by Paul Rignell
After 30 years of work for Sherburne County including 10 as its head assessor, Gerald (Jerry) Kritzeck is retiring from the office effective Wednesday, Feb. 1.
“I’ll miss the people that I work with. I think I’ll miss being involved in day-to-day decision making. I imagine everyone who retires goes through something like that,” Kritzeck, of Big Lake Township, told the Star News in his office this month.
A native of south Minneapolis, Kritzeck first chose to study numbers and figures after graduating from DeLaSalle High School by enrolling in the Minnesota School of Business. He attended classes downtown for two years before receiving a military draft notice in 1966. He scheduled and passed a physical exam, then proceeded to enlist. “I decided that I’d enlist, rather than be drafted,” he said.
He served 13 months in Camp Casey, South Korea (35 miles north of Seoul) in Army special services as a non-commissioned officer in charge with the 7th Infantry. He served the balance of his three-year commitment at the Yuma, Ariz., Proving Ground.
Coming home to Minnesota, Kritzeck had extra education at his fingertips thanks to the GI Bill, so he enrolled at the University of Minnesota where he completed a four-year liberal arts degree in history.
Out of school, he returned to his business roots and took an accounting job with International Dairy Queen in Bloomington. For most of five years with that company, he supervised a small team of billing clerks before becoming an appraiser for Sherburne County in 1978. He and wife, Colleen, had moved to their Big Lake home in 1976. “It was an attractive job, closer to home, and gave me an opportunity to get out in the field and meet people,” Kritzeck said.
He prepared for the work by taking specialized training through the Minnesota Association of Assessing Officers.
He remained in the county assessor’s department for 20 years, serving as chief deputy assessor for the final five years before accepting a position as head assessor with neighboring Wright County, where he stayed three years before getting that post in Sherburne County to finish his career.
Kritzeck had the office for most of an era (1990 to 2005, roughly) when he notes Sherburne County went through a great growth spurt. There weren’t quite 35,000 residents when he started his work for the county, he said, but the population has now grown past 85,000. “I think Sherburne County was one of (Minnesota’s) fastest-growing counties for about a decade,” he said. “We (saw and appraised) a tremendous amount of new construction in those years.”
The department’s appraisers (there are 12 of them currently among a full-time staff of 17) do most of the field work. “(As the assessor,) I usually just end up going out into the field for problems, or what you might call challenges,” Kritzeck said.
The county will continue a trend this year of reworking its formula for property appraisal to lower assessed values in order to bring them closer to typical real estate sales figures.
Assessed values are supposed to equal 90 to 105 percent of sale prices, Kritzeck explained, so a price of $200,000 would be reasonable for a property assessed from $180,000 to $210,000. “We were hoping this (trend) would bottom out by now, but (sales) continue to show declines,” he said.
It affects taxes on all properties. Certainly, Kritzeck has received his share of calls from property owners. “The evolution has been from phone calls to emails,” he said, “but they’re not always complaining. People sometimes just want information or things explained to them, because tax laws change.”
For when he stops seeing residents’ emails or taking occasional calls, Kritzeck notes he has several Civil War history books to read in his home collection. Other hobbies include fishing, hunting, camping and traveling with his wife, who will continue to work as a preschool teacher in Elk River. Kritzeck said that they heat their home with wood, and “I’ll probably be able to get a better supply of firewood for the coming year than I have in the past.”
The Sherburne County Board has appointed recent Kanabec County Assessor Dan Weber to succeed Kritzeck in the Elk River office, pending approval by the state Department of Revenue. Weber worked as an appraiser three years in Wright County before becoming assessor for Kanabec County, where he has worked for seven years. “I’m sure he’ll do a fine job here,” said Kritzeck. “I’ve worked with a good group of people over the years. I believe we’ve performed a valuable service in our goal to administer the property tax system in a fair and equitable fashion.”