Rigby 'highly motivated' in race for county treasurer

CENTREVILLE — In what is expected to be an intriguing race to be St. Joseph County Treasurer, one candidate with experience at both the township and county level has thrown her hat in the ring.

Tammy Rigby, a clerk at the St. Joseph County Treasurer’s Office and the current Nottawa Township Treasurer, is one of two Republican candidates running for the top spot in the treasurer’s office in the Aug. 4 primary. Kathy Humphreys, the current chief deputy county treasurer, is her opponent.

Rigby, a native of Nottawa and a graduate of Centreville High School, has worked for the treasurer’s office for the last 11 years after doing dentistry for 15 years prior. After five years working in the treasurer’s office, she then ran for and won the Nottawa Township treasurer position. Rigby said she wanted to go into this line of work because she loves the “variety and complexity” of the job.

“I love being able to help people,” Rigby said. “Just to know the overall tax process from the very beginning, the creation of the tax bills all the way to the end to the reconveyance and foreclosure part of it, it's a job I really enjoy.”

Rigby said she decided to run for county treasurer because she has “wanted to do the job from the very beginning.”

“I’m highly motivated, I've wanted to do this job, and I thought I might want to do this from the very beginning. I'm detail-oriented, it fits my character, and I love doing this type of thing,” Rigby said. “I've gone to great lengths to prove that I'm willing to go the extra mile to reach the goals and to learn along the way. Doing two jobs, both at the county treasurer's office and Nottawa Township, has not been easy. It takes a lot of time and sacrifice, and I love it. I'd know the overall picture of the whole process and any decision that I make as a county treasurer how it would affect everybody in the whole process.”

She said if elected, she would also help out township treasurers as much as possible, since she has “walked a mile in their shoes.”

“I can really be that support person. I'm empathetic to what they go through, and I've probably made the same errors they would make, and I'd know where to start to look for those errors,” Rigby said.

Rigby said the most important issues facing the treasurer’s office at the moment have to do with the delinquent tax fund and foreclosures. She said there are two bills in the state legislature at the moment — House Bill 5761 and House Bill 5810 — that would exempt property owners from interest, penalties, fees, or other late charges for delinquent local property taxes during the COVID-19 state of emergency and would delay the deadline for paying local governments’ 2020 summer property tax bills until Sept. 30, 2020.

“That fund was not intended or expected or budgeted to have this kind of money coming out in the fall,” Rigby said. “Normally, the biggest portion that comes out of the delinquent tax fund happens when the townships and cities and villages have all settled, and that happens more in the month of April. These bills could change the delinquent tax fund, and the balance right now is pretty small.”

She said it’s important to keep a healthy balance in the county’s delinquent tax fund. If the county doesn’t have a healthy fund balance, she said, the county would be forced to sell bank notes.

“I think it's fair to ask that we look at the last five years of payouts, expenses out of the delinquent tax fund and maintain one and a half times the balance in there,” Rigby said. “That way if something unexpected like this comes up, we would have a balance.”

With foreclosures, Rigby said there are several lawsuits making their way through the state’s legal system challenging how the process works. Rigby said the lawsuits are challenging whether the surplus generated from what a foreclosed-on property is sold for to what was owed should be returned to the previous owner or whether the surplus goes to a county’s delinquent tax fund.

“That could change the whole landscape of the delinquent tax fund,” Rigby said. “How I would address that is it's going to take somebody that's willing to collaborate with the Michigan Township Association, with the county board of commissioners and the state legislature. I'd think there's going to have to be a significant reform if that were to come through.”

Overall, Rigby said the forefront of her campaign is to give taxpayers a voice in the treasurer’s office.

“I want to assist anyone and be their voice and be their advocate,” Rigby said. “If changes come down the pipe, I want to make sure it's the taxpayer's voice that's out there and being heard so that those changes benefit the taxpayer.

“I think this is the time to get a treasurer in there who's willing to stay up to date on current tax laws, constant changes within the legislature, who's willing to take the reins and take all of this on, knowing that this is going to be a tough couple of years,” Rigby said. “I have the background, the energy, the desire to be their county treasurer, to be their advocate, to make sure their voices are heard.”

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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