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Public health director may also lead Kandiyohi County, Minn., family services on interim basis

WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi County Administrator Larry Kleindl said he intends to recommend that Ann Stehn, the county's public health director, be appointed as interim family services director to fill the vacancy of Jay Kieft, whose resignation as head of family services takes effect March 1.

Kleindl said he will make the recommendation Tuesday to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners that Stehn be appointed to oversee the Family Services and the Public Health departments.

If approved by the commissioners during the regular meeting Tuesday, Stehn would likely hold the dual post on an interim basis while an in-depth study of the county's structure takes place.

The county has hired a consultant, Springsted Inc. of St. Paul, to review the county's current structure of departments, including the work flow between the Family Services, Public Health and the Corrections departments.

That study is expected to take two to three months and cost $20,000 to $25,000.

Appointing Stehn to the additional job as family services director would give the county time to consider potential long-term changes in how the county operates, said Kleindl.

Stehn is ready take on the challenge of the added duties.

Because the two offices are across the corridor in the same building, Stehn said she would spend time in both departments but would rely on the experienced management team and staff in both departments.

She said the county study, conducted by a set of outside eyes, will be beneficial as the county looks at the "form and function" of the various departments.

"We're in the midst of a very interesting time," Stehn said.

Even before Kieft resigned, the county was in the process of exploring merging health boards with another county and developing a county-based purchasing arrangement with other counties to provide health care services.

Stehn said there is a "lot of work going on" with Kandiyohi County's partners, as well as with its own internal structure.

"It is a challenging time," she said, but it's also a time for opportunities for change in how local government looks and functions in the future.

Meanwhile, the County Board is also expected to discuss the pros and cons of appointing, rather than electing, certain county officials, including auditor.

The timing of that discussion meshes with the retirement of Auditor Sam Modderman, whose last day on the job is April 27.

Special state legislation is needed for counties to be allowed to make a change from elected to appointed. Kleindl said he believes local legislators would be willing to carry such a bill forward if the County Board of Commissioners requested it.

At this point, however, there may not be a consensus from board members to take that action.

The commissioners meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Health and Human Services Building, 2200 23rd St. N.E., Willmar.

Prior to the regular meeting, the commissioners will meet at 9 a.m. as the family services board, when they are expected to hear information from the annual report and discuss a resolution regarding the multi-county Southern Prairie Health Purchasing Alliance.

At 1:30 p.m. the commissioners will conduct a public hearing at the Kandiyohi City Civic Center, 432 N. Atlantic Ave., on the proposal to turn back County Roads 133 and 134 to Kandiyohi Township and to make part of 45th Street Southeast a county road.


Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750