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Kandiyohi County is in the process of redesigning where departments are located in the county’s office buildings, and how employees from those departments work together to provide efficient services. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

Bill could ease way for counties to appoint officials

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A bill is being debated in the Minnesota Legislature this year that could make it easier for counties to initiate action to appoint elected officials.

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Appointing, rather than electing a county auditor, treasurer or recorder can be an important step in a county’s reorganizational plan.

Currently counties have two ways to make the change from elective to appointive positions for the jobs of auditor, treasurer and recorder.

One option is to put the issue on the ballot and get voter approval. In most cases voters have voted down the request to appoint officials.

Another option is to get special legislation that allows county boards to formally discuss the issue of appointing officials.

In that option, local lawmakers are usually asked to carry those bills for individual counties seeking to make the change.

That’s being done this year for Kandiyohi County, as well as a growing list of other counties.

If approved, Kandiyohi County must hold public hearings, followed by a vote by Commissioners. The issue must have 80 percent of County Commissioners voting in favor for the change to happen.

If it passes and there’s public objection to the county vote, the public can then submit a petition requesting a reverse referendum. That would require the county to put the issue on the ballot for voters to decide.

But proposed legislation (House File 800 and Senate File 966) would give all counties authority to take that second option without seeking individual approval from the Legislature.

Meeker County Administrator Paul Virnig said it makes sense for the Legislature to “give counties the ability to manage themselves.”

It can be “awkward” trying to convince local lawmakers to sponsor the bill, he said.

Kandiyohi County Administrator Larry Kleindl testified during a House committee in March in support of special legislation that would give the county the ability to begin the process. He said legislators have heard the request so many times from individual counties that they had few questions about Kandiyohi County’s request.

Besides the three counties that testified that day on behalf of their individual requests, Kleindl said he’s aware of at least 10 other counties that are also considering asking for the special legislation to bring the issue to a vote by their county board.

Kleindl supports the proposed legislation that would remove state lawmakers as the middle-man in the issue of counties appointing or electing officials.

“It puts the decision back on the local level,” said Kleindl.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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