go through to appeal.”

Gramelspacher, 69, who has been Dubois County’s assessor for the past 12 years, will officially retire Monday.

Although her plan was to be a teacher, she ended up following in the footsteps of her maternal grandfather, who served as a deputy sheriff and then auditor, and her mother, who worked in the auditor’s office and then assessor’s office.

“I grew up seeing my family work in public service,” she said. “When they needed part-time help in the summers, I would come in and work. I think I got acclimated that way.”

Gramelspacher went on to earn an education degree, marry Jerry Gramelspacher and have two children, Christina and Michael. While raising them, she worked part time in the assessor’s office and part time as a substitute teacher. Her goal was to go into the teaching field full time.

“I was working part time for (then-Assessor) Felix Mundy. And he said you are here way too much,” Gramelspacher recalled. “I’m going to put in for another full-time person, and if you want that position, you can have it.”

Mundy requested the extra position for his office, but became ill and could not run the following year. Ray Lueken ran for and won the position. His first year as assessor, in 1987, was when Gramelspacher joined the office full time.

She worked with Lueken for 20 years. Lueken decided to retire, and Gramelspacher decided to run. She won, and took over the office in 2007.

So instead of having a career in education, she worked in county government.

“You know, you never know where life is going to take you,” Gramelspacher said. “You think you’ve got you’re your life planned out, and then, hmm, guess not. Guess somebody else had a different plan for me. But I’ve never regretted it. It’s been a great job for me.”

Gramelspacher has seen several changes to the assessment process during her 32 years.

In the past, taxes were based on a third of a property’s assessment. In 2001, that basis changed to 100 percent of the assessment. “Not only did it change that, but it also changed the tax rates. So that was a big thing for people to get used to,” Gramelspacher said.

In 2002, the state started basing assessments on market value instead of cost.

“We get cost sheets from the state that say so many square feet of a dwelling is worth this much money. Whatever that came out to was your assessment,” Gramelspacher said. But with the change, “your asssessment can change every year depending on the market — what sales in your area, in your neighborhood, are doing. That is huge for people, and it still is. We have people who come in and say, ‘I didn’t do anything. I didn’t change anything. And my assessmenet went up.’ So we try to explain to them that it could go up or down every year, depending on the market.”

A third big change Gramelspahcer recalled is that about 2010, the state-mandated reassessments started, though the county started the practice a few years prior. Each year, a quarter of the county is reassessed.

“So now [property owners] are going from 10 years where nothing changed [with their assessment], to changes possibly happening every year, and definitely every four years,” Gramelspacher said. “I understand that this can get confusing. We work with it every day and we have to work hard at it, to keep up.”

That’s where her teaching skills have helped the most.

“I used everything I learned as an educator to educate people who came in here,” Gramelspacher said. “As a teacher, you learn to listen, which is important here. You need to listen to the taxpayer and see where they are coming from and how you can help them. That’s what we need to do.”

Gramelspacher has thought about how things could have been different if she had gone into the classroom instead of the assessor’s office. But she has no regrets.

“I did really love this job,” she said. “Somebody said something about my teaching a new assessor class. I said, let me think about that.”

Gramelspacher plans to take the next couple of months to enjoy retirement, travel some and visit her two children and five grandkids — Christina lives in Jasper with her three children, and Michael is in Carrollton, Ill., with his wife and two kids.

“I need some time for me,” she said. “I need some down time.”

She admitted that she will miss her staff. “They are like family to me,” Gramelspacher said. “Without these three ladies, I could not have done this job. We work so well together. For that I will be eternally grateful.”

One of the three, Angie Giesler, will move into the county assessor position Tuesday.

“I know that the office is in great hands,” Gramelspacher said. “I can leave with a light heart.”

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