PENDLETON — Umatilla County’s top tax assessor is stepping down, which could portend changes in more than just county government.

In a Wednesday, Sept. 16, press release, Umatilla County announced that Paul Chalmers, the county’s director of assessment and taxation, would be retiring, and his successor, Deputy Director Rachael Reynolds, would take over on Sept. 21.

Chalmers, 62, had intended to retire at the end of the year, but the recent sale of his Pendleton home accelerated the timeline. Elected to a second term on the Pendleton City Council in May, Chalmers said he plans to serve on the council as long as he remains in Pendleton, but he’s keeping his options open as to whether he’ll stay in the area long term or not.

Chalmers grew up in Gresham and lived in Salem, but came to Umatilla County to work for county government. He rose through the ranks and has spent the past 30 years as the county’s taxation and assessment arm, overseeing a department that manages 4,200 tax accounts and collects $102 million in taxes each year, not only for the county but on behalf of cities, school districts and other taxing districts.

“Paul is well respected around the state of Oregon and has helped mentor others coming on board,” Commissioner George Murdock said in a statement.

In an interview, Chalmers said that as he’s grown older, his interest has grown in exploring opportunities outside of his position with the county, spurring his retirement.

He added that working in the realm of property taxes wasn’t always popular with the public, but he felt he always conducted his business with fairness and integrity.

“Umatilla County has been gracious to me,” he said.

While his time in county government is coming to a close, his political career is up in the air.

The Pendleton City Council appointed him to an at-large seat in 2016, and he emerged from a four-candidate field to eventually win a full term later that year. Chalmers has also spent most of his tenure as the chairman of the Pendleton Development Commission, a group that oversees the city’s urban renewal district.

When he ran and won a second term unopposed, Chalmers said he didn’t anticipate moving out of Pendleton at the time. But his retirement and house sale means he’s leaving open the possibility that he may have to resign before his term ends in 2024. If he does resign, the council would appoint his replacement.

Despite his pending departure, Chalmers said he’ll be available to his replacement in county government if she wants any guidance.

According to the press release, Reynolds had experience working in the Harney County Assessor’s Office when she was hired by Umatilla County as a personal property appraiser in 2012.

She was promoted to a data analyst, and then a chief appraiser before becoming deputy director in 2019.

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