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Commissioners seek internal candidates for county attorney replacement

WILLMAR — Lawyers already serving in the Kandiyohi County Attorney's office are being invited to apply for the job of county attorney to fill the unexpired term of Jenna Fischer.

Fischer, who was elected in 2010 to the four-year term, is leaving the office on Oct 1 to take on her new position as a district judge.

Because there's just seven months between Fischer's departure and when candidates can begin filing for the 2014 election, the Kandiyohi County Board agreed Tuesday that it made sense to appoint an individual to fill out the term rather than conduct a special election.

Also, because of the short timeframe, County Administrator Larry Kleindl recommended looking at the current staff for the pool of potential candidates rather than seeking outside applicants.

"We'll see if there are any candidates internally," said Kleindl, during the County Board meeting.

If no one from the county attorney's office steps forward to apply by the Sept. 25 deadline, then the county will place a public advertisement for applicants outside of the county.

An interview panel comprised of two county commissioners, Kleindl and employees from several departments will interview the applicants and recommend a final candidate, who would need final approval from the County Board of Commissioners.

The soonest that action could happen is Oct. 1, which is a regular county board date as well as Fischer's last day in office.

In the meantime, the commissioners named Assistant County Attorney John Kallestad as the acting county attorney to sign papers and provide official duties starting after 4:30 p.m. Oct. 1 and until the commissioners appoint a county attorney.

Kallestad is the most senior assistant county attorney currently in the office.

Kleindl said he met with the staff in the county attorney's office they are "very prepared to keep offices moving forward" and have developed a "good transition plan" after Fischer leaves the office.

"Kudos to the staff there," said Kleindl. "They'll do a good job."

Whoever is appointed will serve through the end of 2014.

If that individual wanted to serve longer, he or she would have to file for office for the November 2014 election, as any other candidate.

Also Tuesday, the commissioners appointed Valora Svor as the new county assessor, effective Nov. 1.

Svor, who has worked in the county assessor's office since 2005, will replace Tim Falkum, who is retiring at the end of October.

In other action, the commissioners set a drainage ditch outlet fee of $5,040 for the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative to channel water into County Ditch 31 in Colfax Township. The cooperative intends to construct a beet piling station next year on a 33-acre site on U.S. Highway 71 northwest of New London.

Settling ponds will be developed to hold rainwater that could be irrigated onto farm fields or discharged into the ditch system once water quality standards are met.

The capacity of the 1917 ditch system won't be increased because the site is already draining into the ditch system. The fee was required because about half of the acreage was not being assessed for benefits.

Having the piling station there should reduce truck traffic through Willmar during the intense three-week harvest season, according to the cooperative.

Currently, northern Kandiyohi County farmers use 25-ton trucks to haul beets to the piling station in Raymond.

In the future, local farmers will just have to drive to the new station and commercial haulers who use 32-ton trucks will haul beets to the processing station in Renville over a long period of time.

The commissioners on Tuesday also accepted a $12,500 grant from the state Department of Veterans Affairs, which is $5,000 more than the previous year. The money can be used for local programs and equipment. The county is considering using the funds to purchase a new van to transport veterans to medical appointments.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750