It was Bloom who broke a tie on the Kanawha County Commission to appoint Gatson as Assessor Kemp Melton's successor. "Probably one of the best votes I ever made on the county commission was to appoint her to that unexpired term," he said. "Everybody just loves Phyllis. It's as simple as that."
Gatson took the same spirit of compassion and friendliness with her to the Assessor's Office. First appointed in 1995 to take over the unexpired term of Melton, who had just been elected mayor of Charleston, Gatson was elected in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008. Only health concerns kept her from running again this year.
"I don't want to say I'm nosy," she said, but concedes that she is fascinated by county tax records. She likes to learn about taxpayers' lives and their families.
"I like to help people when I can," she said. "Financially, I can't always give them money, but I can point them in the right direction."
Gatson's daughter is Circuit Clerk Cathy Gatson, whom Phyllis encouraged to run for circuit clerk in 1986. The younger Gatson thinks her mother's service goes beyond helping the public.
"She's been a good role model for a lot of women in local politics," Cathy Gatson said. "I'm going to miss her very graceful presence around here."
But Phyllis Gatson said she will not be leaving courthouse society entirely.
"Who wants to sit in a house by yourself all day?" she said. "I'll be down here a lot."
Phyllis Gatson said she plans to spend several days a week at the courthouse, helping out.
"She's got a job here," said newly elected Assessor Sallie Robinson. "I still need her advice."
Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.