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Swift County voters to decide future of auditor and recorder positions

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

BENSON -- Swift County voters will decide Tuesday whether the county auditor and recorder should remain elected offices or be appointed positions hired by the County Board.

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There are two separate questions on the ballot in Swift County that seek voters' approval to appoint, rather than elect, the auditor and recorder.

State law allows counties to make the change if voters approve the measure, or if the Legislature approves special legislation.

The County Board of Commissioners tried to take the legislative route, but local legislators declined to author such a bill last year.

The commissioners agreed this year to put the question to voters.

The ballot question states "May the Minnesota Statute that allows for the hiring/appointment of the County Auditor in Swift County be implemented by the Swift County Board?"

The same question is asked regarding the County Recorder.

Voters will vote either yes or no.

Unlike the proposed state constitutional amendments where a blank vote means a no vote, only the actual yes and no votes cast will be counted in the county measures, said Swift County Auditor Byron Giese.

The measures will pass or fail on a simple majority of votes cast, said Giese.

The timing for the ballot measure coincides with the retirement earlier this year of longtime Recorder Donna Lilleberg and the upcoming retirement of Giese, who will be midway through his 32nd year in the office when he retires this spring.

The county has already appointed an interim recorder and they will appoint an interim auditor this spring. The terms of both offices expire at the end of 2014.

The retirements of those two key office-holders give the county a good opportunity to change how the future auditor and recorder are selected, said County Board Chairman Gary Hendrickx.

If the measures are approved, it's likely the recorder and auditor appointed now would continue to hold those positions in the future.

If the measures fail, the appointed individuals would have the opportunity to run for office in 2014.

The county declined to seek voter approval to appoint the treasurer position, in part because current elected treasurer Ron Vadnais is not retiring.

The commissioners have not held any informational meetings about the ballot measures but Hendrickx said there have been a considerable number of one-on-one conversations that have gotten the message out in a "non-threatening way."

The low-key campaign has not generated lawn signs or a flurry of letters to the editor, said Giese, who said he is not campaigning for or against the measure and is making no predictions on the outcome.

"It'll be a surprise one way or the other," said Giese.

Meanwhile the commissioners are beginning the process of finding a county administrator, who is expected to be hired later this year whether the ballot measures pass or fail.

Also, the commissioners are expected to make a decision on hiring a new assessor on Tuesday.

Earlier this year they agreed not to renew Ed Pederson's appointment as assessor, citing dissatisfaction with his work performance, which followed a strange incident when Pederson brought a non-working gun to the courthouse.

In a new twist, Pederson told the Swift County Monitor News that he is launching a write-in campaign for County Board in District 2 against incumbent Gary Klemm.

With 6,200 registered voters, Giese predicts voter turnout will be nearly 95 percent in Swift County.

He said 15 of 21 townships, and three of eight cities in the county do not have polling locations but use only mail-in ballots.

Giese isn't shy about speaking out against the proposed voter ID amendment and the effect it could have in Swift County.

"I think it would be a travesty if it passes," he said.

"It's just going to change how we do balloting and it's just going to cost more money," he said. "To me, that's not good."

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