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Assessing the Assessor - Keith Albertsen to Retire

Posted: 03/12/2021

Author: Julie Anderson

Category: County Board, Departments

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It seems no one actually decides to become an assessor, it just happens if you’re the right person for a very impactful position. According to those who know him well, Douglas County has been extremely fortunate to have Keith Albertsen as its assessor for the last 32 years.

“That I am a grumpy curmudgeon is a commonly held belief,” said Albertsen with a bit of a smile during an hour-long interview in his office which is filled with artifacts that reflect who he really is.

Albertsen hopes when you ask other assessors, along with city and township officials, they will tell you he is someone who takes the time to listen, answers their phone calls, and helps them as much as he possibly can.

“He is an absolute ethical, we are going to do it the right way, assessor,” said Winona County Assessor Stephen Hacken who has known Albertsen throughout his career. He considers the two very good friends and added, that a really good assessor, like Albertsen, understands there’s more to the process than numbers. “You have to have some people skills. You have to care about the people.”

Albertsen has shown he cares in many ways. He has always taken the opportunity to attend and speak at the annual township meeting held in Douglas County. “I gained some real friendships with township officers over the years,” he said. “When they have questions, I find the answer and I hope that’s always been something that’s come across.”

Albertsen is contracted by all townships and cities in the county, except the city of Alexandria, to conduct assessments which are used to calculate a taxable value to a property. While the city of Alexandria has its own assessor, the two offices work well together.

“There’s no doubt the city of Alexandria has received support from Keith,” said Assessor Reed Heidelberger. “We are so fortunate to have had Keith and his leadership and the real winners are the taxpayers.” 

Keith Albertsen

When Albertsen started in Douglas County there were 17 separate assessors. There were nearly 700 appeals by property owners who disagreed with the assessed value. In 2020, Albertsen and his dedicated staff had reduced the number of appeals in the county, outside of Alexandria, to 43.

“Change doesn’t just happen,” Albertsen said. “We worked long and hard to get the appeals down and the state board of equalization rates to zero.” The equalization rates used to fluctuate 10 to 15%. That means if the state thought the local assessed values were too high or too low, it could change them. But that often meant a big surprise when people received their actual tax statement. 

Albertsen began working hard, and smart, in Todd County. He had dreamed of a career in real estate but shifted plans to learn more about how those properties were valued. He stayed in Todd County 18 months then had an opportunity to advance in Morrison County where there was an ambitious project to reassess the entire county.

“I learned from those leading the effort in Morrison County, you don’t have everyone show up at one time to appeal their valuation,” he said. “I learned people are much calmer and more reasonable, if you schedule their appointments in advance.”  Albertsen and his staff now post what’s called the Board of Review Schedule. In 2021, the opportunities for folks to appeal their values start April 13 and continues through April 23. Individual appointments are available at locations in townships and cities as well as the Douglas County Courthouse Board Room.

Albertsen was promoted from appraiser to chief appraiser in Morrison County. His first County Assessor position was in Mille Lacs County while he was still in his twenties. When an opening became available in Douglas County in 1989, he applied and has been reappointed by county boards ever since.

“Following Keith’s decision to retire, the county board wants to wish him all the best,” said County Board Chairman Jerry Rapp. “We appreciate all he’s done to improve the process for fairly assessing properties in the county and I hope the residents feel the same.”

Albertsen said he realizes that it is sometimes difficult for residents to understand how the county determines the value of their property and ultimately what the property tax is. He believes he and his staff make an ongoing effort to answer questions whenever they arise. It was partly professional responsibility and partly personal interest that compelled him to do his best every day.

“Douglas County was, is, and shall be my home,” he said. “My wife and I got to raise our children in the same town as their grandparents and we will retire here.” The two met at Jefferson High School in Alexandria. He described his wife as “absolutely gorgeous”. They have two children, Sarah, and Andrew, and one granddaughter named Addison.

His one regret in not retiring sooner was missing the chance to do more fishing with his dad. There’s a picture of them among many family photos on his office wall.  His dad would be proud.

Albertsen spent his career training and advancing his certifications. He’s served 21 years on the State Board of Assessors, 12 years as chairman. He was also on the Minnesota Association of Assessing Officers (MAAO) Membership, Rules and Resolutions, and Legislative Committees and the Executive Board for Regions 3 and 7.

During his time as Douglas County Assessor, Albertsen implemented cost efficiency measures in the assessor’s office. They included: mailing tax statements and assessment value notices together which saves on postage, envelopes, and labor, posting records online, posting forms and answers to Frequently Asked Questions online which saves staff time and reduces phone calls, and electronic filing of Certificates of Real Estate Value which allows for public searches of statewide sales information.

As assessor, Albertsen oversaw a staff of 10 — seven of which have more than 20 years with Douglas County. Assistant County Assessor Stacy Honkomp has been with the department 17 years. She said her boss liked his regiment, and expected the best from his employees, but she said, “He is a caring person. He’s compassionate and has quite the sense of humor.”

Appraisers, who work in the assessor’s office, physically go out and view a certain number of the county’s 30,000 parcels each year. As the boss, Albertsen didn’t get out in the field much, but Public Works Superintendent Steve Johansen, who shares Albertsen’s sense of humor, still thought the assessor should have a special safety vest. It has a bullseye target on the back.

There are about a dozen signs in Albertsen’s office that show his humor and how the assessor’s job is perceived including, ‘Nobody really wants my job, but everyone thinks they can do it better’.  

Interviews with those who know him, and statistics compiled over the years, shows Albertsen has done an incredible job for 32 years and has served the county and its residents very well.

“We will definitely miss him,” said Honkomp. “I hope he knows that.”

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