In July 12 issue, Russell County NewsBy Derek AaronRussell County News EditorABOVE: Russell County PVA Rodney Owens, the longest tenured PVA in the state, will retire at the end of October .
After being elected to nine terms and 35 years in office, Rodney Owens, Russell County’s property valuation administrator, is set to retire at the end of October.
Owens said he loved politics but that the time was right for him to step aside.
“I have made this decision in order to take full advantage of current incentives in the Kentucky Retirement System which expire at the end of this year,” Owens said in a statement.
Owens said it would be a welcomed change in county government that he hopes the county’s citizens will embrace.
“I’ve been aware of this situation for some time,” Owens said. He said 10 years ago a 10-year-window was set for tenured state employees to receive benefits if they retired within the window.
Executive Director of Kentucky Employee Retirement System Mike Burnside said it sounded like Owens is retiring for the “high three,” or the “2.2 multiplier,” retirement incentives
“The legislature passed laws several years ago that included incentives for employees to retire early,” Burnside said.
He said those incentives are being allowed to lapse at the end of this year.
“The high three means that your retirement is based on the highest three years of salary where regularly it is based on the highest five years and that could bring your average down considerably.”
The “2.2 multiplier” is a percentage incentive of 2.2 percent for county employees to their retirement, according to Burnside.
Owens said it would save the state millions of dollars by asking higher paid employees to retire and replacing them with younger persons being paid starting salaries.
He said 6,000 state and county employees are eligible for these incentives. Burnside said he still hadn’t seen a significant increase in retirement pay but that it was still early in the process.
Owens said if he didn’t retire before the end of this year, he would lose a portion of his retirement benefits.
“I could stay in office but (retirement) is the only sensible thing for me to do,” he said.
“The people have been good to me and I have tried to do a good job for them and I think they sense that.”
He said he had given his all to his office and in the last few months he will focus on getting tax bills ready to come out.
“We’re looking at getting the final figures done on the assessment,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have them printed by the time that I leave.”
He said his term, which runs through 2010, will probably have an interim PVA placed by the state until the election two years from now.
“When I took office in 1973, the total county assessment for real estate was $57 million,” he said. “This year, it is about $725 million. It is going up $45 to $50 million every year, almost as much as the whole assessment was when I took office.”
He said he remembers before his office had computers, they had to do the tax bills by hand. His office had one employee back then, now it has four.
“This job, now, doesn’t resemble what it did when I took office,” he said. Owens instituted Saturday hours for the office, going five hours over what the state requires a PVA office to be open.
He said in his retirement he is going to again take up golf, a sport he hadn’t had much time for in recent years. He also said he would target and pistol shoot, hunt, fish, raise a garden and read.
“I look forward to spending more time with my family,” he said. His wife, Karen, a teacher at Salem, and his two daughters, Robin Rixon and Rebecca Walters, both teachers at the high school, can expect to see more of him in the coming months.
“(Robin) also has a year and a half old son that I hope to share a lot of my interests with,” Owens said.
“I cherish you all as my friends,” he said. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for everything.