Osage County Assessor Baker retires

By H.B. Dodds, Staff Writer
Posted 11/4/21

OSAGE COUNTY — Jerry Baker is no longer on the job as Osage County Assessor. His resignation took effect Monday, Nov. 1, and his last working day was Friday, Oct. 29. He leaves office satisfied …

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Osage County Assessor Baker retires

Posted

OSAGE COUNTY — Jerry Baker is no longer on the job as Osage County Assessor. His resignation took effect Monday, Nov. 1, and his last working day was Friday, Oct. 29. He leaves office satisfied with what he accomplished. 

“We got done what we wanted to get done,” he concluded.

Baker was first elected in 2016 and reelected in 2020. Medical issues have precluded him from finishing his second term but there was no lack of qualification to start this journey. 

“In 2015, while semi-retired, several citizens and elected officials asked me if I would be willing to enter the 2016 election for assessor,” said Baker. “Having the experience needed to perform the duties of an assessor, I agreed to run for office, and surprisingly won the election.” 

He has never been much for taking things for granted. His education and work background before assuming office prove that.

From high school, his first job was with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 309 in Joplin. Before the Vietnam War ended, he joined the United States Navy in 1975. His hitch included two years on the destroyer USS Dyess DD-880, and two years on the USS Kitty Hawk, attached to Staff Commander Carrier Air Wing 15.

Then came college. He accumulated more than 170 semester hours that produced degrees in Education, Construction Management, and Engineering. After that, it was time to really go to work. The next 40 years were invested in various energy expeditions. 

Baker conducted research and development on energy systems. He engineered and built prototypes, as well as productive energy plants and refineries. Various companies across the United States and around the world utilized his talent. Between contracts, he taught. Institutions tapping his expertise included the Missouri Department of Corrections, the Missouri Military Academy, Linn High School, Sedalia Smith-Cotton High School, West Virginia University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the United States Department of Environmental Safety. He knows much and has shared it as assembled infrastructure and disseminated knowledge.

All this globetrotting produced one moment he values above the rest. On an oil construction expedition in Peru, he met Elizabeth Vasquez Viana. She was a nurse doing Christian missionary work in the inner jungles. This woman of faith became his wife. To this union was born a son, Elijah. Baker has two older sons, Joshua and Ross Raland, from a previous marriage.

Baker had some goals when assuming office in 2017. He estimates 95% were fulfilled, a remarkable number for any elected official. Very few get to do everything they want to do, no matter what kind of mandate they receive at the polls. However, he’s in no mood to brag. 

“My contributions were quite minuscule in comparison to the efforts of my staff, other officials, and the support of Osage County citizens as a whole,” said Baker. 

Knowing what all these people contributed, he’s still pleased with what’s done.

“The overall valuation for property in Osage County is in compliance with all state laws, is calculated the same for all property owners, and is increasing in value to meet actual proven market values,” he asserted. “Yet, our happiest achievement, even while in the midst of a cost index increase, (is that) we were able to meet all state requirements, get back into compliance, and still increase the overall revenue for the county, exponentially.” 

Not bad work, nor is it anything but a lot of it. Better yet, it’s measurable and certified by the Missouri State Tax Commission.

There are things which he feels improved in his office not accountable to the Tax Commission. They are subject only to his evaluation and include updated vehicles used by staff to drive to properties being assessed. Then there’s updated Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping computerization, self-sufficient and at no cost to Osage County citizens.  He leaves an efficient office infrastructure in excellent condition. There remains a well-trained staff. He’s pleased to have great community relations. That’s no small feat when responsible for setting people’s tax rates. He also oversaw upgrades in education, technology, and compliance.

Bidding farewell to county government, Baker does have a parting wish. “I will truly miss the camaraderie of the public,” he said. “I pray that we all always remember: we the people, by the people, for the people, and WWJD (what would Jesus do?).”

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