Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
Outstanding. Integrity. Professional. First class. One of the top tax administrators in the entire state. This is how the Macon County Board of Commissioners and County Manager Derek Roland described Richard Lightner shortly after Lightner announced that he would be resigning from his post as the county’s Tax Assessor.
“No matter where local government taxation is being discussed, whether it is in Region A, Macon County, the North Carolina School of Government, Forsyth County or Manteo County, anyone that has been in the business long would know and recognize the name Richard Lightner if you brought it up,” said Roland. “They would recognize it because many times over the last 35 years it has preceded an accomplishment or attribute that has stood out within the field of local government taxation across the State of North Carolina. Today, the cumulative effect of these accomplishments has resulted in the Macon County Tax Office becoming widely recognized across the state as one of the best there is. Just to mention a few things: Macon County was the first county in North Carolina to establish digital pictures of every improved property in the county and we did that in 1999. We were the first to develop a public website that had all data including pictures available for free to the public. We are the first and only county in North Carolina to live telecast the local Board of Equalization and Review Hearings on the county website and YouTube. Macon County was the first small county to perform an in-house appraisal in North Carolina in 1991, which today has resulted in millions of dollars in savings to Macon County. Again, these are only a few examples of what is literally a ‘laundry list’ of accomplishments by the Macon County Tax Office under the leadership of Richard Lightner.
“Richard has given the best years of his life to the citizens of this county and in doing so has built something truly special in the Macon County Tax Office. It has been an honor to work alongside Richard for over 10 years now, and what I have come to admire most about him is not his professional accomplishments, but his profession of faith in Jesus Christ and the love he has for his family and friends. Richard Lightner is first class on and off the field.”
Lighter started working for Macon County in July 1985 as a Tax Supervisor, which was a fragmented office at the time comprised of tax collection, land records, and appraisers all independent of one supervisor. Now with 35 years to his credit, Lightner plans to retire in mid-December to spend time with his family.
“My plans are to spend time with my grandchildren, Dominik, 4, and Victoria, 2. Both of them live here in Franklin with my son, David and his wife, Margaret,” said Lightner. “Also, I plan to travel with my wonderful wife of 39 years, Judy. We will have more time to visit my daughter Danielle and her husband Nick in Charleston, S.C.
Lightner has been instrumental in the county’s revaluation processes which has significantly benefited Macon County taxpayers.
“Macon County has been very fortunate to have had Richard Lightner leading the tax office for over three decades. Richard is recognized as one of if not the top tax administrators in the state,” said Commissioner Ronnie Beale. “Under his guidance the Macon County tax office is a leader in mapping, collections, and accuracy to name a few. Richard has also saved county taxpayers thousands of dollars by doing all the reevaluations in-house.”
Despite commissioners raving about the money Lightner has saved taxpayers, he has a different story, giving all the credit to the staff he has managed for the last 35 years.
“First and foremost, I never saved Macon County money, it has always been my dedicated staff who sacrificed and accepted the challenge to be the best they could be,” said Lightner. “Going forward, I have all of the confidence in the office to function at a higher degree of expertise than it did in the past.”
Commissioner Gary Shields noted that not only is Lightner an exemplary county employee, he is also a friend to many.
“Richard Lightner has not only been a friend for a number of years but has shown his professional leadership in developing one of the most credible tax offices in the region and North Carolina,” said Shields.
Lightner isn’t leaving the county high and dry, rather he is passing the baton to Abby Braswell, who has worked under Lightner for the last 15 years.
“Mrs. Braswell has learned from the best mentor there is in Richard Lightner for the past 15 years,” said Roland. “In addition to her experience, Mrs. Braswell has received certifications as both an appraiser and an assessor. Abby has put in the time, has the knowledge and last but certainly not least, she has a great team. There is not a more closer knit department in this organization than the Macon County Tax Office. These men and women have spent years working hard and accomplishing great things together, in a line of work that isn’t always a fan favorite. Never once though, will you walk down the hall of the Macon County Tax Office and be treated with anything other than kindness, respect and professionalism. This ties directly back to Richard Lightner and that culture of “‘being the best’ he has created in the Macon County Tax Office. In my opinion, there is no one more capable, more competent and more ready to move this department forward than Mrs. Abby Braswell.”
Lightner also plans to continue work with the county on a part-time basis to further assist Braswell in her new role as Tax Administrator for Macon County.
“Abby Braswell will do a great job as the new administrator the endorsement of Mr. Lightner is confirmation that Abby is more than ready for the job,” said Beale.
After 35 years of watching Macon County transition and grow, Lightner noted that the sky is the limit moving forward.
“I would like to say that Macon County has the most potential of any place in the state and the future is up to us to define,” said Lightner. “Visions are dreams today of reality in the future. Invest in your visions and dreams will become reality.”