CORINTH – Drawn to the world of numbers at a young age, Harold Grant still enjoys sharing his financial knowledge with others.
At 81, Grant has been the tax assessor’s agent in Corinth and Hudson for nearly 30 years and has been working in the financial world since he graduated from high school in 1941.
“Being a kid, there was just something about the bank that amazed me,” Grant said recently during an interview in the meeting room at the Corinth Town Office.
Although he still works partly for the money, Grant does it more for the satisfaction.
“I still do it because I feel that if I don’t do it, I’ll die, and I’m not ready to die,” the town official said. “I’m just doing something I like to do.”
Early on, Grant knew he had a future working with numbers. As a junior in high school, he began making regular visits a trustee at Bangor’s Eastern Trust and Banking Co.
“The day that I graduated from high school I went in to see him, and I said, ‘Well, I’m ready,'” Grant said.
The bank had no openings, so Grant began pounding the pavement in search of work. He started on Broad Street in Bangor, going up one side and down the other, and finally landed a job with Bangor Beef.
On his first day on the job at the beef company, Grant went back to the bank on his lunch hour to make sure they knew he still was interested in a job. The trustee went into the president’s office, and when he came out, he told Grant to give Bangor Beef his notice.
Grant started work as a messenger at the bank the next day.
“I worked my way up to assistant manager of the loan department,” Grant said. After working at the bank for 14 years, Grant left to start an independent finance company in Old Town.
He eventually began working as a tax assessor for local towns. Over the years he has worked for many Penobscot County communities, including Orono, Eddington and Kenduskeag.
In most small towns, such as Corinth and Hudson, board members are elected as selectmen, assessors and overseers of the poor.
“For years, the selectmen did the assessing,” Grant said. Because there were no criteria and personal feelings often entered into assessments, the state decided that uniform criteria needed to be developed.
The state eventually established a quality of assessing that was applied to all towns. Assessors now are required by law to attend assessing school to ensure that properties are set at fair market value across the board.
“Every year we have to put in 16 hours of classroom work to maintain our certification,” Grant said.
He obtained his certification in 1977 at Bowdoin College and immediately was hired by the town of Hudson as an assessor’s agent.
While most towns keep track of assessment records by computer, Hudson and Corinth still use paper files.
“I don’t even know how to turn a computer on,” Grant said. “Everything that I do, I do with a pencil and paper and an adding machine.”
He admits that using a computer would make his job easier, but he hasn’t mastered the machine.
“If you give me a hammer, I’ll break something. Give me a wrench, I’ll screw something up. But give me a set of figures and I can do something with them,” he said.
Grant plans to take a basic computer class this spring, and, if he’s around long enough, he intends to put Hudson and Corinth’s assessment records on the computer, he said.
For now, the assessor is busy with a revaluation of buildings in Corinth that has to be done by the time this year’s tax bills go out.
“From now until the tax bills come out, it’s a good six days a week between the two towns,” he said.
Grant said his wife, Jean, is supportive of his active lifestyle, though she sometimes thinks that he’s overdoing it.
“But as long as I can avoid stress, and as long as I can take one day at a time, then I can handle it,” he said.
In addition to his work as a tax assessor, Grant has been a board member at Maine Savings Federal Credit Union for about 35 years and has been chairman of the board since 1988.
“I put in hours that I can’t count for the credit union,” Grant said. “I’m willing to put in all the time that I can to contribute to its success.”
For the tax assessor, however, the hardest part of his job is trying to reason with people and explain property values and taxes to them so that they understand it, he said.
“For the most part, people understand if you take the time to explain it to them,” Grant said. If you don’t take the time, that’s when people have the right to suspect you’re trying to slip something by them, he added.
“That’s something that you can’t learn from any speaker, that’s something you learn from doing,” Grant said.