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Kandiyohi County Board votes to appoint auditor/treasurer, recorder

WILLMAR –– If there’s no public challenge within the next 60 days to action taken Tuesday by the Kandiyohi County Commissioners, then the county auditor/treasurer and recorder will become appointed positions next year.

In a unanimous vote, the County Board of Commissioners agreed that it was time to appoint people to the two jobs rather than continue to have them elected by the public.

Under the plan, County Recorder Julie Kalkbrenner and interim County Auditor/Treasurer Mark Thompson will finish out the four-year elected terms and will be appointed in January to continue those jobs.

The board action followed years of discussion and a public hearing Tuesday when people from both sides weighed in on whether it was best to keep electing the officers or to appoint them.

“I’m just opposed to this,” said Duane Anderson, of Lake Lillian, who was one of four who spoke against the appointment process.

Anderson said he was “really uncomfortable” with the idea that citizens in the county won’t have the right to elect people to the offices. “It’s a big mistake,” he said.

Others spoke in favor, including Brad Hanson, who delivered the unanimous support of the board of directors for the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce. Hanson said it “makes sense” to hire qualified people to the job that will help the county run more efficiently.

Special legislation the county sought that allows it and four other counties to pursue the change received final approval last week when it was signed by Gov. Mark Dayton.

The county vote is not the final step, however.

The appointment process could be prevented through a reverse referendum.

For that to happen, a petition with signatures of 10 percent of the county’s registered voters must be submitted within 60 days. County residents would then vote on the issue of whether to appoint or elect the auditor/treasurer and recorder.

At this point there’s been no indication of a petition circulating in the community, and if none materializes in two months, the county will notify the Minnesota Secretary of State and the appointment process becomes official.

If it is enacted, Kandiyohi County will join a growing number of counties opting to appoint an auditor/treasurer and recorder, in part, because the complex jobs demand an increasing amount of knowledge and specific skills.

There are no qualifications, training or licenses required for someone to run and be elected to those jobs. County Administrator Larry Kleindl said appointment gives the county the ability to hire qualified people.

Commissioner Harlan Madsen said a county attorney candidate must have passed the bar exam and a county sheriff candidate must be a licensed peace officer. But to run for county auditor or recorder, a candidate only needs to be a resident of the county and “we’re hoping the most qualified candidate will win.”

Commissioner Roger Imdieke said he wass concerned that someone who is a “good campaigner” but does not have the necessary skills could be elected as auditor or recorder.

Lynne Travaglio, human resources director for the county, said Kalkbrenner and Thompson are well-qualified for their jobs and do good work.

“But they will not be here forever,” said Travaglio, adding, “This is not personal.”

Appointing lets the county “hire competitively and hire smart” as it currently does with other department heads, she said. “I want to continue to hire the best people possible.”

Being able to appoint the auditor/treasurer and recorder will also allow the county to advance its redesign plan to provide integrated and efficient services that cross department boundaries. Some of those changes are prohibited because of state requirements for those elected positions.

Carolyn Lange

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

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