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A life of leisure
Retirement suits LeQuieu just fine

BY JILL AHO, Herald and News 6/3/09

It’s been four weeks since Reg LeQuieu retired from the assessor’s position in Klamath County government.

His biggest plans so far involve exploring the Western states and spending time camping with his family. But his horse is getting more attention these days, too So is his boat.

“I’ve taken the boat out three times,” he said “Of course there were the ‘honey-dos.’ ”

LeQuieu also found a document on his comput er titled, “Things to do when you retire.” When he opened it, he found a list of chores he had written for himself.

“I thought it might be a list of places to go and visit,” he said.

14 years in office

After 14 years as the Klamath County assessor, LeQuieu knew it was time to move on. Even while he was running for re-election two years ago, he knew that he would retire this year. He and his wife, Carol, have been planning his retirement. He made his last mortgage payment the last month he was employed, he said.

“That’s like giving yourself a raise when you don’t have any payments,” he said. “The time was just right.”

LeQuieu’s retirement also saved a job in the office that may have otherwise been eliminated because of budget constraints.
Throughout his time as assessor, LeQuieu worked to make his office more efficient and be a fair boss.

“It’s been good for me. I’ve been good for it,” he said.

Better relationships

He believes he improved interoffice relationships, making the office more user-friendly. He also helped guide the office into the computer age. He raised wages while reducing costs.

By the time LeQuieu retired, he had nearly cut in half what the office requires (as a percentage of the general fund) to operate. He nearly doubled the amount collected as a comparison to the amount spent to collect it. own pay, the pay of support staff and that of the appraisers.

In 1995, when LeQuieu took office, support staff members were working 37.5 hours a week and appraisers were working 40. While LeQuieu said it continued to make sense for the appraisers to make a higher salary because of the education required to do that job, he felt it was unfair the

“When I started, for every dollar spent, $43 was collected. When I left $82 was collected for every dollar spent,” he said. “I’m proud of that. I think appropriately so.”

LeQuieu increased efficiencies enough to reduce his staff to 14 people, which is at least in part due to computerization, he said. LeQuieu also attempted to find a level of parity between his lower paid workers were also working less.

“The difference in pay was amplified by the difference in number of hours,” he said. When he prepared his first budget, he learned he would have to let an appraiser go, or shift all staff members to a 37.5 hour work week.

Name: Reg LeQuieu

Family: Wife of 40 years Carol; sons Nathan, 35, and Marc, 32; two grandsons, ages 8 and 5.

Education: Graduated from Malin High School in 1964, college at Southern Oregon University in 1968.

Service: Served in the Army in intelligence from 1969 to 1972.

Hobbies: Horseback riding, camping, fly fishing, hunting, exploring.

History: About 8 ½ years ago, Reg was diagnosed with leukemia. He is having success with experimental drugs and has been in remission for nine months. “I feel good,” he said, adding he did not retire for reasons related to the cancer. “I’m doing fine.”

From real estate to public office

Reg LeQuieu’s time as assessor began as he was tiring of a 22-year career in real estate.

“I had some nice successes along the way, but I was getting burned out,” he said.

LeQuieu wanted some time to himself, and the demanding hours were taking their toll.

At the same time, various people in the community, from real estate agents to employees in the assessor’s office, kept popping up and encouraging him to run for assessor.

“All of a sudden it started to get a little bit interesting,” LeQuieu recalled. He and his wife, Caro,l took off for Aspen Ridge the weekend before the deadline to file and came back ready to run a campaign.

LeQuieu challenged an incumbent who had been appointed to fill the assessor’s vacancy and another who sought to win the seat.

“It was a spirited campaign,” he said. He was unopposed during subsequent re-election bids.

“The good thing was that I was on a set schedule and I had my weekends available,” LeQuieu said of the transition to elected office.

LeQuieu and the county wage wars

As assessor, he passed raises on to employees

In 2004, when a 3 percent raise was approved for elected officials, but no other county employees, Req LeQuieu turned his down.

“Two years later, they gave us a 10 percent raise,” LeQuieu recalled. He asked to take 3 percent instead, the equivalent of about $90 a month after taxes and contributions. LeQuieu requested the other 7 percent of his raise be distributed among his staff.

That was not possible.

In the end, LeQuieu had the 7 percent — $210 a month — withdrawn from his paycheck and placed in an account. At the end of the year, he distributed the $1,000 in the account among all of his employees as a Christmas bonus.

He did that again the following year, but had more saved up because it was an entire year’s worth, giving each employee a $168 Christmas bonus. He did so again last year, with each employee receiving a $180 bonus.

“It appeared I had taken the raise anyway, but that’s how I used it,” he said. “Over three years, I gave away more than $6,000 in bonuses.”

LeQuieu said when he left office he reminded his employees that they could not expect any other boss to do the same. “But it was fun to do and I thought under the circumstances, fair,” he said. 

LeQuieu served county well as its assessor

5/29/09 - On May 1, a milestone was reached that was little noticed by the public. After almost 15 years of service, Reg LeQuieu retired from his position as Klamath County Assessor. Since property value assessment determines how much each owner pays in taxes, his job was, by definition, thankless. But we have good reason to be appreciative of Reg’s service.

The most that a constituency might reasonably expect from civic employees is that they carry out their duties with diligence and fairness. But we have got ten more from this official and his staff. “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help” is the well-known punch line to a cynical joke. But from the beginning of his tenure, Reg conveyed this attitude to his team: “The taxpayers don’t work for us; we work for them.”

This perspective has been evidenced in Reg’s commitment to communication. Through town hall meetings and op ed essays, he has endeavored to explain to property owners how our system works. Attentive listening and patient instruction have helped citizens to understand how legal guidelines apply to our local situations.

Reg’s life was complicated in 2000 by the onset of chronic myelogenous leukemia. A well-trained and dedicated staff enabled him to fulfill his duties even as he endured a bone-marrow transplant and participated in field tests of specialized drugs. I share Reg’s gratitude to God for the success of these treatments in bringing about complete remission. (Otherwise, I would have written his eulogy rather than this commendation.)

In the conduct of his duties, Reg’s character and faith have translated into integrity in the execution of his responsibilities, sincerity in his dealings with citizens, courage in the face of personal challenges, and support and generosity toward his staff. Klamath County has been wellserved by his faithfulness.

J. Robin Maxson Senior Pastor United Evangelical Free Church

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