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Testimony heard from Kandiyohi County, Minn., officials at state Capitol

WILLMAR — Kandiyohi County officials testified Tuesday at the state Capitol in favor of a bill that could eventually lead to the appointment of the county auditor/treasurer and recorder.

Those jobs are currently elected positions.

County Board Chairman Harlan Madsen and County Administrator Larry Kleindl testified before the House Elections committee on behalf of House File 801.

Authored by Rep. Mary Sawatzky, DFL-Willmar, the bill would allow the county to begin a process that includes local resolutions and public hearings on the possibility of appointing individuals to those posts.

“It allows counties to have this discussion,” said Kleindl.

Kandiyohi County Commissioners are considering the move as part of the county’s redesign process, undertaken in part to increase efficiency by allowing employees to work across department lines.

Allowing those positions to be appointed is also viewed as a benefit when longtime elected officials retire, said Kleindl.

Currently there are no professional guidelines required for someone to be elected as a county recorder or auditor/treasurer.

Kleindl said taking action to redesign the county structure and how it does business is “not just for today but for the next 20 to 30 years.”

Kleindl said he and Madsen spoke for about 10 minutes before the committee, which passed the bill that now moves to the full House floor.

But that doesn’t mean it will be approved by the Legislature.

Last year a similar bill promoted by Kandiyohi County was approved in the Senate but failed to make it to the House floor for a vote.

Kandiyohi County is not alone in asking for legislative approval to make the change from elective to appointive jobs.

Other counties have received legislative approval in the past, and Kleindl said two other counties testified before the House committee Tuesday. He said he’s also aware of 10 to12 additional counties that may also seek legislative approval yet this year.

He said the committee also took testimony on House File 800 that would give blanket approval for all counties to take action to appoint officials without first getting legislative approval.

The process would still include conducting public hearings and passing resolutions on the county level but legislative action would not be required.

“It puts the decision back on the local level,” said Kleindl.

Even if a county board does take action to appoint the elected officials — which must be adopted with at least 80 percent of the board voting for it — the public can submit a petition and put the issue on the ballot.

Carolyn Lange

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

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