Randy Ripperger, a 34-year veteran of the Polk County assessor's office and its current interim director, is the "best qualified" candidate to succeed retired assessor Jim Maloney, according to a panel that reviewed applications and submitted its recommendation to the Polk County Conference Board, which meets today to elect a successor.


Ripperger, the chief deputy assessor since 2007, was Maloney's choice to take his job. Maloney retired April 15 after a 45-year career as a public servant, including 17 as the county assessor.


Maloney's retirement set off a lobbying campaign among supporters of Ripperger and backers of Gregory Lynch, a former employee of the county office who is now city assessor in Ames.


The other candidates are Cary Halfpop, an appraiser with the Iowa Department of Revenue, and Mark Nelson, who operates an appraisal service in Davenport.

Candidates for assessor must be certified by the Department of Revenue after taking an exam.


A three-member examining board reviews the scores of qualified candidates and conducts interviews before making a recommendation to the Polk County Conference Board, which is made up of the five members of the Polk County Board of Supervisors, the mayors of every city in the county and a representative from each school district.


Commercial real estate professionals began grumbling after they were asked to lobby on behalf of either Ripperger or Lynch, in particular after Sen. Tom Harkin became involved in a lobbying campaign for Lynch.


Maloney said at a recent meeting of the Iowa Commercial Real Estate Association that he would consider it an "affront" to ignore his recommendation, according to people who attended the meeting.


Meanwhile, West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer said at one point that he had been lobbied on behalf of both candidates and that he was making a pitch on behalf of his preferred candidate, whom he declined to identify.


The Conference Board meets today at 4 p.m.