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Swift County auditor to submit resignation Tuesday

BENSON — It’s been in the works for almost two years, and on Tuesday longtime Swift County Auditor Byron Giese will make it official and submit his letter of resignation, ending his 31-year stint in office.

“Short and sweet” is how Giese described the letter of resignation he will hand over to the Commissioners at their board meeting Tuesday.

Deputy Auditor Loann Hagen, who has worked in the office for 35 years, said she will also resign on Tuesday.

They’ll both walk out of the office for the last time on April 30.

“We’re losing almost 70 years of experience, which is a lot,” said Joe Fox, chairman of the Swift County Board of Commissioners.

Meanwhile, the commissioners have hired a county administrator who will begin his job Feb. 11 as part of the county’s massive reorganizational effort that was triggered by Giese’s retirement and the commissioners’ intent to shift duties to cross-trained county staff in an effort to provide efficient one-stop-shop services, said Fox.

That process received a public blessing in November when voters agreed to forgo their right to elect the auditor and recorder and instead let the commissioners appoint those officials.

The recorder has already been appointed — and renamed as the director of the land records department — but the county has not started advertising yet for a new auditor or deputy auditor and has not decided exactly what duties the administrator will assume and which ones the new auditor will take on.  

Giese said the short timeframe to make the transition before he retires makes it “crunch time” for the commissioners.

“One step at a time. It’s new for us,” said Fox, who predicts the new county structure will hit its stride by June.

The board agreed last month to offer the job of administrator to Michael Pogge-Weaver, who has been the city planner for Stillwater since 2006. Prior to that, he was a city planner in Ankeny, Iowa.

He received a master’s degree in public administration in 2010 from Hamline University, but the job in Swift County will be his first as an administrator.

“I’m really excited about this opportunity. I’m looking forward to serving the people of Swift County,” said Pogge-Weaver in a telephone interview.

Pogge-Weaver said his skills, training and ability to be a “really a great listener and work in a team leadership fashion” will be a good match for the needs of Swift County.

He said he’s eager to get to know the community, build relationships and work with the county staff to develop priorities and a “unified direction” for the county to take, which will include identifying how county departments and existing and yet-to-be-hired department heads will operate.

“I’m going to hit the ground running because these are serious issues to deal with rather quickly,” said Pogge-Weaver.

“We need to take this opportunity to look at how the organization functions moving forward,” he said. “Times are changing and the county needs to be responsive to those changes.”

Fox said a few years ago he was against the idea of hiring an administrator, but Giese’s retirement and the fact that “county government is getting more complicated” changed his mind.

There will be adjustments to make during the reorganizational shift, but Fox said the change will be good. “Swift County was running really good before. But now I think we’re going to make it more efficient.”

Pogge-Weaver will have a couple months to work with and learn from Giese, who has done double-duty as auditor and administrator.

“You’re never going to fill his shoes,” said Pogge-Weaver of Giese.

Carolyn Lange

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

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