Ashley Burleson

Title: Senior Real Estate Appraiser
Department: Catawba County Tax Office
Started with County: 2015

Would you share a little bit about what you do?
My main priority is the supervision of two residential appraisers.  Their work is split between the field and the office, so for new appraisers, it’s training them to be comfortable in the field and getting them up to speed using our CAMA/information system. I also help oversee the residential projects that are coming up in the county. A lot of that is happening in Sherrills Ford. It’s very interesting seeing all the new things that are coming. Right now our focus is on getting property data correct and setting values for the upcoming revaluation.

What does real estate appraisal involve?
Counties do mass appraisal. If you're buying a house, your appraiser from the bank is going to look at your property and sales within a very recent timeframe. We are required to look at sales since our last revaluation. We're looking at four years’ worth of sales that are weighted based on how close they are to the date of revaluation.  We are required to assess properties at 100% of market value as of January 1st of the Revaluation year.

Property values are based on market data that is collected over four years, as our revaluations are conducted every four years. This data is used to create a Schedule of Values which outlines how different properties are assessed.  We do a lot of research on sales and permit data, as well as information given to us by taxpayers in order to maintain good property characteristics. That all goes into our CAMA system to produce an appropriate assessment for each parcel in the county.

Have you always been a Senior Real Estate Appraiser here?
I have not. I came in as a Real Estate Appraiser I. Since then, I was promoted to an Appraiser II and then to Senior Appraiser.

What did that growth path look like for you?
I think the biggest thing is being willing to learn. I learned a lot in the job I came from, but I was not an appraiser. When I got this position, I had to show that I was open to learning, doing things the right way, and being a team player.

My initial goal was two-fold: 1) to take the necessary courses to be certified with the Department of Revenue and 2) become proficient in my appraisal area. Accomplishing that was a big part of moving up to the position of Appraiser II, working in a more difficult area of the county. Accuracy and quality work is a top expectation here.

I also had the opportunity to get certified as an Appraiser II with the Department of Revenue. That certification is not required by the county, but it recognizes you for working harder. After being an Appraiser II, I really wanted to help people in the office. I really take pride in helping people learn their job and do it well.

Were you required to obtain certification before you took the job, or were you able to do that while also working here?
That is something a lot of new hires are concerned about. The county will pay for your classes and your time to get your certification while you are working here. It’s all part of your job and done during your 40-hour work week. Two classes will get you certified as an Appraiser I.

What were you doing before you came to Catawba County?
I was an Assessing Clerk in the tax office in another county. I was the catch-all, but I learned a little bit about everything. It really prepared me to come here.

What made you decide to work for Catawba County?
I was looking for an opportunity to grow and to gain responsibility. I had a bachelor's degree and was overqualified for the job I was doing. This county offered that, along with the benefits and the compensation.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
My main driver for being here and staying here is working to make a good product for the county as far as having correct information and producing a good value. Catawba County takes pride in the quality of their work. That hit home with me, because I take pride in my work. That drives me to do better every day, knowing that we want a good product. I really appreciate that about working here.

I enjoy the people, because Catawba County looks for quality people when they hire. I also enjoy living in this community; I had the privilege of moving here in 2019.  It has been a big change from commuting for four years to getting to be a part of the community that I’m working in and trying to make better.

What do you most appreciate about working for Catawba County?
I appreciate the whole package. I enjoy coming to my job every day. I don't dread coming into work. I also appreciate the quality of the work, knowing the work is correct. I don't feel like I'm always playing catch up or cleanup. Get your information correct, get your values right and that sets the tone for how you interact with people.

What is the “why” that drives you to succeed at work?
I do what I do to set an example for my kids. People don't think about working in the tax office, but there are a lot of opportunities here to apply their education to better the community. I also enjoy working with the taxpayers. Many people don't know the process, but once you talk with them, they have a good camaraderie with you and they see that you are doing a good job and you have the right intentions. I really enjoy that.

How would you characterize our work culture here?
How to put it in a word…? It's fun. The county's always offering things to do and ways to interact with each other. They make you feel part of the whole community, the county community. There is a feeling of inclusiveness, and working together as a team is a big part of that.

How do you think your work is helping to make living better for our residents?
Knowing that this county does things the right way and has good information, whether values go up or down, people can feel good that their tax value is appropriate.

If someone asked you if they should consider working here, what would you tell them?
I would tell them absolutely. The catch phrase, “You don’t know what you’re missing,” that’s really true. I knew I was looking for things when I came here, but I didn’t realize all that I would be getting. I feel appreciated and respected. The county offers so many opportunities for personal growth and career growth that may not even help you right now, but it’s there. They support you. It's just a really great place to work and to live.

Interviewed March 24, 2022