Photo: Suzanne Droubie (left), Jo Ann Sabbagh (right)
By Lanissa Patterson
With the election right around the corner, there is a lot of focus on federal candidates, but local candidates are feeling the pressure as well.
In the race for Pima County Assessor, Suzanne Droubie (Democrat) is running against Jo Ann Sabbagh (Republican).
The responsibility of the county Assessor is to identify and list properties, as well as determine tax eligibility for exemption, according to Droubie.
Assessors evaluate individuals’ real estate, as well as follow up with building permits that pass through the assessor’s office, says Sabbagh. The assessor’s office handles all business property tax and the county assessor should monitor or “touch” a property every 5 years.
Droubie was born and raised in Minnesota, but frequently visited Tucson when she was younger. She began appraising in 2003 and started work in a field crew in 2007 before moving to Pima county in 2008. In 2014 she began practicing litigation and went into private practice.
Droubie is a precinct committeeman for LD 11, and has served as the chairperson of the Pima County Animal Control Advisory Committee.
If elected, Droubie plans to make being the County Assessor her full time job. “I do intend to be there [the assessor’s office] 40 hours a week” she says. “It is really important for the assessor to be in office… involved in the day to day and out in the field, measuring houses and valuing properties.”
Jo Ann Sabbagh has had an interesting start to her campaign, being a write-in candidate. In January she was involved in a car crash that both broke her right heel and ankle, right arm, and fractured her shoulder.
She went into assisted living for 5 months and withdrew from the race. With some assistance from the Pima County GOP, she was able to remain in the race by becoming a write-in candidate.
“I really feel like I am on the ballot because people want me.” she says, despite criticism from others suggesting she might not want to do all the work for her campaign.
Sabbagh was born in Toledo, Ohio of Lebanse and Syrian descent. At age 17, she was living on her own and became the primary caretaker for her grandmother. She worked to get her CPA (certified public accountant) license in Ohio before coming to Tucson in 1997, where she obtained her enrolled agent license.
Sabbagh currently runs her own public tax firm called Sabbagh Tax and Accounting, LLC., which will hit its 17 year anniversary next February. Sabbagh has over 30 years of public accounting experience.
Both candidates have their own proposals on how to improve the assessor’s office.
Droubie plans to bring her customer service experience to the assessor’s office. “Bringing what I know as customer service [will change] how the public looks at the assessor’s office. It will be something people have never seen before.”
Sabbagh says she has noticed some systemic problems in the office she plans to fix. “It’s been brought to my attention that [when permits from] property evaluations come over [to the assessor’s office] they are not being double checked and matched to the right property so people are paying property taxes on additions and improvements they haven’t done,” she says.
“My opinion is we are going to see a huge hard hit financially,” she says, noting the financial constraints that need to be looked at, especially during the pandemic. “Businesses are down, the sales tax revenue is down… it’s gonna be a tough one.”
She believes her career background, tenacious attitude and her unique perspective will make her the ideal person for this position. “I don’t give up when the going gets tough. I built a career defending tax payers from the Internal Revenue Service… I want to fix the problems [by] looking at them with a very discerning eye.”
Droubie believes her experience makes her the best fit for Pima County Assessor. “I have worked inside the office, as a fee appraiser, in every aspect of this job. No other candidate can say they have worked in the shoes [of every position in the assessor’s office].”
Both candidates have more than 10 years of experience in the accounting field, so no matter who wins on Tuesday night, the office of Pima County Assessor will be held by someone who is more than qualified.